Digging in

    As part of the ongoing rehabilitation of my neglected property, I’ve been digging up almost the entire front yard. It’s covered in a mat of lesser celandine, the little buttercup yellow flowers that are blooming all over the place right now.

    I need to remove them and their bulblike roots because I’d like to garden in this area, and the lesser celandine emerges early enough to choke out other spring blooming plants, before dying back in June and leaving an ugly bare spot for the rest of the year.

    I’m not a fan of using chemicals on my garden, but this is one instance in which I would consider, in fact would thoroughly enjoy, spraying. However, in the middle of this area is an old and struggling beech tree, which might not appreciate being drenched in herbicide. And so I dig, dumping wheelbarrow loads of unwanteds into the chicken run.

    The pokiness of the process is intermittently relieved by the stuff I find in the ground when I’m moving the soil. Lots of glass shards, pull tabs, and twisted pieces of metal come to the surface. But also living things.

    I collected these three soil-dwelling insects during my evening dig yesterday. I wanted to identify them so I would know whether these larvae and pupa would emerge into adulthood as beneficial insects (save) or garden pests (squish).

    Like most questions, the answer isn’t as simple as one would hope. I sent this photo and a query to my friend Ken, a retired physician turned entomology buff. He replied that immature insects are difficult to identify. Grubs turn into beetles, and he guessed that the large grub in the photo is the larva of the green fruit beetle, Cotinus nitidis, which is a native insect that doesn’t seriously damage garden plants. Okay, save. 

    My own guess is the little grub is an immature Japanese beetle. These little suckers are definitely in the squish category, as Japanese beetles chew and ruin everything from roses to raspberries.

    As for the brown chrysalis, maybe someone reading this knows what it is. Out of curiosity I once hatched a similar chrysalis in a jar, and it turned into a small brown moth so unremarkable it was practically invisible. For now I’ll respect this shy guy’s wishes and just ignore it.

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