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Harvest Creations: Insects in the Garden — the good, the bad, and the banal

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#ForTheBees
#ForTheBees

We’re adding bees to the Thrasher Studio Micro Farm this year. Part of the reason that occurred is not only the need for Bees — ala no bees, no food.

I noticed there was not enough bees or other pollinators this past growing season. The year before it seemed the bees were swarming to our beds and plants; but this year, when the crops were even more plentiful, there were not enough. I’ll blog separately about our beekeeping ventures; but, for now, I want to talk about the other bugs I noticed while trying to count the bees and figure out why I only harvested about six eggplants all season. All that while having even more “attractive” plants for the pollinators, especially bees, including coneflower, sunflowers, bee balm, fever few, marigolds, calendula, and lavender.

Basically, though, bugs in your garden fall into a few categories. They are harmless, pollinators, good predators, and pests. Pests will get their own blog post. Today, we’re going to look at the good, the bad, and the banal.

Some of the insects in my garden were hard to photograph, like the few dragonflies, ladybugs, and butterflies.

I always see dragonflies as a good omen in my garden. Besides they eat all the bad bugs. This is a Blue Dasher, even though there's not much blue on it. There are literally hundreds of species of dragonflies.
I always see dragonflies as a good omen in my garden. Besides they eat all the bad bugs. This is a Blue Dasher, even though there’s not much blue on it. There are literally hundreds of species of dragonflies.

Dragonflies and ladybugs eat pests in your garden, and you never want to chase them out. Swallowtails are the most frequent of the butterfly visitors. This year I’m planting milkweed to try to attract others. I’m still trying to figure out where to plant that. That’s another blog post.

Let’s just start with the photos and we’ll go from there…

This is a bumble bee, supposedly a Bombus melanopygus, which is native to this region. We are in the northern area of its range, which means you'll find the bottom portion that lovely burnt sienna color as opposed to its southern relative the "black-tailed bumble bee." These are good pollinators. Let them stay in the garden.
This is a bumble bee, supposedly a Bombus melanopygus, which is native to this region. We are in the northern area of its range, which means you’ll find the bottom portion that lovely burnt sienna color as opposed to its southern relative the “black-tailed bumble bee.” These are good pollinators. Let them stay in the garden.

 

It's kind of hard to see this guy, but he's a Mason Bee, of which we just set out on our property this past weekend. They are hardy early pollinators, and I'm kind of curious as to why this guy was still around near the first part of July; but, he was. Mason bees pollinate all the early crops, like orchards, sweet peas, and the like. Then they are gone until next year. Very docile. Great pollinators because they will go to every flower on a plant or tree.
It’s kind of hard to see this guy, but he’s a Mason Bee, of which we just set out on our property this past weekend. They are hardy early pollinators, and I’m kind of curious as to why this guy was still around near the first part of July; but, he was. Mason bees pollinate all the early crops, like orchards, sweet peas, and the like. Then they are gone until next year. Very docile. Great pollinators because they will go to every flower on a plant or tree.
IMG_20140713_145153
This seeming all-black bee is actually a wasp. Captured here while we were having our annual yard sale. He wouldn’t leave the nerf gun, attracted likely by its bright color. Now while this Astata wasp might make human squirm, he’s a good guy to have around, because he preys on stink bug larva and nymphs. Stink bugs are predators in your garden. So, keep this Astata Wasp around. Let him have his nerf-gun fun. He’ll eventually go find the pests for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a Leaf-Cutter Bee. It is a solitary Bee, much like the Mason Bee or the Astata Bee. Good Polinator.  Damage by leafcutter bees is usually just a curiosity and produces little injury. They use the leaf materials for their nests found in old rotting wood. I keep some driftwood in my garden for that reason.

This guy here is a fly disguised as a bee. A Bee Fly as they are known aren’t necessarily bad. They are very good pollinators; however, many species will lay their eggs in a bee nest (especially bumble bee nests) and then the larva eat their way out, killing the bumble bees. No way to tell where these buggers are hiding, so you can just hope that nature allows both to live. Notice the huge eyes and only two wings on this Bee Fly. Almost non-existent antennae tell you it’s a Bee Fly. It does look cool on the feverfew, however.

anotherbeetype

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a typical Yellow Jacket wasp. This is a character that a friend of mine was convinced was a bee and when she found a nest of them wanted the exterminator to just move them and not eradicate them. I kindly explained to her that these guys are just jerks (okay, I was more colorful than that), and you want them out, out, out of your garden. They are parasitic and can become highly aggressive. Some gardeners don't mind them, because one wasp will liquefy two pounds of caterpillars, flies, and other insects in one day. Problem is they aren't picky and they can eat your beneficial ones, too. I won't shoo one out of my garden (remember they are aggressive), but I won't tolerate nests on my property. Unlike honeybees, wasps may sting over and over again. Like I said, it's the jerk of the garden.

