27 July 2012

Top Five Friday: Buggin' You!

Rain makes corn,
Corn makes whisky,
Whisky makes my baby
Feel a little frisky!
 ~ Luke Bryan, Rain is a Good Thing|

he best defense is a good offense and as I mentioned Wednesday, the best way to keep your tomato’s enemies at bay is to build up the native troops.

My friend Tia, the Common Garden Spider, is one of those.  But there are other “branches” of a vast natural military that are just itching to get in to your garden and decimate the bad bugs of summer.

Some may ask why bother with beneficial bugs when you can just spray chemicals and kill all the bad ones, plus all the nasty weeds too.  Right off the bat, those sprays kill all bugs, good and bad.  I’ve heard of collateral damage, but to me, that’s just insane. 

I was taught that all actions ~ good and bad ~ have consequences.  Even if no sees you do that dastardly deed, or you think it only affects you, or the ever quoted and always wrong: “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.” 

That is nonsense.

Unless you live in solitary confinement in the desert somewhere [in which case you aren’t even reading this], your life touches other lives, for good or for ill.  So no matter what you do, there is an interconnectedness with others you simply cannot escape.

It’s the same in nature. 

The most obvious example are bees.  Bees make honey.  [Yum.]  In doing that, they also help pollinate different plants. Without bees to pollinate them, certain plants would die out.  Think that doesn’t concern you?  Honey has beneficial qualities, one of which is to help allergy sufferers build up an immunity to the pollen in the region.  Not to mention, I happen to really enjoy certain flowers and wouldn’t want to see them become extinct!

On top of that, where do you think those chemicals go?  They just kill off everything and magically disappear or become non-poisonous all of a sudden?  Heck no!  They seep into the ground, get sucked up into the roots of your plants, slither into those luscious red tomatoes.  Mmmm, my favorite: tomato and cheese sandwich with a side of Round Up™.


Instead, round up the natural troops and beat those aphids and other nasties at their own game, with these top five beneficial bugs.

Going to the Ladybug Picnic!
I thought everyone knew that ladybugs were good for the garden, until I saw my mother sucking up bunches of them in the vacuum.  Granted, they were in the house and not the garden [still haven’t figured that one out!], but honestly, the vacuum?!  The best thing that ladybugs do is lay their eggs in a nice, wet, garden.  Their little brood hatch and eat up all the aphids in sight.  The adults eat some too, but it’s mainly the babes that are your hard-working bug eaters.

I believe in miracles, you lacy thing!
A pretty predator, with tiny veined wings that give it its name, the lacewing is another good defense against aphids.  I was very happy to learn that they like to lay their eggs in apple trees near aphid colonies.  As I have several apple trees, this is great news for me and horrific news for the aphids.  Mwhahahaha!

Hold your fire!
These guys are most often the victims of friendly fire.  And no wonder: they look just like the dreaded stink bug.  The difference is very slight, but because the Soldier Spine bugs are voracious eaters of hornworms, leafhopper nymphs, corn earworms and other small caterpillars, it behooves a wise gardener to look closely before squashing.

Not a bee!  Not a wasp!  An aphid-eating machine!
Another innocent victim of friendly fire is the Syrphid Fly.  Over the years, I have become less jumpy when I hear a buzz or see a black body with yellow stripes flying nearby.  Mostly because I’ve learned that buzzing things won’t sting you if you don’t bother them or their nest. So I keep a respectful distance and let them do their thing.

Now I have one more reason to be careful.  Syrphid flies look like wasps but have only two wings.  Like ladybugs, it’s the babies that are the most beneficial.  They can eat up to 400 aphids during their babyhood!  They also eat ants and termites.  Yay!  But look closely, because the larvae look like slugs.

Beetles.  Always makes me think of The Mummy.
Not all beetles are evil!  Ground beetles do tend to freak me out a little when they get in the house ~ we always called them “miller bugs” ~ no clue why, but they are the special ops of the garden, hiding under rocks and running very fast when those rocks are moved.

And I thought gardening was just about plucking weeds, watering, and harvesting!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Do you encourage beneficial bugs in your garden?
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