Shallowness in the Wildlife Garden

This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on August 16, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments and find working links to other stories.

I'll admit I wasn't too thrilled that the garden spider had a pollinator for lunch
I’ll admit I wasn’t too thrilled that the garden spider had a pollinator for lunch

My friend Cindy (@gemswinc) left, in part, the following comment in response to an article where I was taking on the role of Mother Nature…“tinkering with nature”, so to speak.

“…But, Loret as a wildlife gardener shouldn’t you be letting the Mockers and Bluebirds work it out for themselves 😉

I was extolling the fact that the mockingbirds were chasing the bluebirds. I admit that I was removing the start of any mockingbird nest that I felt was too close for the bluebird’s comfort.

Green Lynx grabs a leaf footed bug, we are overjoyed.
Green Lynx grabs a leaf footed bug, we are overjoyed.

Cindy’s contemplative remark has been rattling around in my head for a few weeks and it really got me thinking: am I shallow when it comes to my wildlife garden? How about you?  Are you the same?

Green lynx grabs a stink bug, we are thrilled
Green lynx grabs a stink bug, we are thrilled

Case and point; what is your reaction when you see a spider with a butterfly in its clutches?  How about if you see a moth caterpillar covered with parasitic wasp eggs?  If the former appalls you and you’re ecstatic about the latter, you just might be a little shallow when it comes to life in the wildlife garden.

Green lynx grabs a pollinator….We curse them
Green lynx grabs a pollinator….We curse them

As humans, it seems our natural inclination is to try and save those that we find pretty and squelch what doesn’t fit in with our views of a happy gardening process. Admit it, we are all guilty.  I would run over to help release a butterfly or dragonfly stuck in a spider web, yet the other day I watched a grasshopper get caught and I didn’t move a muscle.  Shouldn’t we view both scenarios equally?  Don’t the grasshoppers have equal value?  I mean, aren’t they food for birds?  Do we kill the spider because it grabbed something pretty?  Heck, when a spider has a mosquito in its clutches, I’ve considered throwing it a parade.

A Jagged Ambush bug grabs a skipper butterfly. OH MY, we are unhappy.
A Jagged Ambush bug grabs a skipper butterfly. OH MY, we are unhappy.

Spiders are having a field day at my place lately.  And there is no shortage of menu choices for them.  Some may be choosing items from the menu that I’m not to thrilled with, but I have to remember that in many instances, it is important to accept the food chain and let nature take its course.

Jagged Ambush bug snacks on a beetle? That’s ok
Jagged Ambush bug snacks on a beetle? That’s ok

Another question I’m sure all of us have grappled with is: do I rush out to get endless amounts of a larval host plant because I feel the need to provide and get as many caterpillars to butterfly-hood where they are more eye-appealing?  Do I keep the caterpillars from the birds by rearing them in protective cases?  Should I, in fact, being giving some “tough love” and letting the birds have at it?  Should I let the caterpillars and parasitic wasps duke it out among themselves, ensuring that the strongest survive? Tough, it’s tough and I don’t have an answer.

Fishing Spider finishes off a dragonfly. Horrifying? or just building itself up to be some nice fat bird food
Fishing Spider finishes off a dragonfly. Horrifying? or just building itself up to be some nice fat bird food

If a hawk carries a baby bird away, are you shaking your fist at the hawk?  How about if the hawk hauls away a rodent?  See what I mean?

Armyworm covered in parasites ok, but would you feel the same if this was a monarch caterpillar?
Armyworm covered in parasites ok, but would you feel the same if this was a monarch caterpillar?

In the world of gardening where the development of our home areas upsets the natural habitat anyway it likely is in the best interest overall to give help along the way.  But, at least now I think about my motivations before I take any drastic action.

Let’s all be more accepting of the natural order of things.
Let’s all be more accepting of the natural order of things.

So, thank you @gemswinc for making me take a step back when I try to improve on what should be a natural process.  While I still “tinker”, I also have learned to carefully examine why a certain encounter elicits the view of unspeakable carnage in my view. I reevaluate my choices in how I handle it, probably allowing for a more balanced Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

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2 thoughts on “Shallowness in the Wildlife Garden”

  1. Excellent thought….”artificial no matter how natural”! I am trying to discourage the ants this week…..since they decided to march two by two by two thousand through the window frame and across my kitchen counter 😉

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  2. Hi Loret.. I am honored and also thought provoked. Of course we are tinkerers. The garden is “artificial” no matter how “natural”. A bunch of plants are thrown together and told to “deal with it”. As for meddling at the level you discuss, unless it is invasive, I let nature take it’s course.. but then.. Do I discourage deer ( yes!).. trap Voles? Yes.. tho’ this year I have tried to coexist.. at anytime expecting my garden to collapse due to underground tunneling. It’s all a delicate balance, but at least we think about it and try to work w/ nature. No thoughtless, barren, “one-size-fits-all” monoculture lawn and ornamental plantings for us. This garden raises baby birds, butterflies, fireflies.. and happiness

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