By David Goodman
Many gardeners take the false view that the best way to grow plants is to keep everything under control. They feel the need to prune and pick, mow and spray, weed and till, and, of course, keep away all the creepy creatures.
The problem is, many of the creepy creatures are actually our friends, inasmuch as they devour the pests that prey on our precious plants. In many of my gardening classes, I’ve extolled the virtues of snakes and shared my thoughts on creating snake habitats. In response, many of my students (particularly those with two “X” chromosomes) have told me how much they despise snakes and kill every one they see. My reply is simple: what do you prefer in your yard over the course of a year, one rat snake… or three hundred rats? One corn snake… or a plague of squirrels One black racer… or a thousand cockroaches? These creepy creatures are helping you out! Don’t fight them! Today we’ll take a look at eight terrifying creatures that destroy pests.
Centipedes don’t get any love. They’re freaky looking, they have way too many legs, plus some of them possess a well-earned reputation for having a nasty bite. Fortunately, they’re also voracious carnivores who will happily clean the bad bugs out of your garden. Leave a few rotting logs here and there in your yard… the centipedes will find them.
Giant Scoliid Wasps
These wasps are bigger than any other you’re likely to encounter. I mean, we’re talking almost 3″. That’s a terrifying creature. However, these terrifying creatures kill and eat white grubs, a common pest particularly in deep mulch gardens. Scoliid wasps buzz about over the ground, somehow smelling out the grubs… then they dig in, stink the unsuspecting victim and lay their eggs in its paralyzed body. The eggs hatch and the wasp larvae then eat the grubs from the inside out, pupating in the soil and then flying off to continue the cycle. My kind of scary.
Slimy Frogs and Toads
Last year I added some ponds to my yard. This spring I’ve been treated by an absolute invasion of frogs. We have species in our yard I’ve never seen before… and we really don’t have much in the way of insect problems. Frogs and toads may terrify you in the night… but trust me, the bugs are more scared than you are.
Horrifying Dragonfly Larvae
When I added ponds to my property, I gained a lot of frogs… but I also gained a lot of dragonflies. What many people don’t know is that dragonflies spend part of their lives as aquatic nymphs, preying on mosquito larvae and anything else that gets close to their ever-searching claws. As adults, dragonflies wolf down flies and mosquitoes, making them a non-stop good guy for your yard and garden. Create an aquatic habitat and the dragonflies (and their cousins the damselflies) will come.
OMIGOSH IT HAS NO EYES!!!!! Yeah, they look creepy as heck, but blindsnakes are good guys. If you don’t like ants and termites, these puppies can help. Though rarely seen, these tiny snakes live most of their lives beneath the ground, quietly chewing away on insect babies. I once caught one in South Florida… it was less than 2″ long and about as big around the middle as a pencil lead. It made me glad that I was significantly larger than a termite.
If there’s something people hate as much as snakes – or more – it’s spiders. I used to think Florida had cornered the market on spiders… then I moved to Tennessee. Along the streams and creeks there, you’ll often find massively big spiders (variously called wolf spiders, fishing spiders and HOLY #$%$ GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFF!!!!!!) hanging out on tree trunks. We get large wolf spiders in our house all the time… I let them wander by. Better than roaches, right? If you ever want to have some fun, take a flashlight out on a dark night and shine it around in the grass. Wolf spider eyes light up in the dark like little blue diamonds. I’ve found dozens this way, which makes me glad. They’re eating pests all night.
Vampiric Assassin and Wheel Bugs
These guys never stop killing. They’ll wander your garden in search of victims, plunging their piercing mouthparts into unsuspecting beetles and caterpillars, sucking out their juice like an insect milkshake after injecting them with digestive enzymes. If you see assassin or wheel bugs, count yourself lucky. They destroy pests like few other insects. Just don’t pick them up: these suckers aren’t picky about who they stab.
Does anyone else think owls look like the personification of ancient and brooding evil? Am I alone here?
I dunno about you, but owls scare the living daylights out of me. Good thing they’re more interested in eating rodents than stealing my soul.
I hope. If you have owls, you probably have a healthy ecosystem. All night long they’ll wreak havoc on your yard’s pest population, making sure you get more fruit and nuts… and less baby squirrels, rats and mice.
All is not how it appears at first glance.Yes, all the creatures in this list are terrifying… but they’re on our side.
Be glad. Be very, very glad.