Tag Archives: critters

Critters: mimics, camouflage, and more ugly

In the last weeks of August, I probably spent more time photographing critters than doing any actual garden maintenance :). It’s amazing how much you can see when you walk around and just quietly observe. It’s like the whole garden wakes up before your eyes.

I was in the garden one evening a few weeks ago when I noticed this crazy-looking grasshopper sitting on a butternut squash leaf. I ran back inside to get my camera and take some shots:

Grasshopper on a butternut squash leaf

Looks like he would camouflage best in rocky areas.  I thought the raised areas of its head and thorax were interesting. He almost looks like a tank.

I think the pictures are blurry because it was early evening. Using flash just washed out everything. I should really learn the settings on my camera.

Another angle

Another angle

The next day I saw another grasshopper, a leaf mimicking insect, and another insect that I at first thought was a lacewing (because of its lace wings), but it looked nothing like the lacewings I found on the net.

Nearly stepped on this guy in the grass. Caught up with him on the fence.

Nearly stepped on this guy in the grass. Caught up with him on the fence. He jumped pretty high and far for only having one hind leg!

Saw this guy hanging out on my giant zucchini.

Saw this guy hanging out on my giant zucchini.

I really harassed the leaf insect. I kept poking his wings from behind, just to see what he would do. Most of the time he would just walk away until he finally got fed up and hopped out of sight. It sounded as if I flicked my finger against the zucchini leaf or a taught piece of tarp. I was surprised that something so small could make so much noise!

Had to get a good angle

Look at those eyes!

I have no idea what this is. He was camouflaged in the sage leaves.

The body looks too big to be a lacewing, yet it has lace wings. Hmmm....

The body looks too big to be a lacewing, yet it has lace wings. Hmmm…. Check out the antennae!

Back to the usual uglies:

I was upset when I discovered that these brightly coloured beetles, which I labelled as harmless flies, were the dreaded squash vine borer!!!

Squash vine borers on one of my zucchini plants

Squash vine borers on my zucchini near the strawberries

If I had known what they were, I would’ve killed them. No question. I was even more upset when I discovered from a University of Minnesota article that after the worm destroys the root, it bores its way into the soil to pupate and reemerge next spring! If I had known this, I would have pulled up the giant zucchini plant it had invaded! Well… it would have been a tough call. This plant produced an abundance of fruit despite the serious damage it sustained.

Squash vine borer damage

Look what it did to my giant zucchini! Absolutely shredded!

Earlier this summer when I looked closely at the big white patches on my beet greens, I noticed worms burrowing under a thin layer of the leaf’s surface! This was the first time I’d ever seen the leafminer worm. Although it’s really neat to see it underneath such a thin layer of the leaf, I kinda wish I’d never seen it. It’s pretty gross.

The dark stuff in the tract is poo or frass

The dark stuff in the tract is poo or frass

This guy has made a mess of this leaf!

This guy has made a mess of this leaf!

Leafminer eggs

Leafminer eggs

At least I know what the eggs look like now. I’d seen them earlier this summer when I was washing the greens for my family. I just washed them off. If I had told my sister what they were, the greens would have ended up in the garbage.

Not sure what this is. A spider perhaps?

Not sure what this is. A spider perhaps? I like the colour contrast against the leaf.


Cricket! These guys don’t stick around to be photographed.

Such a tiny guy made such a big hole!

A baby cabbage worm. Such a tiny guy made such a big hole!

Cabbage moth

Cabbage moth –  the final developmental stage of the cabbage worm (and the producer of more eggs) – on an acorn squash leaf


Leafhopper – these guys suck the juices out of plant leaves, leaving them mottled and distorted

Cucumber beetles

Cucumber beetles mating in a zucchini flower


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Critters 2: … and the ugly!

I came across these cute (and gross) creepy crawlies last Friday. They were all over the kale in the greenhouse. At the time I thought they were caterpillars but I later learned, through a lot of Google image searching, that they are cabbage worms or cabbage loopers. They attack brassica family plants, such as the kale and collard greens that are currently in the garden.

These guys hide in plain site. I almost didn't see them, and then I saw a ton of them!

These guys hide in plain site. I almost didn’t see them, and then I saw a ton of them!

According to About.com, the worms are the larva of the cabbage white butterfly. As soon as I read this, I remembered chasing a little white butterfly with my camera as he fluttered through the garden not long ago. At the time, of course, I thought it was so cute. Little did I know, their larva are the ultimate ugly.

What’s ugly is the amount of damage these little buggers can create. Unbelievable.

They have teeth!

They’re eating the kale right before my eyes!

I thought about picking them directly off the plants but I couldn’t bring myself to handle their soft, squishy bodies with my bare hands. Stroking their backs was as brave as I could get (they’re furry!).  Seeing their little mouths chomping on the kale was another deterrent from picking them up. I didn’t want to get bitten :).

I came across this interesting post yesterday by Urban Organic Gardener while I was searching for  information about cabbage worms. His post showed that the black spots in my picture below are actually worm poo and not aphids as I’d thought.

I thought this was aphids

That’s a lot of poo, which can only mean — a lot of worms! Nooo!

I managed to pick up a copy of Grow Great Grub and You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail from my local  Hamilton Public Library branch. I remember the books having sections on organic pest control (as most gardening books do) that I had ignored in the past but now I desperately wanted some reliable info on cabbage worms.

