Getting gardeners excited about butterflies and birds is pretty easy. But interesting them in the glories of bugs is trickier. Before you scream “yeech,” check out these facts shared by entomologist John Thieme at a presentation during Gardens of Zionsville tour in June.
- There are nearly 100,000 known insect species in the U.S. and Canada.
- There are over 10 million species still unidentified worldwide.
- At least 95% of the insect species are beneficial or harmless.
- Loss of habitat is the most challenging problem for insect survival.
Thieme described yellow jackets as causing the most harm to humans, and the Japanese beetle as the gardener’s worst pest. (See my comments on these nasties in last month’s ILG column). However, he reminded us, when nature is in balance, most insects are valuable. Foremost, they are food to other insects, birds and mammals. They pollinate. And they are great decomposers; we’d be knee-deep in decaying litter if it weren’t for the insects.
A few of Thieme’s suggestions to work WITH — not against — these gifts of nature include:
- Rotate crops.
- Interplant crops; no monocultures.
- Plant “trap crops,” e.g. a rose bush for Japanese beetles planted far from your garden and patio.
- Learn more about beneficial insects and their good deeds in the garden. For starters, visit the Indiana Organic Gardener’s Association quarterly meetings.
More good news:
- Several counties are offering the well-respected Purdue Master Gardener Program beginning in August or September.
- The Indiana Master Naturalist Course is also being offered across the state, including at Indy’s Holliday Park in August.
- The Indiana Master Naturalist program is designed to teach about Indiana’s natural history and natural resources. Programs beginning in September include Goshen, Kokomo and Danville.
- Indiana DNR’s Division of Nature Preserves will revive an old tradition on Saturday, August 25, with a whole day of field trips with a focus on prairie landscapes. On the Prairie-Savanna Field Day, their staff will lead hikes at various nature preserves in the northwest region of Indiana.
Got a gardening question or a tip to share? Contact Lynn at Lynn@IndianaLivingGreen.com.