We’ve had the good bugs. We’ve seen the bad bugs. Now let’s talk about the busy bugs. These are the working force bugs of the garden. Their jobs entail pollination, security, and master chef’s cooking up compost to feed the hungry veg.
I guess the most common in domestic gardens would be bees. Pollination comes about when the pollen from the male anthers of a plant is transported to the female stigma of the plant. Unless you have loads of time and patience and a steady hand with a cotton swab, you’re going to want lots of bees to come and do this job for you.
The next more commonly known pollinator is the butterfly.I happen to be highly allergic to bee stings, so I live in fearful admiration of these little guys every year. I’m pretty careful about what and where I grab and wear my goat skin gloves even if I’m just moving things around. Until this year my husband has asked me not to plant things that would intentionally attract bees to the yard. Last summer he saw that I was careful, and that unless you inadvertently grab them or step on them, they just want to be left alone to do their business. So this year I am planting bee friendly plants, I have my epi-pen ready just in case. I’m sure it will all be just fine. Notice in this picture, the bee is completely covered in pollen, what a good job he is doing!
The next pollinator is the butterfly. There are a gazillion kinds of butterflies and they are always welcome in the garden. They are so pretty fluttering around. Unfortunately, they also come with baggage. Before they get to be the floating, fairy like creatures so dainty and beautiful, they start out as very hungry caterpillars. I take issue with Eric Carle though, the caterpillars in my garden never want one green leaf. The caterpillars in my garden want to eat…well, my garden! They get tossed into the neighbors yard (it’s fine, she doesn’t garden…sorry Gwen). After the transformation, they are welcome to return to the Gunz’ property.
The lesser known, but just as welcome pollinators. Wasps, moths, Dragonflies, and even ants. I have a lot of dragonflies in my yard and I welcome them heartily. They not only do their bit for pollination but they also eat mosquitoes, midges and other pesky pests. Bats and some birds, particularly hummingbirds, honeyeaters and sunbirds.
Because of a rabies risk with my animals, I don’t have a bat box on my house, but I do place bat boxes in the woods next to my house. I want them close, but not too close. Bats eat loads of mosquitoes and will pollinate fruit trees and plants.
I also do all I can to encourage the visitation of hummers and honeyeaters, sunbirds and other fine feathered friends.
The next working class is what I call the cultivators. They take what they’re given and make it or cultivate it in to something I want in my garden. Specifically these are red wiggler worms, centipedes and millipedes, maggots, beetles and unseen microorganisms. These little guys take a mound of….stuff and turn it in to rich, black, life giving food for the garden. Hats off to the Red Wigglers and friends!
The Sentries of the Garden
These are the guys that live in the garden or around the garden and patrol it for bad bugs, then eat them. While it is true that they sometimes eat a good bug, the good they do far outweighs the bad. In this case there truly is collateral damage that is allowable. The centuries to me include bug eating birds, frogs, lizards, turtles, and some snakes. I welcome them all to the garden to eat their fill. I pretend I don’t see if they include a butterfly with the usual rations of flea beetles. It’s an oversight I can live with in the garden. In fact, this year I have incorporated four bird feeders on my melon towers to encourage the critters to poke around in the garden a bit. And while I may lose the occasional berry or fruit, the good they do outweighs the bad in my opinion.
Frogs, Turtles, Lizards and Toads also do their share of sentry duty.
Here are some ways you can gather your good neighbors to your garden this year. The most common way is by planting vegetation that will attract them to your yard. Consider a garden inside your garden consisting of just these appealing varieties.
- Butterfly Bush
- Black-Eyed Susans
- Sweet Peas
- Basils-any of them
- Lemon Balm