One of the tasks in cultivating a garden is the never ending battle to keep marauding critters from helping themselves to the fruits of your labor. We erect fences, put up scarecrows, sprinkle predator urine, put up row covers, and all the other different methods of keeping the four and six-legged thieves out of your garden. And despite all our efforts, the aphids, beetles, squirrels, rabbits, and other creatures still manage to make off with part (or sometimes all) of our harvest.
What’s a gardener to do? Well, why not meet thief with predator? Why not encourage the animals that prey on these garden thieves to take up residence in your backyard? Why not let the same Mother Nature that would despoil your bounty protect it as well?
Who are these predators of which I speak? Allow me to elaborate.
Bats – Bats are voracious eaters of insects. Bothered by mosquitoes? The bats will take care of the problem for you! Note – bats are not going to get caught in your hair and they are not going to suck your blood. They are not horrible vicious creatures to be feared and reviled. They are an important member of the ecosystem and should be welcomed with open arms!
Birds – Bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, grosbeaks, and nuthatches will happily devour such pests as larvae, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, etc. And if you’re having problems with rabbits, mice, voles, and other rodents, then birds of prey such as hawks and owls will dispose of them.
Frogs and toads – Invite these wonderful amphibians into your garden and they will repay you by hungrily devouring any six-legged creature that dares invade your garden.
Lizards – Anoles, or the North American version of the chameleon, will climb to the tops of plants to eat the insects there. Skinks are fast-moving lizards that will work the ground level and eat slugs, snails and other ground-dwelling garden marauders.
Snakes – Yes, snakes! What I said previously about bats also applies to snakes. Snakes are not slimy horrible creatures to be feared and destroyed. They are a vital part of our planet’s web of life, and can be another ally in your battle against garden pests. Garter snakes feed on slugs. So do sharp-tailed snakes – and they’re especially fond of Japanese beetle grubs. Rubber boas eat mice and voles, while gopher snakes prey on mice and rats.
Spiders – All right, everybody repeat after me. Spiders are our friends! And for a vegetable gardener, there’s no better friend than the members of order Araneae. There is no end to the insects they will eat — aphids, armyworms, leafhoppers, flea-hoppers, leafminers, spider mites, caterpillars, thrips, plant bugs, cucumber beetles, grasshoppers, scarabs and flies to mention only a few. And very few are venomous to humans. So don’t destroy them. Welcome them!
So how to you attract these natural allies to your garden? We’ll discuss that in the next blog post.