Picture of Book

Text Box with description of Book

    What an adorable and helpful little book this is! It was a great disappointment to me to find that there is almost no information available on the author, and even worse, that this is apparently the only book she has written. From what I have been able to gather, she wrote it to combine her two great passions and gifts—that of gardening and illustrating. Written in 1995, the blurb on the back flap of the jacket of my hardback edition says:

Allison Mia Starcher is a professional illustrator, specializing in plants and insects. Her work appears regularly in The Southern California Gardener. She lives in Los Angeles.

    She has no Wikipedia page, but there is a nice Goodreads page for this book, with lots of positive comments, with the average rating just a tad under Four Stars. (I think it should be higher.) Here are some of them. The first is by Simone, who gave it Five Stars.

A healthy garden is a balanced ecosystem. The more good bugs you have, the less bad bugs you'll have—and then you won't have to use any pesticides.

Loved the illustrations! This book will be useful for my kids too, as they will be helping me be sleuths in our garden this year to try and attract as many beneficial insects as possible to our brand new garden plot. I'll be using this book with them to help identify the bugs we find.

As a general rule it seems the best things to attract good bugs are:

1.) Avoiding monoculture (planting lots of one thing) as this makes your garden vulnerable.
2.) You want to be intermixing annual and perennial plantings. Surround and intersperse veggie plantings with perennial flowers and herbs.
3.) Keep things like wood mulch, stone paths, small water gardens to attract more variety of beneficial insects.
4.) Think flowers that have many small heads and produce a lot of nectar—like Cosmos, Dill, Cilantro, Sweet Asylum.

    I totally agree with this comment, despite the fact that our ecosystem is ANYTHING but balanced now, due to all the odious toxic substances being sprayed on us by the U.S. Military and transhuman Aliens like Bill Gates and his buddies at Monsanto, that have literally contaminated every square inch of the planet. This abominable agenda has increased exponentially since the Fake Plandemic began. This is one of my areas of expertise, having been an environmental activist for over thirty years. For more information on this subject, please click on the Farm link above and read my articles, especially those from the past three years. Also explore my regular Articles link. And last, for the most comprehensive and well-documented data on military climate engineering, aka weather warfare, please visit Dane Wigington's site, GeoengineeringWatch. We are the largest anti-geoengineering activist group in the world, and Dane is the world's foremost expert on this subject, with twenty-two years of research available on his site. I have been working with them for eleven years. Incidentally, even though it feels as if we are living in an asylum, the last word in the above review, I believe, was meant to be "alyssum."
    And now on to the next review by Good Reader Mathew Carruthers, who did not give the book a rating. He says:

I learned a lot in the short time it took me to read this book—I was aware of a few beneficial insects and am always looking out for bees, earthworms, ladybugs, and the occasional praying mantis, but there are so many more! The illustrations will be a great help in identifying these friends of the garden in the future.

    I am embarrassed to admit that I also fall into that category, and was shocked when I saw the numerous insects that I thought were pestilent, but in fact are our allies. Beetles have a bad reputation, which makes it easy to group them all together, and that goes for many other insects in this book. I am ashamed to imagine how many helpers I have killed over the years, and I am usually one to be very conscientious about killing anything. I am doing further research on these insects, along with those they help control. Here is one last review and even though Pam only gave it Three Stars, I do agree with her, somewhat. She begins by pointing out that this is not meant for children, as some reviewers thought. It is too technical for them, despite the charming illustrations, and those, the children would enjoy. But her main purpose for this book is to give readers a resource to determine what insects are beneficial and for what pests. Here is her review.

A tiny little book with art quality illustrations is a surprisingly good resource for the gardener. Despite its petite size and illustrations, this is not a children's book as suggested by some reviewers. The text is too complex for children and they would have no patience for the level of detail. My complaints are twofold. The first is that while the complex page layouts are beautiful, they make it extremely difficult to use as a reference book. The second is that the author makes no mention of harmful bugs or rather harmful bugs that might look like the beneficial ones. Alas, I have not yet found the perfect guide to beneficial bugs.

