When it comes to garden bugs, there are some clear heroes and villains. Last summer, I shared a post about two garden heroes: ladybugs and fireflies; they provide a warm feeling of nostalgia as cute and fun bugs from our childhood, but their prominently carnivorous diet gives them the sublimity of heroic warriors when consuming some of the clear villains, such as aphids and slugs. Other clear villains target specific species or plant families, such as the asparagus beetle, and the squash vine borer (a moth). However, there are also many other bugs in the garden that cannot be classified as perfectly positive or completely negative; I found four examples in my backyard this week:
1) The caterpillar shown at the top of this post favours eating greenery from any member of the carrot family, such as the parsnip top being devoured in the picture; it also has glands that release a foul odour as a defense mechanism. At this stage it might seem clear that this bug is just bad, but once it goes through metamorphosis, it becomes a Black Swallowtail butterfly, making gardeners overjoyed not only from the beautiful sight, but also the beneficial labour as a great pollinator. Most gardeners opt for keeping extra parsley (also in the carrot family) and move the caterpillars to that area. I do not mind giving up a few sprigs of my parsley crop, and parsnip tops are not even good for humans, anyway, so I just let them be.
2) The scary looking wasps in the next photo sure look like villains, all iridescent black, even their wings, flying at top speed around my parsley in bloom (my excuse for the low definition):
Also, many wasps are known for being aggressive while defending their nests, often built against houses and other structures. These Great Black Wasps, though, are beneficial, because they act as pollinators, in addition of not being aggressive as other species, because they are solitary, building nests only for their young; the female brings them paralyzed crickets and katydids, hence helping with pest control, as well.
3) The photo below shows an ant just making its way out of a watermelon flower:
Now, ants are right in the middle of the grey area between friend and foe. Cleverly described as similar to “Snape in Harry Potter” at Towergarden.ca, they have positive and negative behaviours. For example, some protect aphids and “farm” them for their honeydew (bad), but they also feed on other pests (good). Their ant holes and tunnels erode (bad) but can also help in aerating the soil for crops (good). Some ants are also dangerous, such as fire ants (ouch!) and carpenter ants (they like wood, any kind!) I have the policy of getting rid of ants with no mercy if they try to go in or around the house, but they are not a problem in the garden, and the little guy above probably even helped with pollination.
4) Finally, I could not identify the bees shown in the photo below, because I do not know much about them, and also, there are over 800 species of native bees in Canada:
Bees are not as aggressive as wasps in general, and are amongst the best pollinators; some even earn our adoration for their honey so, why are the two bees in the photo part of this post? I am not strongly allergic to them, but very sensitive to bug bites in general, so I have to be careful around bees and other bugs with stings. In this case, I had to stay away while they were finishing their harvest, and wait my turn to collect that squash blossom to use in the recipe for my next post!
I am joining Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge (CFFC): Animals