After the rain a couple of weeks ago, we had an unprecedented number of spittle bugs all over the place. Spit bugs are one of my least favorite bugs (next to the chewing gum bugs) because they make this "nest" that literally looks like a big lugie. And they put them on everything. Imagine going out to the bean patch to pick green beans and finding that the entire patch hosting a spit bug family reunion. It made me so mad I screamed really loud, hence, the barking dogs part of the title...three of our JRTS thought something required their chorus of barks and howls and the melee that insued over the spit bugs was quite chaotic for a few minutes.
Chewing gum bugs, thank goodness, are not very prolific. But every once in a while, I turn over a leaf and there is what looks like a big wad of chewed gum. Same texture, same color, same random shape. Closer inspection reveals that it is actually a cluster of really large white eggs but the first time I ran across on of those I started to get all hyper because I thought one of the interns was spitting his gum out in the rows. After I looked closer, I realized what I was really looking at but they are pretty icky, too.
Some of the insects in the garden are actually quite beautiful. We have a predatory spider in abundance in the okra, the Green Lynx Spider. They are pretty shy and hide under the leaves, but they are voracious and will attach insects much larger than themselves. They don't appear to make webs and more or less ambush their prey. When I first saw one, I was fascinated and looked them and and discovered they were important to agriculture as a biological pest control so
I was pretty happy that they are occurring here at the Farm without any intervention from humans (like relocating them to the fields). The fact that they are there naturally speaks to the health of our biodiversity here.
The Red Velvet Ant is another spectacular insect we see often. Although it is called an ant, it is in fact the flightless female of a species of wasp. While they are very beautiful, like the aforementioned spider, they can deliver a powerful sting, so painful that it has earned them the nickname "cow killer" because supposedly the sting is enough to "kill a cow". They are very shy and I have never been stung and don't intend to be anytime soon.
Some of the other insects I have seen in the gardens over the years include several I have never been able to identify satisfactorily and of course, couldn't or didn't try to catch to research. Two examples that I spent an inordinate amount of time researching (yes, it was that impressive).One I discovered was the Golden Tortoise Beetle (picture at right) and it really is a metallic and shiny gold as the picture appears. The other still eludes me.