This is a typical Yellow Jacket wasp. This is a character that a friend of mine was convinced was a bee and when she found a nest of them wanted the exterminator to just move them and not eradicate them. I kindly explained to her that these guys are just jerks (okay, I was more colorful than that), and you want them out, out, out of your garden. They are parasitic and can become highly aggressive. Some gardeners don’t mind them, because one wasp will liquefy two pounds of caterpillars, flies, and other insects in one day. Problem is they aren’t picky and they can eat your beneficial ones, too. I won’t shoo one out of my garden (remember they are aggressive), but I won’t tolerate nests on my property. Unlike honeybees, wasps may sting over and over again. Like I said, it’s the jerk of the garden.

This is a not-so-hot photo of a Soldier Beetle. Soldier beetles, while not great pollinators, are beneficial bugs much like a Lady Bug. They are sometimes called Leatherwings. Soldier beetle larvae feed on the eggs and larvae of beetles, grasshoppers, moths and other insects, and adult soldier beetles feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Plant marigolds and goldenrod to attract these beneficial garden helpers.
This is a not-so-hot photo of a Soldier Beetle. Soldier beetles, while not great pollinators, are beneficial bugs much like a Lady Bug. They are sometimes called Leatherwings. Soldier beetle larvae feed on the eggs and larvae of beetles, grasshoppers, moths and other insects, and adult soldier beetles feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Plant marigolds and goldenrod to attract these beneficial garden helpers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stink Bug. They are stinky when you squash them, but you want to squash them, because they will ruin many of your crops. Accidentally imported from Asia in 1990, Inadvertently imported from Asia in the 1990s, the notorious Stink Bug  feed on apples, peaches, corn, peppers, tomatoes, grapes, and raspberries, as well as soybeans and forage crops.  Natural enemies of stink bugs include ants, ladybird beetles, and some lacewings, all of which prey on stink-bug egg masses. Plant sunflowers and French marigolds to attract these beneficials. Hand-pick the nymphs and adults into soapy water—wear gloves—and destroy clusters of light green, barrel-shaped eggs found on the undersides of leaves.
Stink Bug. They are stinky when you squash them, but you want to squash them, because they will ruin many of your crops. Accidentally imported from Asia in 1990, the notorious Stink Bug feed on apples, peaches, corn, peppers, tomatoes, grapes, and raspberries, as well as soybeans and forage crops. Natural enemies of stink bugs include ants, ladybird beetles, and some lacewings, all of which prey on stink-bug egg masses. Plant sunflowers and French marigolds to attract these beneficials. Hand-pick the nymphs and adults into soapy water—wear gloves—and destroy clusters of light green, barrel-shaped eggs found on the undersides of leaves.

 

This is a funnel web spider, as a micro farmer this is my clue that the harvest season is about to peak. Funnel web spiders are safe and beneficial to the yard and garden. Here in Western Washington they are great slug and snail predators. These spiders build funnel shaped webs in the yard. They also will build these webs in the dark, moist areas in the home, usually in the basement. The common house spider, Tegenaria domestica, belongs to this group. This spider is shy and will usually avoid interaction with humans. If startled it will usually run away.
This is a funnel web spider, as a micro farmer this is my clue that the harvest season is about to peak. Funnel web spiders are safe and beneficial to the yard and garden. Here in Western Washington they are great slug and snail predators. These spiders build funnel shaped webs in the yard. They
also will build these webs in the dark, moist areas in the home, usually in the basement. This spider is shy and will usually avoid interaction with humans. If startled it will usually run away. Generally speaking, any spiders in your garden are good ones, provided they are not poisonous to humans, and in my area, those are few.
mysterybee1
Here is a Leaf-Cutter Bee. It is a solitary Bee, much like the Mason Bee or the Astata Bee. Good Polinator. Damage by leafcutter bees is usually just a curiosity and produces little injury. They use the leaf materials for their nests found in old rotting wood. I keep some driftwood in my garden for that reason.

messedupwingbee2

Finally, here is a honey bee. This is what is called an European Honey Bee (I'm not good enough to know if it's Italian or otherwise.). I took a photo of  this particular honey bee is her (his) wings. Something got a hold of its wings. My guess is a woodpecker. We have so many around here, it's one thing I worry about for staring my own apiary.
Finally, here is a honey bee. This is what is called an European Honey Bee (I’m not good enough to know if it’s Italian or otherwise.). I took a photo of this particular honey bee because of her (his) wings. Something got a hold of its wings. My guess is a woodpecker. We have so many around here, it’s one thing I worry about for staring my own apiary.

 

 

 

 

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