Nature’s delicate balance be damned
Maybe you can’t fool Mother Nature, but you can certainly mess with her.I’m not sure what it says about us, but at our house, the humans are playing mind games with insects that maybe have a brain the size of a pinhead – and we’re not sure we’re going to win.In fact, the only victors in the entomological battle going on in the backyard so far may be the garden stores where we keep dropping cash on all manner of WMDs. So far, the ants have proven themselves impervious to all of them.On the other hand, I’m optimistic we will gain the upper hand in our war against the wasps and hornets that build new nests in the eves faster than we can spray them with evil, foamy stuff that the EPA should probably gather up and secure in Yucca Mountain. But now we’ve got … the Waspinator!We’re hoping those stinging nuisances disappear faster than a mosquito fighting a stiff tailwind once we hang up our secret, mail-order weapon. The Waspinator resembles a full-blown wasp’s nest – you know, those gray, paper-bag-looking things hanging from trees in the woods that make any sane human’s bowels quiver. Apparently, wasps are territorial, and if they see one of those faux nests hanging about, they’ll think an enemy tribe has already established itself in our yard and take their creepy, skinny bodies and lethal stinging appendages elsewhere – or at least across the fence to the neighbor’s house.Success will be a real morale boost, given our humbling defeat to the ants, which seem to pick up and move whenever we resort to bug spray, only to re-establish themselves in roughly the same spot they were before. I have yet to see a single one of them mosey in or out of the multitude of little ant traps we’ve strategically placed about the patio, but I’m pretty sure they’re to blame for munching holes in a potted basil I was keeping on a porch railing.They’ve also established themselves in the vegetable garden, where we had reluctantly settled into a position of détente, given the organic nature of our farming operation. Then we discovered aphids damaging the fruits of our labor. Apparently, there’s a correlation between the overabundance of ants and the aphid population. I know this because I read it on the Internet, which is how I also know Elvis is still alive.We launched an initial assault on the aphids with a homemade concoction of water mixed with a little vegetable oil and dish soap. For a second attack, we’ve pitted species against species. It’s sort of like playing God.A foul-smelling plastic container arrived this week in a plain, cardboard box. Inside were 1,500-plus aphid-eating ladybugs. Internet research warned us the ladybugs might be grouchy and irritable (they are “lady” bugs – maybe it’s PMS). In any case, if the bugs were lethargic, we were advised to mist them with fruit juice or Gatorade to perk them up. Fortunately, the bugs that were still alive amid the pile of wood chips in the container looked pretty spry. We watered the garden and waited until evening, as instructed, before sending in the troops.By morning, there were maybe a dozen ladybugs still hanging around. I haven’t seen any more aphids, but after discovering a black widow spider in a bathroom floor vent, I lost interest in the insect situation outside.I quickly consulted the Web for advice on introducing a natural predator to attack the black widows, which I imagine are laying eggs with reckless abandon in the house’s network of heating ducts.Turns out, the spider has just one natural enemy to speak of – wasps.Janet Urquhart would welcome a few butterflies. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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