Here are just some of the recommendations from the books and entries from Hubpages and Better Homes and Gardens that I came across:

1. Companion planting – with items such as Aster family flowers (which if Wikipedia can be believed includes sunflowers, yarrow, and calendula), onions, and sage that either deter the worms or attract insects that will prey on them. Note that the examples I used are all growing in my garden. The sunflowers and calendula are close by but they aren’t in full bloom yet.

2. Use floating row covers to keep the butterfly from laying its eggs on your brassicas.

3. Handpick the little buggers off of your plants.

First calendula bloom of season.

First calendula bloom of season. Hopefully it will attract some predatory wasps to eat the cabbage worms.

I took home some collard and beet greens last Friday. When I got around to washing them on Sunday, I found two worms had hitched a ride and survived the fridge (well, one was moving in the water; the other wasn’t). A clear reminder to check my leaves carefully before I bag them.

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Critters 2: the good, the bad…

Love ’em or hate ’em, bugs are a fact of life in the garden. They can be good, promoting pollination or ridding the garden of those who do harm; bad, causing no end of damage; creepy, scary, slimy, stingy, and a host of other descriptors. Regardless of the reactions they produce in me, I still find them, above all, absolutely fascinating.

Here are some I’ve photographed so far:


What do you think? Moth?

Not sure if this moth is a good guy or a bad guy. Some larvae of moths eat plants while others eat pests. The red romaine it’s resting on has been in perfect shape since I took the picture so I’m tempted to think it’s a good guy or at least not a bad guy.

Stick bug likes the kale

Not sure if this is a good guy or a bad guy. If he’s the cause of that tear in the kale leaf he’s on, then he’s a bad guy in my books!

Another angle

Another angle of the insect above

Check out this tail. Scary.

I have no idea what this is but it’s scary. Check out that tail! Yikes!


Some fly hanky-panky... Get a room!

Some fly hanky panky on the garlic

Potato bug

Potato bug (woodlouse) – did you know it was a crustacean? It apparently eats decaying organic matter and recycles it back into the garden. Good guy.

Ladybugs make me happy!

Ladybugs (beetles) eat aphids. Definitely a good guy.

Another angle

From this angle, you can tell why cars of this shape are called “beetles” (beep beep!)

Fly or beetle?

A fly of some sort

Aptly named hoverfly

Aptly named hoverfly exploring the sage flowers. Their larvae eat aphids. Good guy.


I think this might also be a hoverfly. He’s checking out a zucchini leaf.

Checking out the spicy salad mix flowers

Checking out the spicy salad mix flowers

Baby grasshopper

This poor baby grasshopper couldn’t figure out how to get rid of me.

He's looking right at me

He’s looking right at me while trying to find a good hiding place on this sage plant.

I just won't leave him alone.

He could potentially be a bad guy. But still, he’s so cute!

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The garden has no end of creepy crawlies. There are the usual suspects you expect every year – slugs, snails, earwigs, ants,  earthworms – some of which are helpful, even beloved (I’m thinking about the earthworm), while others do no end of damage when you’re not looking.

We’ve had problems in the gardens this year with aphids and leafminers. When I bought my tomato plants, little green bugs that I suspected were aphids were hiding under the leaves and on the stem! I spent the bus and train ride home obliterating the little buggers with my fingers to ensure that I wouldn’t put them into the garden infected. That could have been disastrous!

Leafminer trouble on a nasturtium leaf

The whitish brown spots on the beet greens are leafminer damage

I’ve read that the least toxic and best method of controlling leafminers is to remove the affected leaves. Not a big deal. It took a while before I could see improvement in my plants but they improved. After our most recent community gardening day, where we work on the community areas of the garden group, I was tending my garden and talking with another gardener named Michael. He was able to tell me what was affecting my plants, which helped me determine that the blotches were leafminer damage and not sun damage from watering the leaves as I’d thought or potentially some other kind of disease. For his help, I gave him one of my many onions.

On Sunday June 3rd, while I’d gone on a washroom break, my brother came across the creepiest critter: a long, thin, white worm! Horrific and disturbing! Needless to say we rushed home in search of info on this awful creature. Turns out it was a horsehair worm, a cricket and grasshopper parasite. Completely harmless to humans (pfew!). My brother recorded a video, but since I haven’t enabled video in this blog, you can check out the Cricket infected with parasitic worm video on Youtube to get the full effect of the damage this little guy can do to its hosts.

Horsehair worm

After that horrific encounter with the horsehair worm, I become fascinated by this awesome snail exploring the garden.  So amazing – the colours and symmetry of the shell, the different textures (hard shell, soft body), his antennae (where my brother tells me his eyes are)… still, he would only do damage so I had to remove him.

A snail exploring the garden box

Snail exploring my garden glove

My brother said pick him up with my bare hands. Yeah, right.

My garden is always overcrowded because I’m too lazy and nervous about thinning out the weaker plants. What if I pick out the strongest one by accident? Or pick out a plant instead of a weed? My brother also likes to go with the “let’s just see what happens” method of gardening. Well, I’ve learned that this practice can lead to disease as well as overgrowth of weeds that can choke out other plants so I’ve had to learn how to practice tough love.  I can always replant more seeds if I pulled up something I shouldn’t have.  Tough love!

The garden post weeding and harvesting June 3rd

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