Wildlife Surprises in the Garden

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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I usually shift into a somewhat zen mode when gardening. My movements slow, my mind empties and drifts, and I slip into a sort of other-world place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still firmly grounded in this earth’s reality — I simply become hyper-focused and in the moment while relaxing and letting go of almost everything else on my plate.

One of the benefits in this state of being is that I tend to notice the things around me in great detail. I maintain this vigilance so that I don’t disturb any wildlife I may come across — especially when I’m rearranging their habitats. I’ve relocated more praying mantis that I can count as I remove unwanted (to me) vegetation. I’ve spend countless moments conversing with insects, arachnids, snakes, and gastropods — not that they understand a word, but I tend to believe they feel the calm energy I’m sharing.

I was working in this zen state while cleaning the invasive tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) volunteers out of our hedge. I wandered over to the shoots trying to restart the Bradford pears we’d removed and sat to continue. As I was clearing the suckers, I noticed a wonderful gift (pictured above) — a cicada freshly emerged from its casing. After I snapped a photo with the phone in my pocket, I hoped it wasn’t too bothered as I gently relocated the little guy. I was very grateful to have seen them together — cicada and shell — I usually see one without the other.

While digging potatoes a day or so later, I came across more circle-of-lifing. I found and relocated some fresh leopard slug eggs and their parent. Fun side note: most slugs are hermaphroditic, some don’t need to mate in order to reproduce, and leopard slugs can mate with any other leopard slug they come upon.

Of course, after one friend’s humorous suggestions I had to research and found out that yes, I could have dined on slug (egg) caviar and (parent) escargot. But, ew! No thanks—not even out of curiosity! Though I suppose it’s nice to tuck away such facts for an apocalyptic future. There are a great many protein sources in our garden that I don’t ever plan on ingesting intentionally. In fact, I probably revere them more than most people do.

I’m so grateful to be able to add these discoveries to my other gardening adventures. It thrills me to observe and interact with the wildlife who share our land. I revel each time I come across someone new. I fondly recall those that are more rare… the cicada with its casing will likely join those ranks along with my sitings of Hemaris thysbe—Clearwing or Hummingbird moths.

I first saw one of these amazing little creatures when I was out in my garden several years ago. Since then I’ve noticed them occasionally flitting among the monarda, phlox, and chicory. Each time I have to pause and ogle. They really catch my eye with their hummingbird-like movement.

For any of you who garden in a more athletic or fiercely determined fashion, might I suggest trying a slower method once or twice to see if you discover hidden treasures in your own surroundings? Maybe you’ll find as much fascination as I do in the micro-world around you when following a more leisurely pace.

Blythe Pelham is 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 at Humingsand Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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