Although this year has been “unprecedented,” I have appreciated the extra time I’ve spent in my yard.
With a less-crowded calendar, fewer people to visit, and a safer-at-home approach, the garden has provided a welcome respite, and a place for learning.
I suppose many of you are in this situation, too.
Allow me to encourage you to enjoy your garden. And, if you don’t have a garden, consider planting a few flowers or container plants — to give you something to grow and take care of over time.
Notice what’s normal.
Notice what’s not normal.
Scout for things.
This summer, I noticed these two small eggs on my beautyberry bush. The eggs caught my eye because I had not seen them before. They looked like small, triangular drops of cloudy glue. I knew beautyberry, being a Florida native plant, was virtually pest and disease free. I was curious about what laid these eggs and what they would turn out to be.
Every day, I looked for these eggs. My intention was to monitor them to learn what they would become. As a butterfly gardener, I have watched insects grow and develop. I knew the eggs would likely change color as they matured. I also knew something might eat them the longer they stayed on the leaves.
I made a plan to watch the eggs, and when they began to change color, I would pick off the entire leaf with the eggs and place them in a glass container, like a pickle jar or a food storage container.
The container would protect the eggs from predators, and give me a close-up view of the metamorphosis.
The eggs started off as cloudy-like drops of glue. I began to notice other insects that flew around the plant. I took pictures of them, too, looking for more clues.
Then, about five days later, the eggs changed color. They went from a cloudy whitish color to a reddish-orange color, with a stripe along the top. They looked like a completely different egg.
A few days later, the eggs hatched. To my surprise, two red leaf-footed bugs emerged, quickly moving around – almost like robots or aliens.
Insects look very different at different stages of their life cycle. In Extension, we talk about integrated pest management or IPM. This involves properly identifying the pest or problem before taking action, using best practices, such as correct amount of irrigation and fertilizer to prevent problems; not taking action if it’s unnecessary; and, matching the control to the problem or pest.
I was disappointed these weren’t beneficial bugs, as leaf-footed bugs are considered garden pests. I placed them back into the garden near my bird feeder.
But, this was an interesting project, because I learned so much.
First, I was eventually able to ID the eggs and the bugs. Second, I noted how long the process took (about a week and half). Third, I have photos to share with others. For example, one website that I reference often, BugGuide.net, does not have pictures of the eggs from the beginning stage.
Had it not been for COVID-19, I would not have had this experience. And, this experience reminds me of a quote, attributed to Dorothy Parker (but some disagree that this is her quote): “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
May you be curious gardeners.
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Published December 02, 2020