There are good bugs and bad bugs. These last few days I have been knocked for a loop by a very, very bad, vicious, nasty bug. It was the kind of bug that makes it impossible for you to raise your head off the pillow or to care much about anything. Finally, the "good bugs" of my body's defenses seem to have routed the bad bugs of the virus and I am on my feet and at my computer again.
I'm still not up to any heavy gardening, but at least I can get outside and feel the sun and breeze on my face and maybe even pull a weed or three. In the process, I can also visit with some of the "good bugs" that are an integral part of my garden.
Of the population of good bugs, none are more welcome and better allies of the gardener than the ladybug, and my vegetable/herb garden is full of them these days.
It may not be an entirely scientific observation, but anyone who has gardened for any length of time will have noticed that a plant in trouble will attract insect pests. It's as if the plant sends out a beacon call when it is sick or at the end of its natural life that tells all those hungry aphids and other munchers, "Come on down!" And they do. Hordes of them do.
And where aphids go, ladybugs quickly follow. That is what has happened in my garden. Many of the fall and winter vegetables have come to the end of their run and are ready to shuffle off the mortal coil and make room for new spring plantings, but not before feeding another generation of the insect life that depends on them. Predictably and right on schedule, the ladybugs have arrived to make sure that the bad bugs don't have it all their own way.
This ladybug, which is covered with spots (I counted 16), enjoys its lunch on a leaf of cilantro.
There were tens if not hundreds of the little critters around and the really interesting thing to me was that not all of them were the same species. You can see, for example, that this one preying on the pests that are preying on radish leaves has many fewer spots than the one in the previous picture. There were, in fact, ladybugs with many different patterns and combinations of spots. There were even some that I saw that were entirely orange with no spots. Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of all of them, but you get the idea.
There was also a considerable amount of ladybug hanky-panky going on. More than one pair had found a sheltered spot to get on with the essentials of life.
Rock on, little ladybugs! Like the good bugs of my body's defenses, I need more of you to help me overcome all the bad bugs in my life. Come on down!