Bugs and Opportunity
I read recently an article published by the American Rose Society entitled “Beetlemania”. I am a member of the ARS but this article came unsolicited about a couple of rose bugs. I have been trying to develop a way of thinking about the bug challenge in general because it is clear that at times the bugs have to be taken head-on or they win the battle and the flower, if not the whole plant. Beetles and thrips, the foci of the ARS article, are examples of bugs that take advantage of good opportunities for a good meal. Bugs, in general, are opportunists: they take advantage of weak plants and thus make them weaker – but there is little resistance. It seems to me these bugs go for new growth or can tell when there is no natural deterrent from the plant itself. Also, if the plant is exploding with growth and is very full, the bug senses a good meal. So it is not surprising to go out into my garden and find spider webs all over the place this time of year, making the plant look like a colorful Halloween mask.
I find that being out in my garden is the only way I can tell whether the plant needs my help to survive. Sometimes just leaving it alone with some beneficial (read, natural enemy) can be the best solution – as with aphids and ladybugs. It relieves me to believe that there is a middle ground of care when the plant is just doing ok – most of the time. The extremes deserve attention and can most often be encouraged back to the middle range; new growth is a sign of the bugs relenting.
So, what I have concluded is that watchful plant care helps me know when I need to intervene, it most often doesn't take much to get it back on track, and it is a wonderful reason to be outdoors. My limitations as a gardener are that I don't remember whether a particular bug is good or bad, and I feel humbled by the notion of the perfect plant. I am perhaps too cavalier about my roses, but I think that good care is good enough – I don't want to forget to smell the roses and take an afternoon nap.
photo by Jennifer Baumbach