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Bug Bopper

July 2, 2011


The life cycles of insects in the garden are most obvious when they impact me. I see the lace bugs as adults walking on my eggplant leaves and I find (and eradicate) the sticky eggs or the cluster of young before they do any more damage. I finally intercepted the bugs tacked together butt to butt, to get the rest of the story. I’ve seen the cycle with the assassin bugs on my cactus plants, the leaf-footed bugs on the datura. One can be a voyeur in their own yard and no one the wiser.

I have tarantulas and tarantula hawk wasps, neither of which I’ve seen mating or eating, but a few years ago I finally saw a wasp drag a stunned spider across the yard and drag it into a hole. It was a study in navigation genius as the wasp dragged the spider around weeds and over dog poop and hoses. This insight into the wasp/tarantula link was fascinating, because the life cycle activity that happens when I’m not out there looking remains a mystery. Only rarely does it present itself with a thump, like last Wednesday.

The cicada killer wasps have been in my gardens for several years, and each year there are more. I’ve seen them mate, fight, and dig, but it wasn’t until last week when I finally saw the comedy of one of these wasps hauling a cicada to the nest. This act is apparently fraught with difficulties. I was standing next to the front tomato bed, when I felt a thump on my side, as if a badminton birdie had hit me. It had about that size, weight, and velocity. I looked down to see a huge cicada lying on its back and a wasp detangling itself before flying off. Since Mom wasp never returned for the cicada, I can only presume that she lost interest or thought I might eat the cicada myself. I had observed a recent wasp casualty in the garden so I placed that dead wasp next to the stunned or dead cicada to give some perspective to the process going on in the garden. They are resting beside a standard size nail clipper for scale.


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