by Sandy Swegel
Midsummer is when I most enjoy sharing the magic act of the garden. If any garden newbie shows the least interest in the natural world, I like to share with them one secret of the bugs we live with and teach why they are our friends and they have special reasons for being on our property.
This week the emphasis has been creatures. Children and city folk can easily be put off by “bugs” and want to kill them right away. There are lots of bugs in August so I spend lots of time introducing the insect people who live with us, because after all, insects are people too.
Sister Squash Bee.
A neighbor saw a recipe online for squash blossoms so wanted to pick in the zucchini patch. She came in rather alarmed, “I can’t get the blossoms because the bees will get me.” Sure enough, every single squash blossom had a single squash bee in it. I was delighted. Squash bees are such unique pollinators. So I introduced her to our neighbor and friend Sister Squash Bee and explained how to gently shake it out of the blossom before harvesting.
There must be a wasp nest near our picnic table because small wasps have started showing up every time we start up the BBQ grill. “Ack, get the bug spray” was the terrified response one night. I was able to achieve some peace by putting a piece of grilled hot dog on the table showing everyone how Brother Wasp just wanted some meat and wasn’t after us.
The wolf spider seems a little early this year. We had one child refusing to bathe because of the monster spider in the bathtub. I made the introduction to Cousin Spider who comes in looking for water and then can’t get back up out of the slippery tub. I captured the spider in a jar and put it outside. We then left a towel hanging in the tub so our other Cousin Spiders could climb out again when they came to drink in our drain.
The best magic trick this week is lifting the leaves of the milkweeds, parsley and dills to introduce the baby butterflies. Sometimes I just show the little egg nursery. Other times, one of the toddler caterpillars is climbing the stem. It’s so nice having all the babies around.
The world of creepy crawlers is mostly not scary at all. They are our friends and extended family who live with us and who we can happily share our home and garden with. Now if only I could make peace with Crazy Uncle Cockroach who tried to move into the silverware drawer this week. Some relatives don’t know how to behave and just aren’t allowed in the house!