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Wonderful encounters in the garden

Coleomegilla maculata
Credit: Guillaume Dury
Coleomegilla maculata
Wonderful encounters in the garden

One of the great pleasures of tending a flower or vegetable garden is being able to very closely observe life unfolding there in the most diverse forms. Here are a few wonderful encounters it’s possible to make there with representatives of the fascinating world of insects.

Miniature alligators

If lady beetles, commonly known as ladybugs, are well known in their adult stage, it’s a different story for their larvae, which are often mistaken for pests. With their elongated bodies decorated with brightly colored spots or stripes and equipped with tubercles or spines, the larvae often resemble miniature alligators! Like the adults, the larvae are formidable aphid predators. So if your plant is infested, keep an eye out: lady beetles are probably hard at work.

Hiding places for ground beetles

It’s often when we pick up a pot or move a stone that we make the acquaintance of ground beetles. The encounter is generally brief, because the beetle’s long legs allow it to part company with us in a hurry. Normally nocturnal, ground beetles hide under rocks, plant debris, pots or other shelters during the day. They have elongated, usually dark-colored, bodies, long slender antennae and powerful mandibles. These insects, which hunt mainly on the ground, are valuable allies for a garden. Slugs, cutworms and caterpillars are part of their menu. Their larvae are also active predators. When they feel threatened, ground beetles are capable of emitting an unpleasant smelling defensive chemical compound through glands located on their abdomen.

Hummingbird or bumblebee?

What’s that strange animal foraging on the blooms of your bee balm and that seems to be standing still? It looks like a hummingbird or even a big bumblebee – but no, it’s a moth: the hummingbird moth! Because of its extremely fast wingbeats (you can even hear a humming sound), this magnificent lepidopteran can hover in the air when it feeds, just like a hummingbird. With its long trunk (proboscis), it can suck up the nectar from flowers with deep corollas. It especially visits lilacs, bee balms, phlox, milkweeds, knapweeds, butterfly bushes and rhododendrons. The solitary caterpillar feeds on a number of deciduous shrubs and trees, including viburnum, honeysuckle, hawthorn, and plum and cherry trees. Unlike the majority of the other Sphingidae, the hummingbird moth is diurnal. This astonishing moth can be observed from May to around mid-August.

To learn more:

Insects and other arthropods, Montréal Insectarium: http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/insects-and-other-arthropods

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