Bug Boundaries and Insect Invitationals

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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Most people who know me well are aware that I put a lot of time into my little piece of paradise (aka  garden) during the growing season. I love raising my babies, replete with chatter, adoration, and cheerleading. Suffice it to say, I’m not overly pleased with the specific insects that love the same plants that I harvest to feed my family.

While I definitely lean toward having a balanced ecosystem in our garden — one where there’s room (and purpose) for everybody — I haven’t quite gotten to the place where I’m willing to sacrifice a plant to the insects in order to keep a plant for us… and, so I pick.

I have a couple of ambiguous-looking containers sitting out at the ready for my picking (see bottom photo). They originally held plain water with a bit of dish soap mixed in. At this point, I’m not sure what a chemist would read on her meters if she were to dip a probe into the liquid inside. My containers have been the death trap for a multitude of pests and the solution is now an odorous slurry of past lives.

While I honor, enjoy watching, and cherish many of my crawling and flying friends, there are some with whom I simply insist on drawing a line — the line around our property. If they stay outside that line, I hold them no ill-will. If they cross it into our space, it’s the container for them. These pesky voracious li’l buggers include Colorado potato beetles, Japanese bean beetles, slugs, cabbage moths, and mosquitoes — though the latter only when actively feasting on me and they don’t make it to the container. I put all stages of the others into the solution, from eggs to adult.

I use no pesticides in our garden. This is an active choice on my part. Even though some people prefer the time-saving, I would rather have food free of such chemicals. My method can be tedious if I’m feeling rushed. That’s why I tend to be more meditative about it.

It becomes a methodical search to inspect each leaf of my cabbage family, front and back, in search of all size slugs and cabbage moth life stages. I suppose to an outsider I might look rather comical, crouched on my hands and knees with reading glasses tipped on my nose as I work slowly along the rows. What the casual observer wouldn’t likely notice is that I’m pouring loving energy into each of those leaves while gently picking off the munchers and dropping them into the chamber of death. For the record, I do apologize to the victims of my picking.

My father-in-law, who farmed in his youth and lived with the land for a great portion of his life, skipped straight to the death sentence by squishing any insect between his fingers. My own sensitivities (and heightened connection to my senses) don’t allow me to travel such a route. To each his or her own, I guess.

The middle photo shows the clear decimation that can be wrought (often in just one day) by hungry and growing larvae and young slugs. The bean plant that looks more like poorly made lace was right next to a bushy and thriving plant. Whether due to personal taste of the animal or luck of the draw because of where mom laid her eggs matters not to me even though it piques my curiosity.

I strive for a ‘cide-free garden for those I cherish (examples in the top photo). I’m consistently updating and adding more vegetation to keep the pollinators happy and sated. I take care so that our outdoor kitties can wander without danger. I like for my fellow two-leggeds to be able to enjoy our property without worry. This is truly sacred land to me—one that feeds our bodies and fills our souls with peace and balance.

Though I look forward to a balance of the type Douglas Tallamy describes in Bringing Home Nature, for now I prefer to feed our own tummies rather than leave this precious food for the pests. Eventually my garden may have enough for us all. I do love watching a good microcosm. Until then what I say is, “Be gone ye young beasties, this feast is for us!”

Photos by Blythe Pelham

Blythe Pelhamis an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online atHumingsand Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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