    However, I disagree that this is difficult to use as a reference. I find it quite good, as she has illustrated many of the insects in their different forms, along with a typical environment where they may be found, and of course, she mentions the harmful bugs! With each beneficial insect, she states what insects are its prey, and often they are also pictured. Hmm. So I am not sure what Pam meant. And to illustrate insects that looked similar to the predatory ones on the same page would have definitely been too confusing. However, I do think it would have been nice had she done another book, this time illustrating "Bad Bugs," with a mention on how to naturally control them, including repellant flowers and herbs.
    And now on to my review, and as mentioned I did lots of extra research to supplement this information. The book begins with an Introduction on how Starcher became involved with predatory insects as a means to eliminate spraying toxic substances to deal with insect pests. This section is filled with important statements, such as "Killing all beetles just to kill the bad beetles is a fine way to promote the proliferation of other harmful pests." She also says, "Humans are, for the most part, blind to the delicate balance that nature has created around us." (And this is an understatement, as we see now such a blatant disregard for anything natural.) She also points out how beautiful insects are, and I wholeheartedly agree—even the "ugly" ones!
    She also urges us to move close to our plants and observe the activity of tiny predatory insects attacking their prey. I have to admit, I need to work on that. I see the larger ones doing it. Spiders attacking flies, wasps attacking spiders (I don't like that!), but I have noticed lately the tiniest creatures, particularly spiders, which I make an effort to not hurt.
    Starcher also mentions her grandparents on both sides, who were serious growers, one, to feed a family during the Depression, and the other, who ran a professional nursery. She speaks of the importance of flowers and flowering plants and herbs, all of which help to keep a healthy balance. She also mentions that the insects featured in her book fall into four categories: Predators; parasitoids; pollinators; and soil builders. Predators, such as the Praying Mantis, eat everything, including each other! Parasitoids lay their eggs on or near a host, that will feed on it when they hatch. Pollinators help plants reproduce, and soil builders, such as earthworms, change dead dirt into fertile soil, and break down components of rotting food scraps into nutrients for plants. And that task is carried out by not just creatures we can see, but the microscopic ones we can't. And now, on to the insects.
    The book is divided into six sections:
Damselflies, Dragonflies, and Praying Mantids;
The True Bugs and the Thrips;
Lacewinged Insects and Beetles;
Bees and Wasps;
Flies;
Spiders, Mites and Other Helpful Creatures.
    I scanned one double-page (this book is very small) from each section, but I've added additional information and photos from my own farm. I have a thing for insects, too, and I take many photos of them to feature on my site. So let us begin with the first section. These two pages feature Damselflies and Dragonflies, both of which I have a great many. I'm not sure I agree with everything she has written. She says these two types of insects, of which there are numerous species are usually found near ponds of streams. OK, so most of the time I live in a swamp, but I see them near the greenhouse all summer, which is one of the drier areas. She also says their sizes range from 3/4 to 1 3/4 inch for Damselflies. Unless she means babies, I have never seen any that small. They're not as big as Dragonflies, but they are certainly not tiny. And I have never seen a Dragonfly that small either. Some of mine are huge. Perhaps in other areas they are much smaller.

Damselflies, Dragonflies, and Praying Mantids

    As for Praying Mantises, years ago I bought egg cases, and was delighted to be there when they emerged. I see the egg cases all over now, and I always bring them to a protected place because they often get eaten. I was once again, back in 2018, delighted to watch the tiny ones emerge where I had them protected near the greenhouse. If you do this, make sure you distribute them apart from each other when they hatch, or they will eat each other. Give them lots of space. And please PLEASE, never hurt or kill a Praying Mantis. "Mantids" are the name of the family. I pick them up if they are in danger, for instance if I'm mowing the grass, and I'll put them in the greenhouse. If they get pissed off, they do bite, (and so do Dragonflies) but some are very gentle. Here is an interesting Wikipedia page. There are a great many species!! And here is a Weather Channel video of possibly finding them in your Christmas tree. Again, please, never kill them. Gently remove them and take them outdoors or into an outside shelter. Here in NE Ohio, they would be all dead by December, however, as they die after laying their eggs in cooler climates.
Tree's Company: Avoid Bugs On Your Tree This Christmas
    Here are some of my photos of Dragonflies and Praying Mantises. The bottom one show masses of babies emerging from the egg case. This was back in 2018.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis babies emerging from egg case

    Incidentally, those egg cases are called "ootheca." I found this interesting because I make such a point to be aware of them when I am walking around during the non-summer months. Wikipedia says:

The female lays between 10 and 400 eggs, depending on the species. Eggs are typically deposited in a froth mass-produced by glands in the abdomen. This froth hardens, creating a protective capsule, which together with the egg mass is called an ootheca. Depending on the species, the ootheca can be attached to a flat surface, wrapped around a plant, or even deposited in the ground. Despite the versatility and durability of the eggs, they are often preyed on, especially by several species of parasitoid wasps.

