I've never been much of a "bug" person. My main interest in bugs before was in eradicating the pesky ones, although I did have a short-lived interest when my younger daughter was in high school and had to compile an insect collection for an advanced biology class. That year she had just undergone surgery for a torn ACL and was on crutches for a month. That made it rather difficult for her to gather insects, so naturally ever-helpful Mom, as well as other family members, had to help with the project. It wasn't unusual for my mother to drop by with some extra tomatoes from her garden--and a few plastic containers with preserved specimens she'd found for the collection. Even the mother of one of Daughter's volleyball teammates showed up at a ballgame proudly bearing several insects she'd found for her.
Of course, I was the main insect gatherer, though. I scoured trees after dusk with a flashlight looking for cicadas and hopped around the yard with a butterfly net--you think taking photos of a butterfly is difficult, try catching them! The neighbors probably were laughing behind their curtains at me, but I know for sure the volleyball moms thought I was pretty amusing. At one game I attended (even though Daughter had to spend her senior season on the bench) I saw an insect she didn't yet have. Climbing over and under the bleachers, I finally captured it and trapped it in the only container I had--a bag of popcorn. No one asked to share my popcorn after that!
All that is behind me now. There are no more plastic containers in my freezer holding perfectly preserved beetles or moths. Instead I am happy to see them in my garden, pollinating the flowers, eating the insects I don't want, or just providing a little entertainment for me.
My main flowerbed, next to the house, has become quite the bee magnet. Bumblebees are especially attracted to all the purple flowers I have, but they also enjoy the coneflowers. At one time I was frightened of bumblebees, but I've found they ignore me as long as I don't try to pick the flower they're on!
Last week I was trying to take some photos of the few white and cream-colored hollyhocks that have blossomed. I didn't even notice until after I'd taken the photo that this bee had climbed into the bloom. At least I think it was some kind of bee--he was so covered with pollen that I really couldn't tell what kind of insect he was.
Of course, there are still some insects I don't like and never will. I've yet to see the purpose of flies, mosquitos, or cockroaches. Another species of pests that I've been complaining about the last few weeks is the Japanese beetle. Short of using a pesticide such as Sevin, there is no long-lasting effective measure to eradicate these little monsters. Picking them off by hand in the early morning while they're still drowsy and depositing them into a soapy solution is still the best method. But more will come to replace those you've destroyed.
Not quite as annoying is this little guy, the common grasshopper. In large numbers, though, they can be quite destructive, especially for the farmers' crops. As much trouble as I have catching an insect in repose long enough for a photo, this guy seemed curious about my camera and eager to pose.
I am especially fond of any insect or other animal that helps to control the less desirable members of the species. We seem to have an abundance of dragonflies this year, which help to control the mosquito population. I've seen so many beautiful photos of them on other blogs I'm almost ashamed to show this one. Not only is it difficult to catch them standing still, but their transparent wings are difficult to photograph in sunlight.
One of my favorite animals for insect control, though, is the common toad. I've run into this little baby several times (or perhaps it was his brother or sister) while working in the shade garden. Although I'm not brave enough to pick them up bare-handed, I often scoop them up in some fashion when I find them and put them back in my garden.
For sheer beauty, though, nothing can match a butterfly. I don't think there is anyone who doesn't like a butterfly. I purposely planted flowers that would attract butterflies, and usually in late summer they flock to my garden. So far I've seen only one or two monarchs and a beautiful blue/black butterfly I can't identify floating by, but I'm hoping they will bring the rest of their families here soon.