|How much of this delicious bounty was influenced by beneficial arthropods?|
As we sit down this Thanksgiving to our turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing (and of course gravy!), we often give thanks to various people and things that make our lives better. So in that tradition, here are some of the insects and other arthropods (in no particular order) that, throughout the year, enrich our gardens, homes and lives...many of which we would not normally acknowledge.
Paper wasps, hornets & potter wasps (Vespidae)
|Paper wasps (Polistes sp.) may sting, but they also hunt down pestiferous caterpillars to feed to their young.|
|A potter wasp's (Eumeninae) pot is getting ready to dry. The small hole in the top is big enough for mother wasp to add a number of paralyzed caterpillars before sealing it off for her young to feed.|
|A minute wasp (Aphelinidae; approximately 1 mm long) perches on its tiny host - a scale insect.|
|This hornworm caterpillar (Sphingidae: Manduca) is on its last legs. Its parasites (a species of Baconidae) spin white cocoons after emerging, from their host.|
Pollinators (and not necessarily the ones that come to mind)
|This false blister beetle (Oedemeridae: Heliocis repanda), like many beetles, loves nectar and thus also comes in contact with pollen which it may transport to many flowers.|
|Even earwigs (Dermaptera) enjoy nectar and pollen every once in a while. This one is covered in pollen which will likely rub off on another blossom, propagating the plant.|
|Larval black soldier flies (Stratiomyidae: Hermetia illucens) are powerhouses of decomposition, frequently obliterating compost waste.|
|Energetic and beautiful, long-legged flies (Dolichopodidae) scour leaves to hunt down small insects including many pests.|
|Even small dung beetles like this Onthophagus tuberculifrons can help bury dung and keep the ground clean.|
|The rainbow scarab (Phanaeus vindex) is one of our most beautiful beetles, despite spending a large amount of time covered in dung or underground. This male also has an impressive horn.|
|Although only a wee baby, this house centipede (Scutigeridae: Scutigera coleoptrata) is a fierce predator in the home.|
|This fire ant (Solenopsis) is removing soil from its nest. Colonies of fire ants can be a good thing for your garden.|
Just kidding! There is really nothing good I can say about ticks. Though I respect them for their fortitude and tenacity, there is really no good reason for them to exist except to suck blood and transmit diseases (which they really can't be blamed for - pathogens just love to use ticks to spread).
There are many arthropods that directly or indirectly benefit us and the ones listed above are just a starting point. Almost every group can have some quality that deserves our thanks - you just have to observe them in your garden or read the latest information to get a good idea of who the good guys are. It is also good to remember that "beneficial" is in the eye of the beholder - the advantages of arthropods must be weighed with the situation (e.g. some pests can be beneficial and vice versa).