    Sometimes the egg cases are so damaged, it appears that birds might also feed on them. Below is a Stagmomantis carolina laying ootheca.

Stagmomantis carolina laying ootheca

The True Bugs and the Thrips

    From the second category, I chose these pages because, for one, I see those Spined Soldier Bugs all the time. They sorta remind me of stink bugs by their shape, but I didn't know what they were, or if they were good or bad. Since I never caught them eating plants, I don't kill them, and I don't kill stink bugs either, nor have I ever really smelled them. Here, she has them illustrated with Cabbage Looper Caterpillars, and as my regular readers know, I am plagued with all sorts of caterpillars that eat brassicas. So I will remember to transfer them to the cabbage patch when I see them now.
    Well, after I wrote the above paragraph, this was one of the insects I researched, and in fact, the Spined Soldier Bug is a Stink Bug, plus, there is a Brown Stink Bug, not just the Green ones, so I may be getting some mixed up. In any case, most Stink Bugs are an insect pest, (so I should be killing them) but this one isn't. There's a good map on the Brown Stink Bug page that shows how they have migrated from the northeast coast, beginning mostly in extreme eastern Pennsylvania, and now cover a wide expanse of much of the eastern third of the country. On the page for the Green Stink Bug, I saw something that for years I have tried and failed to identify, and I see them all over. It is the nymph stage of this insect. Here are four photos: the Spined Soldier Bug, Brown Stink Bug, and Green Stink Bug with Nymph.

Brown Stink Bug

Spined Soldier Bug

Green Stink Bug Nymph

Green Stink Bug

    And as for Thrips, I was not aware that any of them were beneficial. I have a horrendous Aphid/Whitefly problem, especially in the greenhouse. According to Wikipedia, there is only a small proportion of Thrips that are serious pests. Other are beneficial, not only as predators, but as pollinators.
    And while we're on the subject of Aphids and Whiteflies, as mentioned, I've done a lot of extra research, and have downloaded Wikipedia pages onto my computer to save, on numerous insects mentioned here. And since these two villains seem to be mentioned more than any other pest, here's some info on them, beginning with Aphids. My goodness! These serious pests are certainly pervasive and with reason! They have developed numerous ways to survive, thrive, and multiply profusely, with or without sex! This Wikipedia page is a comprehensive "everything you've always wanted to know about Aphids, but were afraid to ask!" And some of this stuff is pretty scary. Here's the opening paragraph:

Aphids are small sap-sucking insects and members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Common names include greenfly and blackfly, although individuals within a species can vary widely in color. The group includes the fluffy white woolly aphids. A typical life cycle involves flightless females giving live birth to female nymphs—who may also be already pregnant, an adaptation scientists call telescoping generations—without the involvement of males. Maturing rapidly, females breed profusely so that the number of these insects multiplies quickly. Winged females may develop later in the season, allowing the insects to colonize new plants. In temperate regions, a phase of sexual reproduction occurs in the autumn, with the insects often overwintering as eggs.

    They can even become "solar-powered"!

Some species of aphids have acquired the ability to synthesise red carotenoids by horizontal gene transfer from fungi. They are the only animals other than two-spotted spider mites and the oriental hornet with this capability. Using their carotenoids, aphids may well be able to absorb solar energy and convert it to a form that their cells can use, ATP. This is the only known example of photoheterotrophy in animals. The carotene pigments in aphids form a layer close to the surface of the cuticle, ideally placed to absorb sunlight. The excited carotenoids seem to reduce NAD to NADH which is oxidized in the mitochondria for energy.

    Aphids are pretty good at adapting, and protecting themselves and their species, but they also often get even more help from ants. This I did know, but not the particulars.

