Tag Archives: Insects

Spiders: Not So Scary After All?

Contributed by Libby Coley

SPIDERS!  Did a wave of “ewww” just go through your spine?  Often maligned and feared, these eight-legged critters should be considered one of our best friends in the garden.

Why, you ask?

Bottom line: spiders eliminate many insects that harm plants, and they themselves don’t harm plants.  Where web-spinning spiders are indiscriminate consumers of any bug unlucky enough to get trapped, common garden spiders such as wolf spiders and jumping spiders live on the ground and tend to be more particular about what they consume. These spiders also don’t seek out prey but will only prey on what comes to them.

For example, wolf spiders have the ability to sense vibrations and have sharp vision which allow them to hunt insects by foot. This type of spider lives in underground burrows, often beneath mulch. This makes prey bound to fall into their homes unsuspectingly. Jumping spiders conversely pounce on their prey and tend to go after small winged insects like flies. If they jumping spidermiss a jump, they have a web-like silk that they can produce in order to tether themselves to a nearby plant or tree.

Plant harming insects like mites, aphids, slugs, and earwigs are bountiful examples of harmful insects in your own backyard that spiders help keep at bay.  Some things that help increase spider populations are:

  • Perennials and groundcovers, which provide spiders with a protected hiding place
  • Mulch, which provides spiders with cover and humidity
  • Leaving plant stalks instead of pulling them for winter habitat, as spiders live through even harsh New England winter. They are thus one of the first natural control agents that emerge in the spring.

While few of us specifically spray to eliminate spiders, note that it takes a lot more pesticide to kill spiders and these higher levels of pesticide are lethal to other, beneficial insects as well as to us humans! The vast majority of spider species are not poisonous to humans, and here in Massachusetts, only the Black Widow is venomous.

Spiders Alive Ad 2
So celebrate and praise your spiders! If you want to learn more about them, check out the SPIDERS ALIVE! exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science running through September 6th. You can find more information about the exhibit here.

Are You Being Bugged?!

Contributed by Tim Wholey

9-25-15 pesticide-free-zone-ladybugWhen you see something amiss with your plants and vegetables, like uninvited guests dining on them, do you cringe at the thought of reaching for that chemical pesticide you keep in your garage? Do visions of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring come to mind? You certainly don’t want to expose your family and pets to anything that could harm them or make them ill. While you don’t want to harm beneficial insects like honeybees, you don’t want to see all your beautiful results, money and hard work being devoured either.

What to do? Don’t fret, there are safe organic remedies that you can easily make yourself, often with ingredients you already have around the house. And you will save some money too!

Various remedies make use of natural odors, bad taste, stickiness, texture & even heat to ward off pests. They call for such common household ingredients as onions, garlic cloves, jalapeno peppers, cooking oil & baking soda, just to name a few. Growing certain flowers and herbs, such as Chrysanthemums, garlic bulbs & Marigolds, and planting them among your vegetables can also be an effective means to ward off certain insects.

To apply any solution, understand the problem first. For instance, is the problem related to insect infestation, fungi, mildew or some other problem? I have selected just a few websites that can help you select the right remedy and walk you through a few simple steps to get you on your way to safer, non-toxic pest control in your garden.9-24-15 Spray_bottle

Please share your results with us if you try or have tried any of these solutions!







On the Menu: Top Five Plants for Our Pollinator Friends

Contributed by Jim Lynn

Flowers are finally blooming full force out in the gardens! The early ephemeral plants and bulbs have passed by to make way for the great showy blooms of late spring and early summer. With growing interest in the health of pollinating insects like Honeybees and the Monarch Butterfly, as gardeners we need to be planting the right flowers for our fluttering friends. Here is my Top 5 List of Plants for Pollinators.

2015-6-17 Blue anise hyssopBlue Fortune Anise Hyssop – Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’  This showy perennial blooms from early/mid-July all the way to the beginning of October! With an attractive Anise aroma and tall purple spike flowers, this interactive plant for the landscape has foliage that attracts pollinators of all kinds. If you are lucky enough, you might also find Mantis hanging out in the plant looking for a snack of its own. This perennial will self-seed heavily if the flower spikes are not removed after blooms have passed.

2015-6-17 Asclepias tuberosaButterfly Flower – Asclepias tuberosa  With a name like Butterfly Flower this type of Milkweed MUST make the list! Asclepias are known to be an important part of the life cycle for the Monarch Butterfly. Sometimes referred to as the caviar of butterflies, caterpillars of the Monarch need this as a host plant to make the transition from caterpillar to butterfly. Visit The Xerces Society to find out more information on the importance of this plant and helping our pollinator friends. When planting, be sure to find a variety native to your region since the butterflies that visit your gardens will be dependent upon the local varieties.

2015-6-17 Echinacea purpureaPurple Cone Flower – Echinacea purpurea  This wonderful prairie wildflower is great for massing or in meadow plantings and can tolerate drought. It produces large showy flowers that are sturdy and long lasting. Seed heads provide a great landing pad for pollinators and provide winter interest if not cut back. Echinacea is also a valuable herb, much sought after for boosting the immune system. Due to advancements in plant breeding, Echinacea is available in a wide range of colors besides purple.

2015-6-17 MonardaBee Balm / Bergamot – Monarda didyma  Bee-Balms are treasured garden herbs, nectar providers, and showy ornamentals. Monarda will draw attention with its bright spider-like flowers and can form impressive massings. This plant does best with constant moisture and ample space. Deadhead for extended bloom. ‘Jacob Cline’ is a mildew resistant variety and has handsome foliage.

2015-6-17 BaptisiaFalse Indigo – Baptisia australis  Perennial Plant of the Year for 2010! This perennial is a bushy, long-lived plant for the back of a border. It has gray-green foliage, lovely pea-like flowers and likes to stay in one spot. Pods give long season of interest and attract many of the native bees. This drought tolerant plant is not just good for the pollinators but also for water conservation. Once established this plant requires minimal additional watering.

If you’re looking for more ideas for attracting pollinators to your garden, just ask us! We’re always available to help.