Mystery bug #1 Mystery Bug #2
What's that bug?
Have you ever found a cool bug in your backyard, tried to I.D. it, and been frustrated because you could not find it in any of your field guides, in a google image search, or even in BugGuide.net?
Do not despair, as you are not alone! As you may know, insects are the most numerous animal life form on the planet, comprising about 85% of terrestrial animals. Not only that, insects come in all shapes and sizes, and do magic called metamorphosis after being nymphs or molting their hard exoskeletons as they move through instars on their way to sexual maturity.
"Arthropods (Arthropoda) are a highly-successful group of invertebrate animals that includes insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, mites, horseshoe crabs, scorpions, and crustaceans. In terms of species diversity, arthropods are second to none. That there are in excess of one million arthropods species that have been identified by scientists and there are estimated to be many millions that have not yet been identified. Scientists estimate there may be a staggering 30 million species of arthropods alive today, the vast majority of which are insects."
The insect world is currently divided into 32 orders. The largest order, the beetles (Coleoptera), contains more than 370,000 species. Other major orders are moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera, 150,000 species), bees, wasps, and ants (Hymenoptera, 120,000 species), flies (Diptera, 100,000 species), and bugs (Hemiptera, 80,000 species).
To make mystery bug I.D. even harder, remember that all insects go through metamorphosis-which means that most of them look completely different from adults when they are in their immature stages as larvae and instars-making it quite a puzzle to identify them, since field guides and websites often only show images of the adult stages of many insects.
For example, take mystery bug #1, found by my friend Lorene in her West Seattle garden:
after three fails (which included an image search, googling "green ladybug", and BugGuide.net), I googled "Seattle pest insects" and found a P-Patch reference document from the Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods, that told me all about the invasive Green Stinkbug, which were first reported in Seattle in 2014.
Bingo! Lorene's bug turned out to be the 5th instar stage of the Southern Green Stinkbug Nezara Viridula. She found this insect alongside lots of little tiny black bugs (2nd/3rd instar) on a Dalia leaf, never before seen in her garden.
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus Philenor) life cycle stages
The thing to remember, when taking care of your backyard, is that often times immature stages of beneficial insects look very different from the adults. Be sure to be gentle when you are weeding and tidying up your garden for the winter, as many caterpillars overwinter in the grasses, leaves, shrubs, and woodpiles. These are your butterfly nurseries. If you do find a "pest" insect, such as the Green Stinkbug, please contact the Garden Hotline: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-633-0224.
We had both Red Admiral and the Spring Azure butterflies visiting; look how TINY the Spring Azure is, perched on a forget-me-not. The Vosnesenskii bumblebee is our most numerous bombus, and the tiny metallic green bee with striking black and yellow stripes is an Agapostemon, or male sweat bee, a member of the Halictidae family. They are considered solitary but often nest communally in the ground. Also, apparently not good swimmers (I rescued this little guy from the birdbath :^)
I cannot tell begin to express how thrilled I am to have (my second) feature article published in the Pacific Horticulture magazine (I have been doing the happy dance since it arrived in the mail yesterday morning :^)
You really will want to have a copy of this lovely 64-page journal, but in the meantime you can check my feature articles at these links:
Child's Play: Discovering the Wild Bits
The Importance of Spontaneous Outdoor Play in Nature
Then, don your play clothes and go for a wander in the woods or your garden. Have a nice Play!
Guest Post by Sam = Organic Lesson
In the past decade, the plight of the honey bees has become a very important issue, and rightly so, as they play an essential part in the growth of crops and produce. Many do not realize that bees aren't just there to produce honey. They also play an important part in pollinating surrounding crops. One way in which we are detrimentally affecting the bee population is through the use of chemical pesticide. As tempting as it is to use such a method to eradicate pests in your backyard, it should be noted that not only is pesticide harmful to the bees, they are also harmful to you as well. If you are a gardener who wants to use a natural control method instead then consider the use of beneficial insects.
As the name implies, beneficial insects are bugs that can help eradicate common garden pests without doing any damage to your garden produce. Not all insects are bad. There are many such as the examples listed in the infographic that can be very effective at getting rid of common pests like aphids, caterpillars, and spider mites. Who knew the beautiful ladybug could be so effective at getting rid of aphid infestations in the garden? Other than the benefit of keeping things organic, using these insects can also be a great way to save money. Chemical pesticide is only going to get more expensive moving forward so why not use a method that takes advantage of the natural resource around you? If you are lucky then some of the beneficial insects could be native to the area you live in so all you have to do is to make your garden an attractive area for them to roam. One last thing to keep in mind is that there really isn't a way for pests to resist these bugs. According to the Pesticide Action Network, more and more insects and weed species are developing resistance against pesticide. With beneficial insects, however, the pests are being eaten so they really have nowhere to go.
If you are a gardener with a backyard then start taking action now. Help sustain the local population of bees in your area by sticking to a natural pest control method.
Sam Choan is a gardening enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experience on gardening and sustainability at his personal blog Organic Lesson. During his spare time, Sam grows a number of herbs in his indoor garden and finds ways to promote green living.
Earth Day 2016...
Fresh cut-comb honey from our beehives, a Pilleated Woodpecker on the Interlaken Trail, winter greens from our garden, Forget-Me-Nots, African Daisy, Asparagus harvest (click for full image).
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
Garden Soil, Fungi, & Critters T.Byrne 2015
I lifted up the edge of one of our blue tarps last summer to find this thriving microcosm of life. This led to a bout of wondering about the multitudes of life forms that I cannot see with my naked eye (in addition to wishing that I had a light microscope, instead of just my old-fashioned Swift Stereo 90...). From the looks of things, it seems that we are providing a nurturing place for a multitude of garden invertebrates and other tiny neighbors.
Microbes, microbiomes, good bacteria/bad bacteria...I believe that our next deep science explorations will be into health of the soil that we depend on to grow our food and sustain life on the planet. Did you know that there is more life below the surface of the soil than above it? In a single tablespoon of soil, there are 50 billion microbes alone!
Along with a focus on soil health, it appears that as we humans need to make friends with the three pounds of bacteria, fungi, one-celled archaea, and viruses "that collectively they weigh the same as our brain". In other words, that would be the microbial make-up of a healthy human. (Are you ready to meet your wild life?)
What is a person/superorganism to do?
Feed your microbes well my friends, support non-toxic agriculture, green cleaning, do not use anti-bacterial soaps, read labels, drink your Kefir, and be sure to get your daily dose of dirt!
Not that the name matters; the bees love the abundant pollen, and we will have plenty of organic sunflower seeds to share with our backyard birds this winter.
Our own variety of "ring-of-fire": here we are burning old brood comb and enjoying the hot colors and lovely beeswax aroma. Perfect for a cool summer evening.
Photos © T. Byrne 2015