Saturday, February 9, 2013

one bug's nectar, another bug's poison

Jim, the Garden Club speaker last Tuesday, talked about insects. Some thought his topic would be 'Beneficial Insects," but he disabused everyone of this notion at the outset. It was just "Insects." His point of view was purely aesthetic. 

Jim likes to watch insects in all their metamorphic stages, and listen to their distinctive sounds. His slides were beautiful closeups of insects. He accompanied them with appropriate clicking and buzzing, while using his arms and head to mimic the movement of mouth parts . 

Every picture of a butterfly on a flower was balanced with that of a caterpillar eating the leaves of that same plant. When milkweed and buckwheat were touted as host plants for butterflies, I thought lovingly about the little holes I'd seen in some of my buckwheat plants -- now nearing maturity and starting to show tiny white buds.

By revealing his love for mosquitoes, Jim laid to rest anyone's expectation that he was going to focus on beneficial insects. Evidently Jim's wife empties vessels of standing water whenever she finds them around the garden. Jim patiently refills them so that mosquitoes will have a place to breed. Next, I heard shocked whispers of "termites!" all around me when Jim advocated having a woodpile to provide nesting places for insects. He also uses wood to build homes for mason bees, one of my preoccupations from last year.

Less flagrant ways to attract insects were also described. Evidently bugs eschew mowed lawns and prefer a diversity of plant sizes, colors, and flavors, along with a carpet of decaying leaves. Plants that taste 'nasty' to one insect will be the favorite food of another (hence the title of this post).

A few of Jim's slides showed lifeforms other than insects. Spiders and hummingbirds, attracted by insects, were also featured. This prompted me to ask about legless lizards. "Legless lizards are wonderful," Jim replied, but he didn't want to go on record as saying that they would eat snail eggs.

After the presentation, I talked with a lovely woman who told me that she has to "go inside and lie down for a while" when she encounters a spider in her garden. I was on my good behavior, so didn't mention spiders' "noiseless, patient" attributes.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License