One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug. -Franz Kafka

Japanese beetles on Rosa ‘Ballerina’ in the North GardenThe Japanese beetles arrived last week and as Lilah and I were on patrol yesterday armed with cans of soapy water, she started reciting The Metamorphosis. (Cheeky girl.) We proceeded to have a showdown to see who could capture the most beetles. – I think it was a draw…

As gardeners we live and work amongst all walks (and flies and crawls) of life and as conscientious gardeners I think we do our best to do no harm. As Gail tells her kids, “we don’t hurt nature”. But then there’s things like aphids and Japanese beetles and white flies and scale and I seem to have no compunction at all about squarshing them. But we ought to practice at least basic integrated pest management. The more diverse the wildlife population is in the garden, the healthier and more balanced the garden is. biological control at work!  purple loosestrife beetles on the purple loosestrifeIt’s worth encouraging (just by not discouraging) natural predators – like ladybugs who eat aphids and praying mantises who eat everything (including fellow mantises). And as for the Japanese beetles whose only real predator is Lilah, we have tried dosing the grubs with Milky Spore Disease which is harmful to nothing else. — I think it might be working too. Dan treated the lawns two falls ago and so far this year (knock wood) the beetle population seems ever so slightly diminished. I’ve heard other theories that last year’s drought did them in. Are any of you seeing fewer this year than last?

Sweat bee on Rudbeckia ‘Green Wizard’Over the last few years I have learned to love and be less skeeved out by the creepy crawlies in the garden – even the giant spider web I walked into headfirst this morning didn’t set me shrieking. The more I’m around these guys, the more fascinated I become. It helps that I work with Gail who I think is an entomologist in a parallel universe. I can’t be too neurotically phobic when she’s saying “Wow! Look at this one!” She has an amazing box full of bugs and it is extra special for being a no-kill collection. It takes dedication and an extra keen eye to find the bugs that are already dead!


I’m content to watch the live ones. How do you feel about the wildlife in your garden?

a butterfly on the millkweed (Asclepias)

3 thoughts on “Betelgeuse

  1. Maybe it was the heat and drought last year that did the Japanese beetles in. It’s been quite a change this year and I’ve hardly seen any. The last couple years my wife needed more than a can of soapy water. She used a bucket.

    I’m pretty tolerate of wildlife in the gardens. I might lose some things to the deer but it’s nice to look out the window and see a Doe with her fawns. I’ve had to pretty much give up growing some plants like daylilies but then I get to plant more coneflowers. And it seems I have more ‘wildflowers’ growing than garden perennials. I say wildflower – you say weed 🙂

    Wiseacre, buckets of dead beetles aside, it sounds like you coexist with the critters quite happily! -kris

  2. We have a lot of JBs this year. I have come to the conclusion that insect pests are cyclical with nature generally balancing itself out in the long run. Using an Integrated Pest Management program is a good and easy approach to having a healthy garden. I try and coexist with the insects and wildlife however when the population become destructive it is time for action. I guess I am really just another predator in the scheme of things.

    DF, I’m sure you’re right that everything comes in cycles and waves. I only hope we’re seeing the last of the beetles… -kris

  3. I have been pretty lucky… I see occasional JBs here, but nothing like my folks do “out in the country.” That said, I do try my best to coexist as a gardener with the local wildlife, which includes the squirrels, chipmunk, and my own canine companion who likes to run through the gardens in pursuit of all of the former!

    One thing that really struck me about your post, though, Kris, is how you mentioned trying to “do no harm.” I have often told people that I think that the Hippocratic Oath is mostly applicable to my idea of gardening, too. From “first, do no harm,” to not forgetting that it is art, and not just science, to prevention being preferable to a cure, to not being ashamed to ask for advice from experts. I am sure that my DSIL, herself a Doctor of Osteopath, gets a kick out of this grandiose proclamation of mine, but I think it’s true! 🙂

    Well said, Kim! It’s all about being care-full. -kris

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