Best Bets for Bugs
The initial reaction is usually that bugs are a bad thing. Until you remember that the nation's food supply depends on them. And then you're probably like me and say...as long as I don't have to have them in my house, we're good....right? Right. Eating is a Good Thing. And even if we don't grow crops in our own yards, creating a spot for the benefit of agricultural pollinators is a great contribution towards our own survival.
Number one! Mulch! (I bet you're really tired of that drum, aren't you?) Most of us prefer the "good" bugs to the "bad" ones. The first means of ensuring that is mulching your beds. The more temperature-regulated environment provided by organic mulches like leaves, pine needles or shredded hardwood creates a more hospitable home for spiders and other predators of the bad bugs like aphids. As long as you don't spray stuff. Maybe that should be number two.
Number two! Reduce or eliminate pesticides! The only time I bother to spray anymore is if a plant is in true peril of being sucked dry... and then I only use a blast of water or insecticidal soap. If left alone, data suggests that the plants somehow signal the predators to come eat the parasites. (Never as fast as we would like, of course.) Spraying is more likely to do damage to the predator populations than the bad guys... who have much higher reproductive rates. I want the good guys to have all the ammo they need. This does not mean that physical intervention like picking the hornworm off your tomatoes and feeding it to your chickens is a bad thing. I'm sure the chickens will be delighted! Just don't kill off your green berets trying to assassinate the terrorists.
Number three! Plant native plants! These are the plants that our native pollinators are looking for when they head out to dinner. A new link I've posted at right, for
, has some absolutely terrific documents to guide your planting. Enter your zip code and they will present your regional document with a guide (many pages) of the impact of pollinators and the best plants to support them in your area. This list of plants not only gives you names, but time of bloom and which pollinators use which plants. Excellent, excellent resources. Well worth the limited space it will take up on your hard drive.
Number four! We're back to the brush or rock pile. These hiding places hide more than just birds. Small bug-eating lizards and toads use them, too.
Finally, vow to be a little big more of a slob. Don't clean up the yard so much. Leave the occasional log or branch in among your flowers. When you dead-head or pick off dead leaves, let them fall. From a distance, no one will notice, and in no time flat those little pieces of refuse will become part of the soil or mulch.