Some species of ants farm aphids, protecting them on the plants where they are feeding, and consuming the honeydew the aphids release from the terminations of their alimentary canals. This is a mutualistic relationship, with these dairying ants milking the aphids by stroking them with their antennae. Although mutualistic, the feeding behaviour of aphids is altered by ant attendance. Aphids attended by ants tend to increase the production of honeydew in smaller drops with a greater concentration of amino acids.

Some farming ant species gather and store the aphid eggs in their nests over the winter. In the spring, the ants carry the newly hatched aphids back to the plants. Some species of dairying ants (such as the European yellow meadow ant, Lasius flavus) manage large herds of aphids that feed on roots of plants in the ant colony. Queens leaving to start a new colony take an aphid egg to found a new herd of underground aphids in the new colony. These farming ants protect the aphids by fighting off aphid predators. Some bees in coniferous forests collect aphid honeydew to make forest honey.

    And speaking of honeydew, the above article is also interesting. It is curious that substances that are secreted from an insect's ass have names that sound delectable. But honeydew not only comes from insects, it also is produced by trees, such as date, oak and others. Below is an ant "milking" an aphid and an aphid secreting honeydew from the anus.

Aphid secreting honeydew from the anus

Ant milking an Aphid

    And of course, the article also includes information on predators, most of which are mentioned in this book. And while we're talking about aphids, we might as well include Whiteflies which seem to show up in the same places (greenhouses!) and are equally devastating to crops. Many of the insects that attack aphids also attack Whiteflies. Here' s Wikipedia's page. It is not too long, but a bit complicated, yet still interesting even if you don't know the terminology. Whiteflies also produce honeydew. Here is a photo of adult whiteflies, and a Minute Pirate Bug (also covered in the book) eating whitefly larvae, which I am sure I have confused with aphids.

Minute Pirate Bug eating Whitefly larvae

Adult Whiteflies

    And while we're on the True Bugs and Thrips chapter, here are some other important predators. I'm not sure I am familiar with Assassin Bugs (Reduviidae), and I wouldn't want to mess with them. But most of them are fierce predators for pestilent insects, such as Japanese Beetles. Here's a quote.

When harassed, many species can deliver a painful stab with the proboscis, injecting venom or digestive juices. The effects can be intensely painful and the injection from some species may be medically significant.

Predatory Reduviidae use the long rostrum to inject a lethal saliva that liquefies the insides of the prey, which are then sucked out. The saliva contains enzymes that digest the tissues they swallow. This process is generally referred to as extraoral digestion. The saliva is commonly effective at killing prey substantially larger than the bug itself.

    The last bug in this section I want to expand upon is the Big-Eyed Bugs, which are very tiny, but mighty predators in both the adult and nymph stages. Here is the very brief Wikipedia page. They eat insect eggs, aphids, mites, whiteflies and cabbage loopers. I could use their help on that last one. Here's a quote, followed by a photo.

Big-eyed bugs, like other true bugs, have piercing-sucking mouthparts and feed by stabbing their prey and sucking or lapping the juices. Although their effectiveness as predators is not well understood, studies have shown that nymphs can eat as many as 1600 spider mites before reaching adulthood, while adults have been reported consuming as many as 80 mites per day.

Big-Eyed Bug

    The next section, is on Lacewinged Insects and Beetles, and it is probably this one in which I felt great remorse. I know I have killed many of these insects and removed their eggs from plants in ignorance. The common reaction I have when I see eggs on plants, is that they were laid there to eat the plant when they hatch. One example is the picture I included of the Green Lacewing, and her eggs are shown on a geranium leaf. I know at one point when I had ordered a number of different beneficial insects from Gurneys, I believe, way back, decades ago, these were one of them, and it seems to me I wasn't successful in raising them. But they do look familiar, and now I know to look for the eggs, too.

Lacewinged Insects and Beetles

    Here is more on Lacewings (Chrysopidae) from Wikipedia. The larvae are also voracious predators. Here's a quote, followed by a photo of eggs (Stalked eggs of unknown species, Mainzer Sand (Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany) and larvae (Larva of Common Green Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) or perhaps C. mediterranea feeding on an aphid).

