It takes all kinds to make our gardens healthy
Just like people it takes many to play many roles.
The charismatic ladybug and acrobatic dragonfly have a better chance of winning respect from the entomophobic than the pesky mosquito or thuggish ground beetle, but the truth is the work that is done in our gardens by these hard working critters is often overlooked or even worse misunderstood.
A mating pair of beetles known for devouring aphids all day and into the evening are a welcome sight in any garden, but would you recognize their offspring? They cleverly set their babies up for success by depositing the yellowish waxy eggs on the underside of a leaf very close to a good source of aphids.
Once the larvae morph from the pupa stage they are on the prowl and eat a large quantity of soft bodied garden pests , including mites and scale insects. It is worth investigating what our garden partners look like in their various life stages so we don’t unknowingly eliminate them.
The Hawk moth is a fascinating insect. I mistakenly thought it was a baby hummingbird grazing nectar from my oenothera biennis one summer evening. It was a magical sighting. I was awestruck. I will be observing caterpillars a lot closer from now on.
What makes them
Plant a patch
Pollinators are in the spotlight . We need them, therefore we learn about them. Honeybees most typically come to mind, but the list of bees is long and colourful. Honey bees are social and most people are familiar with the concept of their hive, division of labour and their Queen. What many don’t realize is there are more than 450 species of bees in B.C. Some of these are also social, like the beloved and popular Bumblebees, at least six species of Bombus on the south coast. Perhaps you are not so familiar with Sweat bees, Mining bees and Hairy belly bees. These are mostly solitary bees. Some nest in the ground in holes excavated by the females. They are all pollinators and the most significant threat to them is loss of habitat. In the last few years as we increased our supply of pollinator attracting plants at It’s About Thyme Nursery, I have seen an increase in the diversity of tiny solitary bee species.
Then there are the WannaBeesmaybe they don’t really,
but the Robber Fly and the Hover Fly both, do look a lot like bees.The easiest way to tell the difference is their little antennae.
Compare them to the bee antennae in the photos above. Robber flies or assassin flies are important predatory insects. They wait in open, sunny, dry areas and attack almost any other insect in a raptor-like manner. They help keep numbers of other insects in balance. In the larval stage Hover fly are also voracious predators, but as adults they fly and eat like hummingbirds. These flower flies feed on nectar and pollinate while doing so.
So you see the long black legs, the small pinched waist, the terrifing stinger and you run for the RAID, right? Please no! you are lucky to have the parasitic wasp or Ichneumon wasp at your service. She is searching diligently through your garden foliage for those soft little caterpillars of many moths. Her needle pointed ovipositor is not for stinging , but for laying eggs.
‘The balance of nature is a complex , precise and highly integrated system of relationships between living things which cannot safely be ignored any more than the law of gravity can be defied with impunity by a man perched on the edge of a cliff.’
Rachel Carson 1962
For an informative read on this topic , please explore
Insects and Gardens
In pursuit of a Garden Ecology
by Eric Grissell