It has been a banner season for bugs in my garden this spring, thank goodness it's the good ones that seem to have the upper hand. Well, to be a bit more entomologically correct, the beneficial insects rule (only some insects are true bugs). I watched as those nasty little black aphids started to colonize the fava plants, but then they started to disappear, yesterday I couldn't find any to photograph. The only treatment that I used was to cut off the tops of two aphid infested stalks and give the to the chickens. My pepper seedlings started to sport little sap draining green aphids and then they (the aphids, not the seedlings) started to disappear. For some reason the leaf miners have only done minor damage to the chard and beet greens. Cabbage worms? Not yet . . . Can I take any credit for this? Maybe a little, I've used very few pest treatments in the garden, a little neem for fungal problems and some sluggo plus when the sowbugs started to munch too much greenery. I've learned the hard way that sometimes it's best to watch and wait when the bad bugs show up, sometimes the cure is worse than the bugs. Too much spraying kills the good bugs along with the bad ones and since the pest populations rebound faster than the predator populations you can make matters worse by intervening too much. The one pest population that seems to be healthy in the garden are the cabbage aphids, they love the flower stalks of the kale that I'm allowing to bloom. But they haven't completely overtaken the plants and there are plenty of seed pods that are unaffected so I leave them be. I trim out some of the worst infected stalks sometimes and give them to the chickens (the girls love to eat almost any insect).
The other day I ventured out into the garden to photograph what interesting bugs I could find and what would sit still long enough for me to take a picture of.
Let's start with the lady beetles. The species that I've been seeing the most of lately is the Sevenspotted Lady Beetle, there's one shown above on a fava leaf. The Sevenspotted is a species that was introduced from Europe and is now found throughout most of North America. I've also seen Convergent lady beetles and Multicolored Asian lady beetles in the garden this spring. The Convergent lady beetle is a native species. I've seen a lot of lady beetle larvae and even more pupae around the garden, here's some photographs:
Sevenspotted lady beetle on Aeonium blossoms
Syrphid flies (aka Hover flies or Flower Flies) are also numerous in the garden. The Wikipedia article on Hoverflies says there are about 6,000 described species and that they are found on every continent except Antarctica. I'm not even going to try to identify exactly which species I've found in my garden (more than one). The adult flies feed on pollen and nectar, it's the larvae that munch on aphids, thrips, and other soft bodied insects. That's one reason why I let plants like alyssum and coriander bloom all around my garden, I provide food for the adults to make it easy for them to find good places to lay their eggs (aphid infested veggies). Here's some photos of adult and larvae Syrphid flies:
Syrphid flies on coriander blossoms
Syrphid fly on Alyssum blossoms
Syrphid larvae on pepper plants
I think, but I won't swear to it, that this next bristly fellow is a Tachinid fly. Adult Tachinids are pollen and nectar feeders. The UC IPM website says that the "larvae are internal parasites of immature beetles, butterflies, moths, sawflies, earwigs, grasshoppers, or true bugs".
I know that there are aphid parasitizing wasps in the garden because there are lots of aphid mummies like the one shown below. The wasps come out in force around the alyssum and coriander blossoms when the sun comes out, but they are so tiny and fast moving that it is impossible to photograph them.
The garden can be a dangerous place for the unwary.
These spiders blend in well with the white flowers.
I'm not sure what these are, perhaps another type of syrphid fly, but it was fun to watch them wallow in the poppy pollen. Bees aren't the only pollinators buzzing around the garden.
And speaking of bees, a lovely bumble bee happened by while I was busy with the camera.
I hope you enjoyed this long post about some of the small residents in my garden. I was hoping to include photos of soldier beetles and green and brown lace wings as well, they've been recent visitors, but they didn't come out for the camera.
If you would like more information about beneficial and pest insects I recommend the University of California website UC IPM Online. And another site that is loaded with photographs of insects of the US and Canada and also offers help with identifying insects is BugGuide.
Be careful what bugs you squish in the garden, some of the uglies are goodies!