I Am Become Death, Destroyer of Aphids

A seven-spotted ladybug on purple coneflower petals

I’ve mentioned before how it sometimes seems that everything you see is an invasive species, such as the cute little ladybugs in my yard that turned out to be an Asian species originally brought to America for pest control. But this little ladybug, fierce and ferocious (if you’re an aphid), is not the same species! Have I finally found one of our native ladybugs? Alas, no, it has two spots too few. The seven-spotted ladybug is closely related to its American cousin the nine-spotted ladybug, but the nine-spot is rarely seen these days. The seven-spot is native to Europe and, like the Asian beetles, was brought over to the States for pest control and then established itself in the wild.

This one established itself on the petals of my purple coneflower. But the aphids are on the roses! The roses! For the love of Sammy, the aphids are on the roses!

Ah well, I’ve gotten a little disoriented in foreign lands myself.

A More Worrisome Sign

A fork-tailed bush katydid sits on a gladiolus blossom

We’ve had two katydids this year, both of which are hanging around the side of the house where there are a handful of rose bushes and a few stray gladiolus (at least I think that’s what they are). This one prefers the gladiolus and is usually close enough to photograph, while the other prefers a particular rose bush where it is often nearly out of sight and too far away for pictures.

I’ve named them Katydid and Katydidn’t.

Perhaps an even more worrisome sign than saving the lives of your garden pests is giving them nicknames.

A Sign

A fork-tailed bush katydid eats the stem of a gladiolus

I’ve adopted a live-and-let-live policy towards the katydids in our yard. Unlike the swarms of little aphids, there aren’t very many of them and they don’t do much damage, so I tolerate a few chewed up plants in exchange for a few pictures. It’s actually more than a live-and-let-live policy, as when I trim the roses I try to make sure that any katydids on the cut stems make it safely back to the main plant before the stems go in the yard waste bin. The fact that I go to any effort to save the lives of some of my garden pests is probably a sign that I need to see a therapist.

This one preferred the gladiolus over the roses, you can see the holes in the stem it gouged out. The flowers were already spent so it wasn’t hurting anything. I’d usually leave the spent flowers until I was sure they weren’t eating them anymore.

Templeton’s Personal Trainer

A dragonfly perches on a leaf in our backyard in Portland, Oregon in August 2006

Our oldest cat Templeton likes to chase dragonflies around the yard. He never comes even remotely close to catching them but he never gives up hope, at least it gets him lots of exercise. There was one time when a mating pair of dragonflies almost flew right into him, focused more on themselves than the world around them, but I saw what was happening and was able to restrain him.