Volume 13, Issue 27 ~ July 7 - 13, - 2005

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by by Gary Pendleton

Balance of Power in the Garden

New buds show on the clematis we planted last year.

Poking around the garden, the stick-like, swivel headed praying mantis is playing its Biological Pest Management role. Where I grew up, it was common knowledge that to kill a praying mantis was illegal. With the protection of the law or not, mantises, lady bugs, parasitic wasps and other beneficial insects play a necessary role in the yard, garden and on the farm.

Even our houses — well, my house anyway — are patrolled by spiders that prey on insects. Snakes and toads help maintain the balance by keeping the population of slugs, mice and other pests to an acceptable level without toxic chemicals.

The praying mantis pokes its head above the leaves in the strawberry patch in the morning when I go out to harvest fruit. The Tri-Star variety we grow produces fruit all summer long. It is probably a combination of factors, but this year’s crop is heavier than ever. And for some reason the slugs are not taking half the crop, as they used to. The heavy production is probably due to abundant rain and a generous layer of compost on the bed.

Red ants have set up housekeeping in the strawberry bed with the slugs and the mantis. I imagine that they are waging war in their world, fighting for a balance of power, while the berries grow plentiful and red. That’s fine. Just keep the noise down: I only want to pick some berries.

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