Eggs are deposited at night, singly or in small groups; one female produces some 100-200 eggs. Eggs are placed on plants, usually where aphids are present nearby in numbers. Each egg is hung on a slender stalk about 1 cm long, usually on the underside of a leaf. Immediately after hatching, the larvae moult, then crawls up the egg stalk to feed. They are voracious predators, attacking most insects of suitable size, especially soft-bodied ones (aphids, caterpillars and other insect larvae, insect eggs, and at high population densities also each other). The larvae may also occasionally bite humans, possibly out of either aggression or hunger. Therefore, the larvae are colloquially known as "aphid lions" (also spelled "aphidlions") or "aphid wolves", similar to the related antlions. Their senses are weakly developed, except that they are very sensitive to touch. Walking around in a haphazard fashion, the larvae sway their heads from one side to the other, and when they strike a potential prey object, the larva grasps it. Their maxillae are hollow, allowing a digestive secretion to be injected in the prey; the organs of an aphid can for example be dissolved by this in 90 seconds.

Larva of Common Green Lacewing eating an Aphid

Lacewing Eggs

    But it is the Ground Beetle that I am certain I have killed, again in my ignorance, I had it in my head that beetles were bad, and indeed, many are serious pests. But these attractive bronze and green metallic creatures are good. And to make it worse, they are predators of my arch-enemies, SLUGS, which I often can scoop up by the handfuls. I don't actually scoop them, I cut them in half because they are too slimy to squash. Yes, I have indeed seen them when digging in my compost, as she mentions, and it seems to me they are one of those that scurry when I pick up the lid to my well to bail water. That cool, damp, dark place is a hideout for many critters.
    Here is Wikipedia's page on Ground Beetles in general, and an experience with one that wasn't pleasant, written by Charles Darwin. So the warning is, to not mess with these bugs, and for goodness sake, don't ever put one in your mouth! This page also has two other species that I see all the time.

A Cychrus rostratus once squirted into my eye & gave me extreme pain; & I must tell you what happened to me on the banks of the Cam in my early entomological days; under a piece of bark I found two carabi (I forget which) & caught one in each hand, when lo & behold I saw a sacred Panagæus crux major; I could not bear to give up either of my Carabi, & to lose Panagæus was out of the question, so that in despair I gently seized one of the carabi between my teeth, when to my unspeakable disgust & pain the little inconsiderate beast squirted his acid down my throat & I lost both Carabi & Panagæus!

    This section also includes Ladybird Beetles (Ladybugs), plus other similar insects, such as Mealybug Destroyers that look much like a black version of Ladybugs with an orange head, but a bit smaller. I know I've seen them, and would not kill anything that looked like a Ladybug. Another similar insect is a tiny version of the latter, called Whitefly Predator. Ladybugs, by the way, were another insect predator I had ordered, and they were successful, but were the orange variety, rather than the more common red. Then there are the Rove Beetles, which look vaguely familiar, and the Tiger Beetles, another which I am ashamed to admit, I have probably killed. Of their numerous prey, ants are included, and I'm certainly overrun with ants out here, so I would miss the demise of a few billion.
    I have some additional information about Mealybugs, which fall into the same category as aphids, and are a type of scale insect. Like aphids, they produce honeydew and are protected by ants. Starcher suggests ant traps or barriers so the ants won't kill the insects that prey on Mealybugs. I know I have seen this white fluffy stuff on plants, but there are several insects that produce it, so I don't know if they are Mealybugs. All this information I am gathering will certainly help me identify problems and solutions much easier. Here is the Wikipedia page for Mealybugs. Fruit plants seem to be the most vulnerable to Mealybug infestation, but also flowers, cacti and greenhouse plants. Below are photos of a Ladybug eating Mealybugs and an infestation on a hibiscus.

Mealybug infestation on a Hibiscus

Ladybug eating Mealybugs

    There are two more insects from this section on which I've gathered additional information because, as mentioned above, I want to make sure I can identify them so I don't hurt them. Although probably not so much the Rove Beetle, because, well, they don't really look like anything I've seen eating plants. They look more like a compost inhabitant, which is one of their favorite hangouts. And some contain a potent toxin, so don't mess with them.

