14 - 2008

Neglect begets biodiversity

As I’ve delved seriously into gardening the past couple of years, I have become more attuned to the hum of life in the garden. Not just the energy of the plants, or the frenetic barking of the neighborhood dogs, but the literal buzz, hum and snap of the buggy life cycle taking place in the garden.

We have a plethora of sow bugs and flies working to decompose the earth and the waste cycle emanating from Schnauzer Cheap.

The daddy longlegs and orb weaver spiders collaborate — or compete — with the wasps to enjoy the moths, flies and worms that work their way into our garden beds.

In the evenings, our juniper bushes are covered with webs, each with an arachnid inhabitant, sitting out on her porch, enjoying the view. From a suburban landscape perspective, unsightly; from an ecosystem view, healthy.

We have dozens of ladybugs in residence, especially on the dill (as in the photo above) and on our parsley, which has gone to seed, and dining on the aphids in our kale. At any given time, several ladybug pairs are busily mating in the garden.

At least two or three types of wasps are hunting in our yard, and a week or two ago Mr. Cheap spotted a baby praying mantis on the lawn (so tiny, barely distinguishable from a blade of grass).

I’ve caught several bugs on camera, from big fat bumblebees …



… to this tiny beetle.

We have lots of these tiny bees or flies (at left; this guy is about 1/4″ long) and several of these beetles, which look like a ladybug wearing a tight pair of shiny blue pants:

There are several of these, perhaps soldier beetles:

And then the creatures that can only be seen with close observation, such as this one, which almost blends in with the parsley flowers:

… each little flower is about 1/16 of an inch (1.5 millimeters or so).

In addition, we have the usual bottle flies, very tiny black bees/flies, some itty bitty bronze flies, several species of bees, and other critters I can only see when I get down on my hands and knees and quietly observe.

Just what has attracted this bounty of life?


It’s the parsley we’ve allowed to go to seed … the flowering chives … the overgrown horehound plant in our xeric garden in front … the too-much dill going nuts and shading the tomatoes.

Our overgrown, not-carefully-tended corners of our garden have, it turns, become havens for a wealth of wildlife. It’s a beautiful thing, when you get up close and look.

I’m hoping that the little parsley flowers, from which all these insects are suckling, will hold their interest for a couple more weeks, until the squash and the beans flower, the cucumber blossoms, and the potato blooms — giving them new food and helping us grow our food, too.

And if you want to try to identify your insect life, I recently found these two very cool sites:

What’s That Bug?


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