I am finally back home after 2 weeks away. Despite a nasty cold and jetlag the very first thing I did when I got up on Saturday was to run off to Garden School. The lesson was all about insects. It turns out that most insects are either beneficial or benign (in the garden at least). Still, you need to know the difference lest you leave an evil predator napping in your perennials or accidentally kill a true garden warrior. In addition to learning how to tell the difference between an insect and an arachnid we also leaned what they do and how to deal with them.
This is a lady bug:
After a lot of note-taking, we broke up into groups of 6 and traveled to 6 stations where we had puzzlers and guidebooks to help us identify and make recommendations for the various critter problems we were presented with. We also learned some stuff about the side effects of pesticides and how to read labels as well as more info on weeds and diseases. I assume its obvious but, I have no intention of ever using anything non-organic nor would this class encourage that but, there are some organic pesticides that are pretty dangerous.
The clues would go something like this: "I am a gardener and I have some bean plants that aren't doing so well but, the plant is covered with lady bugs so....should I just not worry about it since the ladybugs will probably eat whatever it is?" A HA! Said the group.... and we turned to our handy field guides and discovered the sinister Mexican Bean Beetle that is not a friend of the garden AND is a lady bug look-a-like.
This is a Mexican Bean Beetle:
The biggest highlight for me was realizing how great the books were. The best books were from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (yeah, that's right, P.S. 206 is in Da House) and they are really small and easy to use. You just look up some info and you can pretty much figure out what you've got and what to do about it. I got up this morning and ordered all three of them online.
Here are a few more interesting things that I learned:
1) Only female Mosquitos bite
2) The Praying Mantis isn't so great. They do eat insects but, they eat ALL insects including ones you might want to keep around.
3) Ladybugs totally rock-- they eat aphids which are some bad bad bugs (er.. I mean insects)
4) More than half the world's creatures are Beetles and my state has somewhere between 25 and 50 THOUSAND species of insects.
5) In additon to shears I need to get a magnifying glass to identify insects. Every once in a while (says my instructor) I might want to catch one and toss it in the freezer so I can examine it more closely. I am sure my roommate will love that!