Bugs Are My Friends (?)

Summer will soon be in full bloom here in Michigan Land, and with warm (and lately wet) weather comes:  BUGS!!! RAARRRGGHH!!  GET THE GUN! GET THE GUN!

No no, no guns.  I’ve often been tempted to carry a shotgun on a walk with me and blast a hole in one of those big mosquito swarms that follows me around.  But that might not be practical, and I doubt that the neighbors would appreciate it.  And if you use a gun inside, well that makes holes in your home that are unsightly and drafty in the winter.  Oh yes, and people can get hurt too (duh).

Sure, I hate mosquitoes and other such nasty insects, but I keep telling myself that Mom Nature has a plan for the stupid things.  We rarely use poison to kill bugs… sprays and foggers are usually worse than the bugs you are using them on.  I very rarely use bug repellents like OFF or whatever.   I’m sorry, but I’d rather suffer than put poison on my body.  And in the case of those outdoor foggers, unfortunately they also kill many GOOD bugs.  The same goes for in the garden, and because we don’t spray, we get lots of beneficial insects like praying mantis, lacewings, ladybugs and the like.

Other friendly bugs are spiders.  Wait a minute… SPIDERS!! ARRRGGHH! GET THE GUN! GET THE GUN!  Oh wait, no guns.  So ok, we don’t really freak out quite that badly.   In fact, spiders actually get a fair trial at our place. I’ve actually learned to appreciate the beauty in those little eight-legged alien beings. Being the organic gardeners that we are, the family has learned to respect beneficial bugs as a valuable resource. Yeah, I know. Spiders aren’t technically bugs. Tell that to your six year old and see how far you get!

Anyhow, spiders don’t strike terror in our hearts these days (ya, right). That statement is pretty much true, especially if :

A) WE KNOW WHERE THE SPIDER IS, AND

12) IT’S THERE WHEN IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE.

To explain item 12) above, I really need to come clean and admit that many spiders have been killed execution style simply by showing up near one of us by surprise.  But we really do try to save them if we can and I’ve even grown to the point where I can pick them up…sometimes. If they’re small enough.  But when those rascals are crawling on me unannounced, I have been known to do one of two things, either greet them with a sudden KERSMOOSH, or I do  a most unusual running dance. I also chant while run-dancing:  “OGodHolyCowYoySpiderBig!!!” Or something like that.  As I said, spiders will normally get a fair trial at our house. When discovered, they are captured and released in the garden. Spider sightings cause the family to summon me with big voices. If Mr. or Mrs. Spider (How do you tell, anyway? Don’t EVEN ask me to inspect their private parts!) isn’t too large, I’ll scoop it into my palm and carefully encage it in my hand. I set them free behind the compost pile, or someplace where they can find cover. The big ones, however, are strictly jar material.

An excellent critter catching device can be built with a jelly jar and one of those ejector type cards from a magazine.  You know, the ones that fall out of a fresh-out-of-the-mailbox magazine when you’re on the potty.  They’re easily identified by their large bold print that goes something like:   “YES! Send me 956 weeks of Dirteaters Digest for only $34.67, $50 less than newsstand price!  If you don’t have a jelly jar, a drinking glass is also a good bug holder. Such a device is also useful for wasps, which are also beneficial critters. Woe unto the spider or wasp who is in the wrong place at the wrong time, though. Those guys get the old El-Kabong treatment. Know what you have then? Bug guts!  Ooo, ocky, yicky. Paper towel, please.

Sometimes rain has fostered a population boom of a garden pest that rhymes with bugs, SLUGS.  Man, I hate those things.  I remember being totally intrigued by them when I was a kid:  “Wow!! A snail with no shell!!  Cool!!”    Now it’s:  “HEY!!  These *&%$ things are eating my plants!!  GET THE GUN! GET THE GUN!”  Oh right… no guns. Anyway, sticking to my organic ways, I won’t buy slug poison.  We saw some in the store and I wanted it badly.  Very badly.  But I figure there’s enough poison on our planet without me spreading more.

I heard years ago that beer will kill them.  You pour it into a shallow pan and put it on the ground, and the slugs are attracted and drown in it.  I reluctantly bought some a couple years ago for the first time ever in my new old life.  I say “reluctantly,” because before I learned my lesson, I’d already bought enough for one lifetime and I very nearly “drowned” in it… if you get my drift.  Now my oldness is new and I don’t allow beer (or any other intoxicant) into my body.  I’m allergic you see.  The stuff makes me break out in traffic violations.

However, the best slug remover I’ve found so far is beer.  Kinda funny when I go to a party store and ask for the cheapest beer.  I mean hey, slugs don’t care!!  If I put a little bowl of beer down near the plant I want to protect, the slugs go for the suds much more readily than they go for the veggies.  They are hopeless alcoholics… they drink themselves to death, and don’t seem to care that the bodies of their friends-and-neighbors type slugs are already drowned in the brew.  Might be a message there…

Anyway, sure, this organic gardening can be frustrating at times.  However, if you plan your garden carefully and encourage natural predators (beneficial insects and spiders), it is also very rewarding to grow food that you know is safe to eat.  And yes, of course I realize that slugs may rhyme with bugs, but they are not bugs at all, they’re gastropod mollusks. As far as I know, slugs have no natural enemies.

Well, maybe they have one:  ME.

Never had any termite problems, but apparently Popeye has…