We do not see most of the interactions in our gardens: ladybugs and ants wage war, aphids give virgin births and wasps lay their eggs on the backs of caterpillars. When we see evidence of the little creatures carrying out these interactions, a chewed leaf or sickly plant, we are culturally trained to intervene. We bring out the chemicals or, if we are organically inclined, buy a box of ladybugs.
In his book, Insects and Gardens, entomologist Eric Grissell pulls back the leaves and takes an up close and personal looks at our gardens. Grissell hopes that by looking at insects and their extraordinary lives we will end our battle with them and establish a truce.
The World of Insects
The combined weight of the world’s insects is estimated at 27 billion tons. This is 6 times the combined weight of the human population (pg. 35). Our primary weapon in this war includes spraying 1 billion pounds of insecticides in the United States per year. Insecticides that enter our food and water. Toxins that move up the food chain infecting all sorts of mammals, reptiles and birds. Poisons that help to evolve resistance in insect populations leading to a circle of newer more toxic chemicals.
Springtails, considered a pest by many, belong to the order Collembola. 400 million-year-old fossilized remains have been found of Collembola. By comparison, Homo sapiens have been around for about 200,000 years. Insects truly do rule the world. Viewed in this light, any attempt to eradicate them is useless and will only speed up our own extinction.
Insects and Gardens
Insects and Gardens is an easy to digest work that provides the casual gardener with a look at some of the life in their garden that they may not have noticed. Carll Goodpasture’s photographs complement the text. Goodpasture’s photos can easily distract you from the text: a carrion beetle chewing on a mouse, a grasshopper examining its own shed exoskeleton. Together, the text and photos aim to revolutionize how we look at insects.
The real power of the book, however, is Grissell’s love for his topic. He reveres his subjects. His passion comes through in every chapter. Reading this work makes it near impossible to not share the author’s excitement for the world of garden insects. It is his hope that the reader will encounter bugs in the garden with contemplation before reaction.
Grab Insects and Gardens from your library or click on the link below to purchase a copy.
In our next post we will explore plants the gardener can use to increase biodiversity in their garden.