The Bug Brigade – Airborne Division

Barn swallows

We try to be as organic as possible in our garden. Although I’m a big proponent of “feed the soil, not the plant,” I sometimes need a boost from a fertilizer. I hate commercial weed killers, but every now and then, a judicious application is required.

Insecticides are expressly forbidden.

And yet, visitors to my yard often comment on my undamaged tomatoes(theirs have hornworms), the prolific squash and cucumber vines (Don’t you have squash bug problems?) , and glossy rose foliage (what about Japanese beetles?) And, surely, I must be using something to kill the mosquitos in the pond?

Well, yeah, but not what you’d think…

We’ve spent years cultivating a system that allows nature to police itself when it comes to “bad” bugs. Healthy plants can sustain a bit of damage and still bear a crop. People can get the occasional bug bite and survive. But, all these critters we classify as “bad” are a food source for something else – usually something much more pleasant to have around.

Let me introduce you to my “troops”…

I’ll start with the Airborne Assault teams, one for day, one for night.

 All day long during the growing season, the barn swallows wheel and dive, chasing and catching hundreds of flying insects.I’ll admit, they’re a little distracting, whizzing past my office window, but the show they put on is better than any professional air show. In years past, pairs have built their mud nests under the eaves of the house and we’ve watched them do “flight training” with the babies. No nests this year, but the adults roost in the rafters under the back deck at night, and swoop out with the sunrise every morning.

The Night Crew, for which I have no pictures (still waiting for a night-vision trail camera – anyone know of a good one?), would be the bats. Many of New England’s cave dwelling bats have fallen victim to a mysterious fungus called White Nose Disease over the last few winters. Rhode Island seems lucky so far, no infections on the map that I saw. Our brown bats are tree-dwellers in the summer. I don’t know whether they migrate or hibernate, but I always breathe a sigh of relief when they arrive in the spring.

That’s all for now, but in the next few weeks, I’ll show you the rest of our defences – Amphibious Assault, Ground Force, and Covert Ops! Stay tuned…


5 thoughts on “The Bug Brigade – Airborne Division

  1. Can’t wait for the continuing saga; I’m having a vision of a barn Swallow in Aviator glasses, crushed crown caps and a flying tigers leather jacket (Chennault would be proud)


  2. Love the post and Jody’s comment. He paints a good picture. I have always liked the swallows. The Mississippi Kites that are here during the summer eat lots of bugs but they soar well above the tree tops.

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