The Importance of Knowing Good vs Bad Bugs in the Garden

The Importance of Knowing Good vs Bad Bugs in the Garden. Praying Mantis Egg.

Last week I was walking around my yard, examining the various plants and trees, when I discovered a strange looking cocoon on our Montmorency cherry tree. It was an ugly, alien cocoon… and I was fascinated by it.

That same day I noticed several more of the strange little pods on our Winter Honeysuckle bush. Curious, I tried to pull the cocoon, or whatever it was, off the limb it clung to. It felt a little like Styrofoam between my fingers when gently squeezed. I tugged and pulled, but quickly realized the cocoon was stuck fast. It had been formed so tightly around the wood that the only way to remove it was to cut it off.

I clipped off that section of the branch so that I may bring it inside for the kids and I to examine further. I hoped to identify the moth or butterfly which would make such a strange formation.

We looked through dozens and dozens of cocoon and chrysalis images online, and flipped through the butterfly and moth sections of my bug books to no avail. Nothing that I came across even closely resembled the strange spongy sac I’d found.

We put it in a jar to watch until it hatched. I also dissected another identical pod to see if I could find a caterpillar inside, but it was only gooey in the middle.

What the heck was it??

A couple days later I was flipping through one of my favorite books on insects, Good Bug Bad Bug*, when I came across a picture that immediately caught my attention. Overwhelmed with excitement (it’s the little things, people), I went around the house showing the kids what I’d discovered.

The cocoon I’d found wasn’t a cocoon at all. It was a praying mantis egg!! 

This was double exciting to me because praying mantises can be extremely beneficial to a garden. They eat all sorts of other bugs which would otherwise damage your plants. Finding praying mantis eggs around our yard was a great sign!

This discovery reminded me of the extreme importance of knowing good bugs from bad bugs, in all their forms and stages. Organic gardens depend on beneficial insects, birds, and other organisms to keep things balanced and healthy.

If you kill a bug (or squish an egg)… or if you cut down trees that provide habitat to native birds… not knowing if it was beneficial to your garden or not, you just might inadvertently allow pests to take over and cause major damage to your plants. You’ll have a much harder time managing an organic garden without natural predators helping to keep pests in check.



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