Rove beetles are known from every type of habitat in which beetles occur, and their diets include just about everything except the living tissues of higher plants, but now including higher plants with the discovery of the diet of Himalusa thailandensis. Most rove beetles are predators of insects and other invertebrates, living in forest leaf litter and similar decaying plant matter. They are also commonly found under stones, and around freshwater margins. Almost 400 species are known to live on ocean shores that are submerged at high tide, including the pictured rove beetle, although these are much fewer than 1% of the worldwide total of Staphylinidae. Other species have adapted to live as inquilines in ant and termite colonies, and some live in mutualistic relationships with mammals whereby they eat fleas and other parasites, benefiting the host. A few species, notably those of the genus Aleochara, are scavengers and carrion feeders, or are parasitoids of other insects, particularly of certain fly pupae. To profit from the alleged advantages, several Staphylinidae have been transferred into Italy, Hawaii, the continental United States and Easter Island by practitioners. Another advantage of rove beetles is their sensitivity to changes in the environment, such as habitat alteration. This means they have potential as an ecological disturbance indicator in human-dominated environments.

    Below Ocypus sp., Ocypus olens, Paederus littoralis and Taiwanophodes minor.

Rove Beetle

Rove Beetle

Rove Beetle

Rove Beetle

    The other one is the Tiger Beetle, and seeing the pictures in Wikipedia, I'm not so sure after all that I've seen these. They look different than the one illustrated in the book. But as Starcher points out, you probably won't see them because they run too fast. Wikipedia says, "Tiger beetles are a family of beetles, Cicindelidae, known for their aggressive predatory habits and running speed. The fastest known species of tiger beetle, Rivacindela hudsoni, can run at a speed of 9 km/h (5.6 mph; 2.5 m/s), or about 125 body lengths per second."
    Below is another quote and a photo of a Tiger Beetle.

Tiger beetles display an unusual form of pursuit in which they alternatively sprint quickly toward their prey, then stop and visually reorient. This may be because while running, the beetle is moving too fast for its visual system to accurately process images. To avoid obstacles while running they hold their antennae rigidly and directly in front of them to mechanically sense their environment. There are many tiger beetles that hunt in flat, sandy areas, and their eyes have flat-world adaptations, such as high-acuity perception streaks corresponding to the horizon. A tiger beetle uses the elevation of its potential prey in its visual field to determine how far away it is. As visual hunters, tiger beetles tend to hunt in open, relatively flat habitats, such as sand bars, woodland paths, and barren ground scrubland. In this sense, beetles might be expected to use elevation as a distance cue in their visual pursuit of prey.

Tiger Beetle

    The next section is about pollinators, as in bees and wasps. I wonder why she did not include butterflies. I am not a huge fan of stinging insects, as they seen to be drawn to sting me, especially Yellow Jackets, which I could do without totally. I generally like Bumblebees, but several years ago, there were some mating issues going on here in the greenhouse, and a swarm attacked me as I was watering some plants that did not concern them at all. Not all of them are social. I used to have some of the very large variety up by the porch, and never saw more and one or two at a time. If they flew toward me, I just swished them away and they left. Honey Bees are the ones I avoid. I almost died from an anaphylactic reaction from one in 1974. I suspect I outgrew that allergy, as I don't have any allergies now that I am aware of, and our bodies are constantly changing. It was a very freak thing, because I was accustomed to being stung, so I have always wondered if this was not some mutant variety, as we are seeing now. In any case, they are usually non-aggressive. I had accidentally stepped on that particular one in my bare feet.
    Wasps are a different story, as so many of them really do not bother us at all. Some of them are so tiny, we probably never notice them, or if we do, don't realize they are wasps. Braconids resemble flying ants, and I often do wonder if an insect I am seeing is a wasp or an ant. All of the wasps are Parasitoids, laying their eggs on a host. Trichogramma Wasps are another insect I had ordered, but they were complicated to raise. One of the problems I have had for a long time is that with all the orchestrated anomalous and toxic weather engineering/weather warfare agendas being carried out, no season is what it should be any more, and time-sensitive orders from seed catalogues, whether it is plants or bulbs or garlic or creatures, always has them arrive at an inopportune time. Starcher also features Ichneumon Wasps, of which I was delighted to discover here on a fallen, rotting tree this past summer. They are beautiful, elegant, and very interesting to observe. Here's a photo of mine, a Long-Tailed Giant Ichneumonid Wasp.

