In her book, Garden Allies: The Insects, Birds & Other Animals That Keep Your garden Beautiful and Thriving, (Timber Press $24.95) Frederique Lavoipierre opens up amazing worlds of the creatures who may live in our garden, creatures who will benefit the garden! We learn about so many creatures from soil-dwelling micro-organisms to bats. For example: Did you know that the common woolly bear caterpillar is really the larva of a tiger moth?
Did you know that the ugly and destructive tomato hornworm is the larva of the beautiful hawk moth?
Did you know that potter wasps make tiny pots to house their larvae?
Did you know that some spiders eat many species of disease spreading flies?
Did you know that lady bugs, otherwise known as lady beetles, are prodigious eaters of soft-bodied insects that you don’t want in your garden? I was amazed to learn that there are so many`creatures who are on our side.
I thought I knew about bees and some of the butterflies, but beetles, lacewings, centipedes, snails, are just the beginnings of families that are unfamiliar to me. I am always complaining that I can’t recognize bird calls, or feathers. I never thought they were important for the garden. I knew bats ate bugs at night, but Lavoipierre has given me insights into bats as well the limitless creatures that may very well be eating, mating and improving my garden.
I was amazed by the information I found in these 307 pages. One section describes True Bugs. It begins by explaining that true bugs are predators. We also learn that they are good gardening friends. They are predatory, going after aphids, mealy bugs, thrips and more but some of them have wonderful names like assassin bugs, ambush bugs, damsel bugs, minute pirate bugs and others.
The thing to remember is that predatory bugs are high on the food chain and therefore at risk if you are using pesticides. Even if they don’t die, birds may eat the poisoned bugs and die. Lavoipierre urges us all to practice conservation biological control. The more natural enemies we have in our gardens, the better pest populations will be regulated.
Frédérique Lavoipierre is the former director of education at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and author of Garden Allies, a ten-year series of articles published in Pacific Horticulture Magazine. She currently works as a consultant and serves on the editorial advisory group for the American Public Gardens Association.