The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Can We Trust God's Creation To Handle the Pests?


On Saturday I participated in a massive pruning of five trees, handled by an experienced landscaper and an electric saw extended on a long pole. The small chain made us think it would be good for taking out branches, but the tool handled thick logs without slowing down.

One tree was being eaten by ants, so large large branches were sawn off, marked by dire warnings of ants invading the yard and eating everything in sight.

We have regular conversations like this. He used every anti-weed device and spray on his raised rose beds and had them completely taken over by weeds last summer. I had almost no weeds after laying down newspapers under wood mulch, using no weed killers and no "weed barriers" also called "landscaper cloth."

The landscaper also warned me to prune all the roses, which I had already cut back by 50%. They had already regained the amount I cut and gained even more growth. When I told him this, he was incredulous. "I guess I am a month late."



Raid?
He was trained in the application of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, each one designed to kill indiscriminately. In contrast, my mother scoffed at such chemicals and trusted in beneficial insects. She had a compost pile when I was still on a trike, laughing at my mid-life discovery of the process.

In the sermon yesterday I mentioned Darwin being disturbed about parisitoid wasps, and I found he passage again by accident when going through my ebooks (Kindle library).

The discovery of parasitoids (and parasites that spread disease) was perhaps a shock to naturalists of the Victorian era, who were motivated in their studies by the belief that they were unveiling the grandeur of God’s creation. In the year after he published On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote to his friend Asa Gray, who was a leading American biologist, “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would designedly have created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding on the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice.”

Heinrich, Bernd (2008-12-24). The Snoring Bird (Kindle Locations 1215-1220). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 

The Snoring Bird emphasizes the work of the author's father in collecting new species, especially the newly discovered parasitoid wasp. which became the family's life work.

Various works on beneficial insects teach that each pest is food for another animal. When there is a swarm of obnoxious pests, another group of animals will soon arrive to use them as food. They may be spiders, who gladly build nests across wood mulch and rose beds. They may be other insects, like the overlooked wasps. Or, they may be a variety of birds anxious to feed their young with organic, nutritious bugs.



Help Me! Chemical Alerts - Dinner Is Served
This female parasitic wasp uses a set of cues to locate her aphid hosts. The damaged plant releases volatile chemicals into the air that serve to attract the wasp. The plant, in essence, is delivering an SOS in hopes of recruiting predators and parasitoids. Many pest-infested plants emit semiochemicals known as herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPV) or green leaf volatiles into the air to lure in the particular species of natural enemy most likely to prey upon the specific pest present on the plant. These scents, which travel anywhere from a few inches to hundreds of yards from their source, are detected by the predator and/or parasitoid and used to locate its prey. Several studies have found that female parasitic wasps are not attracted to aphids alone but rather to the semiochemicals produced by the infested plants. The plant, in essence, is sending out an SOS; it is recruiting predators to come to its aid.

Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 509-516). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

Garden life is much more complicated than people assume. The more we understand the design of Creation, the more we let the Manager manage these problems.

Call on the bug busters instead.


Toxic Alternatives
The alternative for ants is to put ant stakes into the ground to kill them, which will not only kill the ants as food but also kill all soil creatures around them. There are various powders, like Sevin, that will do the same, killing vast numbers of creatures.

I was urged to use the commercial (landscaper) version of the toxins and rototill the chemicals into the soil, leveraging the wrong approach.

More of the same works well for generating even more sales. Church Growth and Planned Parenthood have prospered for years with this approach. When the remedy makes everything worse, buy more of the same and apply liberally.

Relying on What Someone Said
Most gardening relies on what someone said once, so bad ideas become normative.

The solution is two-fold.

  • One is observation. Those who look at their gardens every day will see how Creation works together, from the new spider webs to the removal of pests by birds feeding their young. Sharon Lovejoy's books are so good because of her devotion to observation. Queen Elizabeth's private gardens are toxin free and famous for their abundant life.
  • The other is research, from the Bible (which sheds a lot of light on this topic) to works of the evolutionists, who often leave behind vast amounts of data that contradict their theories. One example is Darwin, who spent 40 years studying the earthworm. 



Adults and baby ladybugs are hell on pests.
Insecticides kill ladybugs and let the opportunistic pests take over.