Long-Tailed Giant Ichneumonid Wasps

    The pages I scanned from the book are of the Aphidiid and Braconid Wasps. Some are barely visible, such as the Trichogramma Wasp, which is 1/50 of an inch!

Bees and Wasps

    The next section is on flies, and we probably don't fully appreciate the merits of some of them. Maggots feeding on carrion gross us out, but they serve a purpose, of course, because we don't want dead, stinking rotting bodies to stick around. Once again, Starcher mentions insects that destroy aphids, so WHY do I have such a problem with them? Last summer they wiped out my thriving basil (along with the flooding), and even my okra, although perhaps I had misidentified them. Nonetheless, I DO have issues with them.
     Aphid Midges do indeed look like mosquitoes, but I can tell the difference, and though I didn't know what they were called, I have never killed them. I DO know Hover Flies, which are great pollinators, rather than predators, however, their maggots eat . . . aphids. Tachinid Flies are sorta like Hover Flies, but fuzzy like a bee. They however are predators and parasitoids. Don't kill caterpillars with their white eggs stuck to them, Starcher warns.

Flies

    In any case, since flies have such a bad reputation, I decided to do extra research on all four that she featured. I found them all interesting, beginning with the Aphid Midge. Looking at her drawing, I thought I recognized this insect, but the one pictured in Wikipedia looks quite different. There are numerous insects here that resemble mosquitoes—all different sizes. Their page is very brief. You'll notice in the picture above, the orange larvae crawling up the rose stem. Make note of all these examples in this book where we should be very certain what creature is on our plants before we kill them. Again, larvae from numerous insects are just as beneficial to us as the adult form, sometimes even more. Of the larvae, Wikipedia says:

The small, bright orange, slug-like larvae inject a toxin into aphids' leg joints to paralyze them and then suck out the aphid body contents through a hole bitten in the thorax. Larvae can consume aphids much larger than themselves and may kill many more aphids than they eat when aphid populations are high. A single larva grows up to 1⁄8 inch (0.32 cm) long and kills 4-65 aphids per day.

    They also point out that these may be ordered for natural pest control, but I am sure I had never ordered them. I'm open to anything natural that attacks aphids!
    The Hover Fly is one that I am certain I know. It looks like a stout wasp or hornet, and does indeed hover, noisily, then quickly flits around to find what it wants. Adults are excellent pollinators, and different species specialize in different beneficial activities. They are found over most of the world, except in extreme climates. The Wikipedia page contains a lot of interesting information. As with many of these insects, the larvae can be voracious predators. Some even live in sewage. Here's a quote, followed by a photo of Eupeodes corollae.

Larvae of many hoverfly species prey upon pest insects, including aphids and leafhoppers, which spread some diseases such as curly top, so they are seen in biocontrol as a natural means of reducing the levels of pests. Gardeners, therefore, sometimes use companion plants to attract hoverflies. Those reputed to do so include Alyssum spp., Iberis umbellata, statice, buckwheat, chamomile, parsley, and yarrow. Larvae in the subfamily Eristalinae live in semi-aquatic and aquatic environments, including manure and compost, and can filter and purify water.

Hover Fly

    Unlike the Hover Fly, which is harmless to humans, Robber Flies can deliver an extremely painful bite. From Wikipedia's description, it sounds like they eat just about any insect suitable for their size, regardless of their defenses. Here's a quote.

In general, the family attacks a very wide range of prey, including other flies, beetles, butterflies and moths, various bees, ants, dragonflies and damselflies, ichneumon wasps, grasshoppers, and some spiders. They do so apparently irrespective of any repugnatorial chemicals the prey may have at their disposal. Many Asilidae when attacked in turn do not hesitate to defend themselves with their probosces and may deliver intensely painful bites to humans if handled incautiously.

    Their eating habits are rather disgusting, too.

The fly attacks its prey by stabbing it with its short, strong proboscis, injecting the victim with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which very rapidly paralyze the victim and soon digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied material through the proboscis.

