Growing the Desert Garden

Welcome to the Desert Garden, with garden coach Tyler Storey, where we talk about everything having to do with gardening and landscaping in the Desert Southwest. From composting to Cercidium and agaves to arugula — we'll cover everything you want to know to grow your own beautiful Desert Garden.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Just a Thought: Insects

Insects, in and of themselves, are not bad or even, for that matter, necessarily good. Cockroaches, caterpillars, bees, moths, termites, ants, butterflies, and all the rest of them, are simply creatures going about their appointed business. It is only within the context of our interaction with them where we can begin to legitimately label them with a value: good or bad. Even then, it is to the interaction that the label properly belongs, not to the insect itself.

Termites eating your house are, as far as you're concerned, bad. That seems fair. Termites eating organic matter on the forest floor, through which action they enrich the soil, provide nutrients for plant growth, and keep us from being up to our necks in dead trees, are indisputably good.

The bees that pollinate our fruits and vegetables are, by human standards, among the most important, valuable, and good insects on Earth. The bee that stings you on that sensitive fleshy part of your inner arm you might be excused for calling indescribably bad, perhaps with a few choice epithets thrown in for emphasis.

An Orange Dog caterpillar on your brand-spanking-new five-gallon citrus tree may well wreck it, while the same caterpillar on your established lemon tree is unlikely to cause any damage and is a fascinating example of mimicry. It will soon turn into a beautiful butterfly, the Giant Swallowtail.


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