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Just went out to check the aphids on the asparagus fern from last week. As I predicted, the aphids have virtually disappeared. I saw a few at the very tips of a couple of plant stems.

Insects have definite seasons and cycles, and it is worthwhile to pay attention to them. It can save you money, time and effort if you realize the pests are going to go away on their own.

Ants are particularly known for this. I think one reason there are so many wacky home remedies for ants is because people do something and when they check again, the ants are gone. The thing is, ants are highly mobile and it is likely they would have moved even if the homeowner had done nothing. (That isn't to say there aren't some useful home remedies, because there are.) When it comes to insects, being a procrastinator can really pay off.

Stalking the wild insects in my garden this morning, I was surprised to find these tiny bugs on my asparagus fern. Do you know what they are? I'll give you some hints. They like cool weather, they tend to build up quickly on the growing tips or buds of plants, and lady beetles love them.

aphids

I also found this fly hovering nearby. At first I thought it was a flower fly (Family Syrphidae). Flower flies lay their eggs near aphids (yes, those are aphids). Their larvae eat aphids, and I find them all the time on infested plants. But flower flies tend to have a shorter, wider abdomen (that is the back section in insects), and mimic bees. I think this one is a thick-headed fly instead (Family Conopidae), because it has a thin waist more like a wasp. One way I can tell she isn't a wasp is the fact she has two wings. Wasps have four.

thickheaded fly

She was definitely laying eggs, as you can see here.

fly

Where do you go to identify unknown insects like this one? One great place to start is whatsthatbug.com.

By the way, I don't need to control these aphids, because they will be gone soon. I spotted flower fly larvae and parasitic wasps already at work. For now they are providing some entertainment and drama in the backyard jungle.

Most of you probably recognize this little insect as a praying mantis. But can you tell how small it is? The milkweed flower bud next to it is roughly 1/3 inch long.

The praying mantis is looking for an insect to eat. As it eats and grows, it will shed its exoskeleton or outer "skin." Unlike some insects that change a lot when they grow, the mantis will stay about the same. The biggest change will be that it will have wings when it becomes an adult.

Notice the triangle-shaped head with the large eyes. Those eyes could definitely see me trying to take its picture. It kept hiding behind the flower buds, so I had trouble getting a good photo.

Also notice the front legs tucked up under its body. The praying part of the mantis name comes from that posture. It actually uses those legs to grab prey.

praying mantis nymph