    Unlike the Hoverflies, which are rather handsome, these are just plain ugly. Here are three different species. "Fan-bristled robber fly (Dysmachus trigonus) with honeybee prey." "Blepharepium sonorensis, a robber fly that closely resembles Polistes paper wasp species such as P. apachus" "Asilidae Robber fly from the Anaimalai hills, Western Ghats, India."

Robber Fly

Robber Fly

Robber Fly

    The last insect in the fly section are Tachinid Flies which are mostly parasitic, laying their eggs on a host, stuck on the outside so that it cannot be removed, or else injected into the host. They resemble house flies, and their hosts include lots of pestilent caterpillars and other insects. Starcher warns us not to kill caterpillars with white eggs. Here's a photo of a Tachinid and a Japanese Beetle with an egg on its head.

Japanese Beetle with an egg on its head

Tachinid Fly

    And here is a quote from Wikipedia. Good. I need something to get rid of the cabbage loopers.

In many species only one egg is laid on or in any individual host, and accordingly such an egg tends to be large, as is typical for eggs laid in small numbers. They are large enough to be clearly visible if stuck onto the outside of the host, and they generally are so firmly stuck that eggs cannot be removed from the skin of the host without killing them. Furthermore, scientists have observed in studies with the host cabbage looper that being glued to the host insect helps maggots burrow into the larva, where they remain until fully developed

I’m not sure if they are referring to the host or the egg being killed, in the paragraph above.

    The final section is a hodgepodge of leftovers that don't fit into other categories, beginning with Spiders, which are one of my absolute FAVORITE animals. I LOVE spiders. I think they are beautiful, fascinating, and come in so many shapes and sizes. I never cease to wonder at them, and needless to say I never kill them except accidentally, at which I feel great remorse. An abundance of spiders share their abode with me. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the spider pages are what I chose to scan. The first, I am familiar with, but the second, not, as they live down south. Spiders are distantly related to crabs.

Spiders, Mites and Other Helpful Creatures

    Here are two of my Spider photos, the first being called a Fish Spider, and the second, I don't know except it's a mommy carrying her eggs. And here's a video. And most spiders really aren't pests, in my opinion.
Big Apple's New Big Pest? Joro Spiders On The Way

Mommy Spider

Fish Spider

    The next insect in this category are Predatory Mites that look like microscopic ticks, to which they are related. She also includes the Decollate Snails, which are actually beneficial, and kill the bad snails, but she doesn't mention slugs. They live in the western and southwestern U.S.. Centipedes and Earthworms hopefully don't need much of an introduction, as they are very common. Centipedes eat a number of different pests, and of course, earthworms poop a lot which is their gift to us. The last creature mentioned is Beneficial Nematodes, which are microscopic. They are also one that I ordered at one point, but I don't know if they succeeded because you can't see them. She writes: "They are sold in a paste form—just add water then sprinkle on moistened soil around plants in the late afternoon or evening." She also mentions that scientists are discovering new species that eat different pests.
    The book concludes with a helpful Glossary. As for me, this book is going in my "keep handy" box, although I don't know if I will need it, seeing we may not be around long enough on this planet the way things are going. If everyone was attuned to the natural order of things, we would still have many millions of years left here. But we don't because the majority of the population exists in ignorance, apathy and self-absorption. They spend their lives indoors glued to their toxic technology and cannot even notice what the U.S. Military is doing right above their heads. There is now not one square inch of this planet that has not been contaminated by heavy metals, chemicals, polymer fibers and plastics, not to mention genetic alterations on both plants and animals that are at this point irreversible. Who can expect to farm or even grow a simple garden, not only because of all the toxins that have disrupted every single life-support system of the Earth, but a constant barrage of orchestrated weather disasters? Tornadoes and flooding in January in the U.S., weather whiplash to blizzards and anomalously high winds, to droughts and heat that no one will soon survive. What have we allowed to happen on this planet through willful blindness?
    I have spent weeks and weeks on this page. Why? I dunno, except I DO know that we will all end up somewhere when this planet is gone, and what we have spent our lives learning and living on this hell-hole will take us to our next reality. I want to make sure that I am completely prepared to go where life will never, ever, operate as it has on this planet—never again. And that means living in harmony with the natural world not at war with it. I believe the vast majority of the human population will very soon reap what they have sown.

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