07 June 2017


This post is full of pictures of bugs. If you don't like creepy crawlies, look away. I've been trying to learn to identify more of the insects that show up in my garden, especially to know friend from foe.
This brilliant cobalt blue insect is, I think, a kind of leafhopper. It sure jumps like one.
The colors are gorgeous, but it's damaging my celosia and sweet potato vine, and spreads plant sickness. I admired its hues, took its photo, and squished it.
Sometimes the ugly or alarming ones are just the guys you want.  This freaky-looking thing is the nymph of a predatory insect- probably a lacewing? they are voracious enough to be called aphid-lions!
Here's another. When I find these guys I let them go in the thyme- it's one of the few plants in the garden whose foliage is too small to hand-pick pests off of.
This tiny cute thing is, I think, a katydid nymph.
It doesn't spread disease like the aphids and whitefly, but it eats holes in leaves. Samblu likes to eat them (one is his entire meal).
I have been collecting insects to feed my fishes, and when I come across a lot, freeze them for later- like these tiny caterpillars off the rose bush. They are (to my best determination) sawfly larvae. The serpae tetras love them.

They're not quite so crazy about aphids, but what they spit out the kuhlis loaches scramble for. I have seen so many kinds of aphids since started inspecting the plants regularly to hand-pick! There are green ones that exactly match the hue of a tomato leaf- cannot see at all unless the light is against them- and paler lime-green ones, and darker blue-green ones, and dusky grey ones, and dull violet ones, and even fuzzy ones. But the other day I found some that really surprised me. I hit my asiatic lily plant with the lawn mower by accident (if it's still alive I'm moving the bulbs come fall) and went sadly to pick up the stem for compost.
Startled to find in ranks across the underside of nearly every leaf, these bright yellow-green aphids with red triangle marks on their backs.
Sometimes I make mistakes. I've been trying to figure out what these white insects are- very tiny- that I come across here and there in the garden. I think it is the nymph of brown lacewing? so I let them go again.
The container they were in, when I shook it to dislodge some dirt, brown specks started hopping! I looked close and it was tiny click beetles (new-hatched?) I tested one on Sam, he gobbled it up. So I saved those to feed fish, too. I shouldn't have, though- found out later, they eat aphids (among other things).
I caught this lot of tiny, red bugs. I thought they were nymphs of leaf-footed bugs, which suck plants. But maybe they are really nymphs of assassin bugs? in which case I should have left them alone. I'm not able to tell the difference!
Found two of these crazy, hairy caterpillars- one on the dill and another on sweet potato vine. From the tufted moth. They are so uniqe-looking my kids were fascinated with them,
so we put them in the bug house and are feeding them fresh leaves (trimmings from shrubs, oak leaf bundles dropped by squirrels) to watch them grow.
They have two fuzzy 'horns' on the front and one on the rear end, long spiky hair all over, four thick yellow tufts of hair on the back
and two more red ones further down the body. I first saw one of these caterpillars two years ago, at a public event. My oldest daughter picked it up and was letting it crawl all over her shirt. I was just as fascinated as they are now- had never seen anything like it. People around us were taken aback that I let my kid handle it. I learned later that the hairs can be highly irritating to the skin (luckily my kids don't seem sensitive to it).
They don't seem to really bother garden plants, but when a population boom can damage trees and shrubs, eating so much foliage. There must have been a newly-hatched one or an egg on one of the leaf bundles I put in the mesh cage- a few days later I found this tiny one- just a blob of fuzz that crawls around.
The cranefly is neither "good" nor "bad" in my book: just harmless. I've heard them called mosquito hawks but just learned they don't actually eat mosquitoes- the adults hardly eat anything.

As far as other pests and helpers go, I still haven't identified these tiny white slivers of things I find on my plants. They're not whitefly- those have a wedge-shape with rounded wing tips. These are literally white slivers, and I am pretty sure they are plant-sucking bugs because I often find them stuck on a leaf surface perpendicular- head attached to feed I think (can't quite see that, they are so small) and body in the air. Easy to remove with a damp finger, but now I dispose of them. Found that my fishes don't really eat them- either they are too small to notice, or they don't like the taste (the tetras really like to eat cabbage moth eggs, though!) Also, I think they foul the water.

I had noticed that when I collected aphids and other bugs and saved the container in fridge for a few days, it would start to turn yellowish (yuck). Thought it was from using tank water (already has some organics, so maybe made the insects start to spoil?) so the next few times I used fresh, dechlorinated water. Still yellowing. Then I kept the tiny white bugs and fuzzy aphids out, no more yellow water. Two reasons to toss.

On some plants that have a host spider, I find very few aphids now, so I don't check every leaf anymore, just put my head down on the ground and look up through the foliage to see if there's any pear-shaped bug dots against the light. Also I have a resident dragonfly! or two. I see it angling in quick short flights around the garden, and resting on the raised bed edge. Really glad for that hunter's help, too.

1 comment:

Jeane said...

Hm, that pale white insect I thought was another kind of lacewing nymph is probably a young tree cricket I found out- another plant-eating bug.