Garden Pests – everything you always wanted to know…

Garden Pests – everything you always wanted to know…

Among the challenges facing every gardener is the presence of those pesky critters that hide in the soil and under the foliage, defeating our efforts to develop the perfect plant. But are they always out to cause havoc in our gardens?

At a recent meeting of the Chester Garden Club, members enjoyed an enlightening talk by Andrew Hebda entitled Garden Pests: Friends or Foes? Illustrating his points with colourful slides, Andrew, who is Curator of Zoology in the Collections Unit of the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, spoke about the life cycles and habits of many of the insects that enjoy life in Chester gardens.

Andrew Hebda and CGC president, Brenda Garland, compare notes about his presentation.

In his talk he stressed that the “bad” bugs usually stay on their own plants. For example, potato bugs and cucumber bugs are specialists. If you see damage on those plants, look for the perpetrators, and remember to check the underside of leaves to spot the eggs or larvae. You can pick off these nuisances and even toss them in the compost because they are species-specific and won’t thrive on other plant material in the pile.

Andrew is a big believer in soapy water to get rid of bugs. He demonstrated how bugs “breathe” air through their bodies, and he showed a photo of the ‘airway’ opening, which is surrounded by an oval ring with a coating of oil on it. Spraying the bug destroys the oil protection and thus allows water to get into the “air ways”.

One surprising piece of information that Andrew delivered is that male mosquitoes might be called “good bugs.” They actually do have a positive role in the ecosystem. In addition to their role in the procreation of those “pests to man and beast”, it is the males that are the main pollinators of grasses and therefore important for the growth of good pastures and lawns.

The photo on the right is of the infamous brown spruce long-horned beetle that has been a cause of concern for several years in the province.
Andrew’s talk was replete with information on so many garden pests that it is impossible to cover them all in this blog, but it was interesting to note that he believes that bugs only damage trees that are already under stress due to age, poor nourishment or water stress.
This blog is based on notes taken by a member of the Garden Club who attended the meeting in the absence of your blogger. The captions added to Andrew’s photographs were prepared by the replacement reporter.

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