Garden Pests – Friend or Foe?

Allow me to introduce my favorite garden tenant.  Having found my tomato plant gustatory paradise, this fellow has taken up residence.   His primary web is woven with a zipper-like juncture down the center where he positions himself waiting for foolish insects to meander by.  Secondary webs lace between stems throughout the entire plant.  We have come to a silent understanding – he doesn’t stir when I forage for ripe tomatoes and I permit him rent-free residence and all the bugs he can eat.  It’s a win/win situation.  If someone can tell me what kind of spider he is I would be ever so appreciative.  I don’t think he’s poisonous…..

****Warning!  Graphic descriptions and photos below!!****

I gave my spider a treat this morning!  While going about my morning inspection, I noted several blobs of caterpillar poopie.  Yes, they chew the heck out of my plants and then leave a trail of digested plant matter behind.  It is truly as gross as it sounds.  I’ve found that following the trail of poop is a good way to locate the little b**!!#!s and sure enough I found him on a chewed up branch nearby.  Heh heh, I figured Mr. Spider hadn’t had breakfast yet, so I shook the caterpillar in to a bottle cap and then tossed him on to the spider’s web!  Oh diabolical joy!  The spider froze with delight but after a few minutes the temptation overcame him and he reached out and started spinning the nasty/yummy critter into a cocoon!  He must have been somewhat concerned by the generous yet gigantic monster pointing a big black box at him so he paused mid-web until he could have a more private moment to finish off his treat.  Have I mentioned that he’s at least tripled in size since I first noticed him in the tomato plant?

Fall Canker Worms.  The top left is an actual worm I captured, identified in a gardening book, photographed for my Most Wanted Hall of Fame and promptly dispatched to one of Dante’s circles of hell.  Any of the nine will do.   Just yesterday I pulled up and destroyed a sunflower plant because it had been colonized by a new hatching of these awful things.  The photo below shows the damage done to my sweet potato plant.  At least I know today one less voracious monster exists to wreck havoc in my beautiful garden!

And the transitory population:

A posse of these orange with black polka-dots critters hung out for awhile but seem to have gone on their way.  They don’t seem to have done any damage….yet.  I don’t have any photos of them in my gardening books so I hope that’s a good sign.  Any ideas what they are?

Soldier bug!  He’s a good guy.  He eats the bad guys.  He can hang out as long as he likes.  I’ve created a fascinating menagerie in the backyard but I can’t wait for the winter growing season when most of these critters head for the hills and my biggest problem is remembering to watch the forecast so I can blanket my plants with sheets to keep them cozy during the occasional frost.  Happy days!

One response to “Garden Pests – Friend or Foe?

  1. hey jules
    i had one of these in my yard too. it was big. i was told then it was dangerous, but here it says they are not. just to let you know, they can get VERY big!
    the info is:
    Common Name: The black and yellow argiope is also called banana spider, yellow garden spider, zipper spider, golden orb weaver and writing spider.

    The largest orb weaver in our gardens is the black and yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia). The female is large, the males being much smaller by comparison. Although big enough to deliver a bite, these spiders are not poisonous or aggressive.

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