COL­LAT­ERAL DAM­AGE

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

Go­ing chem­i­cal free must be an am­bi­tion of any­one who loves a gar­den. Our quest for a per­fect gar­den set­ting is a bat­tle that some­times re­quires wag­ing war on in­sect pests and dis­eases. And to have an arse­nal of death to con­duct chem­i­cal war­fare, spir­ited away in the back of a shed puts you on a war foot­ing.

The trou­ble with the arse­nal and do­ing war seems to be par for the course to many of us who don’t like the dis­tur­bance to the or­der of a nice gar­den. Like many of those photos we drool over in a mag­a­zine of a sweep­ing lawn, a shady tree, beautifully man­i­cured lawns and the oc­ca­sional com­po­si­tion of gar­den plant in or­derly beds. Maybe there is a wa­ter fea­ture and a few hard­scap­ing fea­tures.

Do you no­tice that most of those staged pic­tures sel­dom have peo­ple in them? I did ask a gar­den pho­tog­ra­pher this ques­tion once and she said they can look ‘messy’ with peo­ple in them.

Well, af­ter all it is peo­ple who in­habit a gar­den or is it a show piece to im­press or to rule with hor­ti­cul­tural or­der?

Hence an in­va­sion of spur-throated grasshop­pers chew­ing the hell out of ev­ery new juicy leaf is more than an ir­ri­ta­tion, it is a call to arms, a war at least and a nu­clear one for good mea­sure. It’s off to the shed for a rem­edy.

Your spray may well erad­i­cate the prob­lem but has prob­a­bly killed off a few other in­no­cent in­sects at the same time. Col­lat­eral dam­age.

While the grasshop­pers were do­ing their chew­ing, la­dy­birds were eat­ing thrips that turned up or hatched in army num­bers. La­dy­birds are the as­sas­sins of the gar­den. They eat 70-80 thrips a day and will suck on soft-tis­sued in­sects like scales for a snack.

So when you blast a bush with the sat­is­fac­tion of a gen­eral at war, you prob­a­bly killed a lot of other ben­e­fi­cial in­sects that are all part of the plant bio.

It is a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­is­tence as one plant has the abil­ity to pro­duce sug­ars from pho­to­syn­the­sis is a good source of di­etary re­quire­ments to other in­sects that suck and eat its sug­ars with their ef­fi­cient mouth parts. Those that like the sug­ars are pre­dated by oth­ers who like the ones that like sugar. And so it goes.

A few hours watch­ing a bush can be an enor­mous ed­u­ca­tion on the com­ing and go­ings and a les­son in re­duc­ing a gar­den arse­nal.

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