All gardeners know that there are good bugs and bad bugs. The problem is that I still have trouble telling which is which. Science was never my subject. I barely remember high school biology. Geology 101, which I took only to fulfill my college science requirement, was perhaps the most humbling experience of my academic career. It’s a mystery how I wound up gardening.
What is even stranger is that I am not half bad at plants. I can identify scads of them by their leaves alone. Nuances in size, shape, shade, and serration are no problem. But ask me if it’s a soldier beetle (good) or a cucumber beetle (bad), and I have no idea.
As a result, my mental storehouse has not progressed much beyond the ladybug. I will stare intently at a creepy crawler in my garden, trying to memorize every detail of its anatomy and markings. But by the time I get to the book or computer, the details are getting a little hazy. Was the body hairy or smooth? Did the beetle have three lines or two? Were the stripes on the caterpillar horizontal or vertical? I would make a terrible witness.
As gardeners, we are supposed to respect the ecosystem. I always feel guilty when I reach for the spray bottle, especially when it’s filled with something besides soapy water. But sometimes a little human intervention is in order. That’s why they call it "gardening,” right?