I know, I know….one of the creepiest feelings is witnessing a spider race across your bedroom floor. Personally, I can’t stand spiders inside my house. It is simply no fun to be awakened by a brown recluse dancing on your leg…eek! Outside it is a completely different story. While fully recognizing their importance, I also understand that, generally speaking, they are entirely harmless. I love to watch them design their webs, using trial and error when finding their anchor points. The Wolf Spider is amazing the way she protects her egg sac and then carries her young on her back until they are able to fend for themselves. They are avid hunters and will even catch and eat other spiders. For this reason, I try to respect their space and leave them completely alone.
My absolute favorite spider in the garden has been sorely missed this year. Normally I would find numerous guardians protecting my beds from the
They are non-aggressive and very goal oriented (eat, breed, reproduce). The female will die as cold weather moves in, so she must insure her egg sac is placed in a viable position to be safe until the spring. The color of the egg sac can vary from milky white to a dark brown (as seen in the picture), resembling a speed bag (used in boxing) and she will most likely situate it against a structure (if available) or under some type of shelter. If she chooses the spot wisely, the entire brood will hatch in the fall, hibernate within the sac and then emerge the following spring. The egg sac contains approximately 500 young but very few will survive to adulthood.
Speaking of creepy creatures, this next “good guy” is commonly victim of mistaken identity. As you watch this video, understand that this is the larvae of one our favorite insects. Impossible as it seems, this is a young Ladybug feasting on a meal of aphids. We know how beneficial they are for cleaning aphids off of our beloved plants and the larvae have an equally insatiable appetite. As the Ladybug is transforming into the adult, be careful not to destroy the pupa which is equally as unattractive as the larvae! An interesting fact is that the majority of the Ladybugs we see are not native to this country, they are native to Japan. In the 1980′s, the USDA performed a “successful” introduction of this insect into North America. It is now considered a “pest” in some areas because this species prefers to hibernate inside our homes. They will seek a nice warm place on a south or west wall or ceiling to rest for winter. Unfortunately, there is usually not enough humidity to maintain their moisture needs and many will perish. If you find them in your house, they will not bother anything and, provided they survive, will leave on their own.
One final good guy I feel the need to mention is the Praying Mantis. Probably the most animated insect I can think of, the movements and personality of this creature warrant our undivided attention. Known for their cannibalistic behavior, the young mantis quickly places distance between themselves and their birth place. They immediately begin seeking their own territory as they understand that two mantises can not reside on one prime piece of real estate. The size of these creatures can vary greatly. I have seen a few that measured a full 4 inches long, while the majority were quite a bit smaller. They are quite proficient hunters and will even use their “hands” as spears to impale and pluck their pray out of the air. Grasshoppers, flies, moths and crickets are their favorite foods, but every once in a while, they will score a butterfly, hummingbird or another mantis.
As I wander though my gardens collecting seed or pulling weeds, I am always on the lookout for fascinating creatures. In a normal year, I find many beneficial friends and usually discover something “new”, as well. My son (who just turned two) is beginning to notice very subtle differences and details and will be ready to “hunt” with me next year. I can’t wait!!