I wanted to know the name of every stone and flower and insect and bird and beast. I wanted to know where it got its color, where it got its life – but there was no one to tell me.
George Washington Carver
I can second Mr. Carver’s sentiments. Like Carver, I have a love for growing various plants–especially those of the edible variety. I can also attest to the complimentary pastime of observing wildlife as it goes hand in hand with gardening.
When in Georgia, I had the joy of backyard birding in my small balcony garden. We were visited by Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Sparrows, Finches, Jays, Wrens, and Eastern Bluebirds. I learned about a few bugs too. I learned the difference between a pest and a beneficial insect. I saw more pests than beneficials, but I knew the difference.
Now in Okinawa, I hardly see a bird. I miss backyard birding, but I am hardly ever at a loss for sightings of a different kind. I now find myself BUGGING. Like Carver, sometimes there isn’t a book or a person who can tell me for certain what I’ve seen. It is also difficult at times to determine what exactly is causing damage to some of my plants. I’ll show you what I mean.
Normally, a regular wide web would just simply mean it’s a spider. Spiders aren’t pleasant to us, but they don’t harm plants. They are considered the “good guys” of the garden because they eat other bugs and leave your plants alone. This web however, is one that is causing damage and that means it’s not really from a spider. I previously learned that thin webbing close to leaves and stems can come from microscopic mites called “spider mites.” The spotting on the leaves could be another indicator of mites but I found another problem. Spider mites usually do their damage UNDER leaves but this damage is on top of the leaves. Spider mites also don’t chew holes; they suck juices from the plant causing discoloration. After much inspection, it appears the damage came from tiny caterpillars. The possible solution may be to remove heavily infected parts of the plant and spritz around the leaves with slightly soapy water. I watered thoroughly as well because stressed plants are more susceptible to problems.
Then I found this little guy. If you look closely at this picture, you should see a lace like spot on the leaf under the bug. At first, it looked like a Ladybug which is an extremely beneficial garden helper. Here’s the problem, there are imposters who look like Ladybugs. Notice the next picture:
If the red beetles have long protruding heads with white spots on the side, please leave them alone. Due to increases of insecticides, Ladybugs are becoming harder to find (except for in Northern States where they try to overwinter in people’s houses and are seen as pests–send some to the rest of us!). A single Ladybug can eat 500 Aphids or 1,000 Spider mites in a single day.
The Mexican Bean Beetle took a soap bath after this photo shoot in case you’re wondering.
Of course, the most exciting site yet is definitely this next fella:
For the first time ever, I have spotted a Praying Mantis. The thing about these bugs is, they aren’t very picky eaters. They eat beneficial insects as well as insect pests. Like a Great Blue Heron, they find a place to stand very still and they wait for prey to come near them so that at the opportune moment they can snap!
Then today I saw this flying crawler:
It’s hard to judge from the picture but believe me, it’s a very large bug. I sort of doubt that it has any interest in my plants since it’s big enough to devour other bugs. It’s also a very loud flyer; but look at the detail in those wings. You might think this bug looks gross, but you have to admit its wings are pretty spectacular.
I still miss the garden birds, but sometimes you just have to embrace what you have. A garden free of bugs is unnatural. Unnatural is inorganic. Inorganic is less healthy. In America, mass farms consist of one to maybe two crops which become overrun with those crops’ most common pests–which leads them to the need for insecticides. In India, mass farms consist of a wide variety of crops inter-planted amongst themselves. This same garden practice is utilized throughout Asia as well. I once heard a Doctor of Agriculture there say, “In India our crops are not pest-free or disease-free; but we utilize such variety that no pest or disease is able to have a threshold. That is how we are able to garden organically.” I now feel that dealing with a few bugs isn’t always so bad after all.
Keep Calm, Garden On,