Are your green thumbs showing the early but inevitable signs of garden warrior frustration? You know, when you start realizing that despite your ever-escalating insect-fighting vigilance, somehow there are always hundreds of additional crummy little leaf munchers and stem suckers mounting their attack the moment you take a brief bathroom break? It can get to the point where all of the natural pesticides in the world may still not enable you to retrieve those precious few (and still unscathed) tomatoes from the grimy clutches of the green worm brigade.
Stay strong. When it seems like all of Mother Nature’s pesky buggers are hell-bent on pilfering your once pristine plot of lovingly tended earth, take a deep breath and know that it will all be alright once you enlist the help of an underappreciated yet highly effective neighborhood watch team – a select group of winged, fanged, shelled and slimy goo-covered critters that will divide and conquer your insect problem in record time. These creatures will get the job done so that you can reap a bountiful harvest!
A universally recognized poster child for Halloween and campy vampire movies, bats aren’t exactly endowed with good looks. But they more than compensate for their unfortunate appearance by working diligently behind the scenes to provide mankind with several invaluable gardening services.
Besides pollinating countless food crops for us and happily dispersing seeds, ¾ of our 1,240 global bat species typically munch on mosquitoes – one single bat can plow through 600 of the pesky bloodsuckers in just 60 minutes! – as well as the most notorious insects known to wreack havoc on vegetables, fruits and forests (such as moths and beetles). So, in effect, they serve as a natural and entirely chemical-free form of pesticide, which becomes incredibly helpful for those who want to maintain an organic garden. Want to attract them to your ‘hood? Then mount a few simple wooden bat houses to the trees around your property.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these cute little brightly colored, hard-shelled insects provide nothing more than an attractive accent to the landscape… and despite urban myth, you can’t actually tell how old they are by the number of spots on their backs, either.
In reality, coccinellids have a death warrant out for thrips, mites, scale insects, mealy bugs and aphids, which is a good thing, too, since those critters mess with a wide array of the botanicals that we typically plant in our gardens. It may be hard to believe, but one tiny little ladybug can consume 5,000 bugs throughout its relatively brief 1 – 2 year lifespan, so whether you attract naturally indigenous populations to your yard or you purchase them from a local landscape supply center (at an average cost of $15.00 for 1,500 live ladybugs), they’re well worth their weight in gold.
If your municipality has rolled out the red carpet for urban chicken rearing (which is becoming increasingly more common these days), you’re in luck and not solely because of the nutrient rich organic eggs that they lay. Want a fun, relatively easy new hobby to pursue? Then build a small outdoor coop for your modest little flock and revel in their fascinating, quirky little personalities as well as the free organic manure that they produce for your garden. The pièce de résistance of chicken ownership, however, is their dead-on ability to peck garden pests such as grubs, Japanese beetles, horn worms, aphids, cockroaches – gulp… and even mice – into oblivion.
With eight legs and a venomous bite, spiders understandably give many of us the heeby-jeebies, but considering the vast types of web-weaving wonders that exist in the arachnida class, very few of them actually harm humans. In fact, the majority of them are far more lethal to flies, beetles, mosquitoes and other garden-dwelling invaders when they inadvertently land in the fine, sticky fibers of their silken webs. Once trapped, an errant insect will first be pumped with a spider’s digestive enzymes and then be ultimately sucked dry… somewhat sad, but hey, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. For maximum spider-lovin’ turf, be sure to incorporate plants from the sunflower, daisy and parsley family into your garden (which they love) – think dahlias, parsley, Queen Anne’s lace, calendula, zinnia, cosmos, dill, etc.
Among the 300 species of the Bufonidae family, these nocturnal water-lovers also happen to adore the crops that you choose to grow in your garden. But (and it’s a big ‘but’), when it comes down to choosing between vegetable matter or pure insect protein, toads and frogs will opt for the latter every single time. Install a modest little pond in a shady corner of your yard for a frog-free-for-all. Garden pests won’t know what hit them, and a cool bonus is that the water will also beckon mosquitoes directly into the snapping jaws of the local bat population, too! Ain’t Mother Nature grand?
How’s that for pest management?