Insects in our lives — what is your reaction?

VIEWS FROM THE GARDEN

by Kent Peterson

There is no doubt that we humans have an emotional relationship with insects. Thoughts ranging from the base reactions of love and fear to in some cases awe and understanding, to the knowledge that beautiful insects can also carry dangerous disease and problems into our lives.

Where do you draw the line? Some might say at the doorstep, and others at the garden gate. Others are creeped out at the presence of some insects. Insect bites from bothersome mosquitoes, to bed bugs, to bee and wasp stings that can be fatal for some show us the range of trouble insects can present to us personally.

Our attitudes are changing in recent years as we have expanded our understanding of butterflies and bees and the broader descriptive category of insects we call pollinators. It is becoming clear to people that a large portion of our food supply is dependent on these insects. Who doesn’t love the flitting about of a bumblebee on a warm sunny day as it pollinates plants while seeking out its own food.

Critters play a fundamental role, along with fungi, in reducing raw organic matter into usable nutrients for the next user in the food chain. Gardeners play a role in the process and rather than conquering nature as has been understood as our role in the past, we must facilitate and understand our own niche.

I have mentioned it in the past, but it is worth repeating that the 2007 book Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy is one of the best books to help you understand the relationship insects have with our plants and of course with you.

It has been a struggle over recent years as we hear about troublesome insects. Japanese Beetles and Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) are doing significant damage to our gardens and trees. There is hope that this year the Japanese Beetles may have taken a hit with the early cold weather this past winter. Maybe EAB, which is the larvae of a beetle, might be slowed too.

And we have a new exotic insect in our neighborhood. Found in a home near West Seventh and St. Clair this winter, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys) has arrived in the West End. It is a native of Asia accidentally introduced to North America. It feeds on fruit and many plants found in our landscapes. It can also be a nuisance in homes in the fall and winter months as it seeks shelter in the same manner as box elder bugs.

Bad bugs make headlines, but good bugs predominate and they are our friends in this complex natural world we live in. Good gardening to you!

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