Getting Along with Your Garden Guests
by Sandy Swegel
“Stop! Spiders are Our Friends” is the phrase I’ve been shouting lately. A young teenage house guest has been alarmed at the wolf spiders (big but harmless to us) that seem to make their way into our bathtub. I’ve been in another room in the house and heard a high-pitched squeal and a quick fumbling around for a weapon of destruction such as a shoe. My house guest can’t help it…she’s grown up in a city condo and isn’t used to the wild ways of my semi-rural house. I’m happy she hasn’t noticed the cricket who happily lives beneath the steps by the water faucet.
Spiders and all kinds of bugs are our friends. Not everyone of course, and I’m not suggesting you invite black widows spiders to live with you. But I cringe when I am in public places and notice people enthusiastically killing bugs and spiders because they think they are bad. Ants, in particular, seem to be the target of children who stomp on each one with glee. Nearby adults usually take no notice because they think of crawly things as something to be destroyed. The shelf space at the local hardware store devoted to weedkiller is matched only by the shelf space of bug killer. Here at BBB Seed, we educate people a lot about pollinators and we’re especially protective about bees. But we also respect the other lesser known pollinators like flies and ants. When we respond to crawly things as creepy and something to be feared and killed, we actually hurt the environment by disturbing the natural balance of insect life and the many creatures that work hard to pollinate our plants or eat the bad bugs.
One of my top garden rules…don’t pull any weed if you don’t know its name…applies to the insect world as well. Don’t kill any bugs if you don’t know their name and what purpose they serve in your little ecosystem.
This doesn’t mean I think your house has to be crawling with bugs. Just as the garden has designated “no weeds here “zones,” I think you can declare the house a “bug-free” zone. But the world around you doesn’t have to be bug-free. And you can teach your friends and your kids the difference. If you are killing an insect (more often I catch them with a glass and put them outside…it’s easier than cleaning smooshed bug), act with a clear purpose to remove it from your home not because all bugs are evil.
My rule for bugs is that they have to respect my space and play well with others. No flies or ants in my kitchen, but ants and native flies outdoors are great pollinators. A few aphids, or even a cabbage worm or two are fine in the garden because the predators usually come to eat them. But if the plants start suffering, the insects lose their right to stay. Aside from a few miscreants, most of the time the garden world is a zoo of beneficial insects.