There is generally one pest, be it insect or weed, which universally dominates gardens and gardening forums are filled with people asking the same question, “How do I get rid…?”. If the answer was all that straightforward, we wouldn’t need to ask, we would know.
I wonder however, if anyone looks at their particular problem and wonder why it’s there in the first place. A weed is just a flower you don’t want in the garden, yet many acceptable flowers with the same habits as the weeds are welcome. Then you start to wonder what good are the pests, like greenfly? They don’t seem to have any real purpose in the garden – or do they. They are actually all part of the chain. Ants farm them and will protect them because they milk them for the honeydew they produce. It balances itself out though because ladybirds and other insects like the greenfly, but for quite a different reason! Sometimes nature needs a little bit of help in a domestic situation.
Be careful though, an attack against the aphids and you could have the ants rebelling and it’s best to have them on your side. These busy little beasties help to compost dead matter in the garden. Unfortunately they might like to dine on some fresh greens into the bargain. They are economically built, they don’t need lungs as they can breath through holes in their bodies, nor do they have ears but they are social animals and work in unison with their comrades. What they’ve lost with lungs and ears, they have made up with strength for everyone knows the ant can lift many times its own weight, though I wonder how that was proven? Compassionate by being greedy, they have two stomachs in which they store food for themselves in one and food to share in the other.
Ants are amazing at construction, they have a network of tunnels and chambers which they call home. They are miniature chemists and produce a number of chemicals such as formic acid, an irritant against an enemy and pheromones to guide the others to some tasty morsel and that is why if you find an ant in the house, make sure the surface gets wiped down with a vinegar solution so there is nothing left for others to follow. It’s best to have them as outdoor residents.
That’s the part ants are happy with but they in turn are eaten by other insects and animals – even us. They are high in protein but unfortunately their size makes them more difficult to nibble, unless with a spoon.
Another gardening friend is the spider. Underestimated in benefits in the garden, many a spider has been dispatched by a heavy foot. The arachnids don’t have the strength of the ant so why stamp on it, one large human foot against a tiny spider is a bit over the top. I even welcome spiders in the house, they catch flies and I hate flies. Instead I use a spider hoover which sucks up the spider into a tube and I can release it where there is better use for it.
Flies are the scavengers and will happily dine on any foul-smelling, decaying, disease-ridden matter. It would be fine it they stopped at that but their generosity in spreading infections around is boundless. They may not eat what you grow but they will still leave a calling card which you may not be aware of.
I suppose the best advice is to know your friends as well as your enemies.