• Karla Benzl MD

Spread the Love with Bugs

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

If you have access to a garden, then spending time with your little one gardening is a great activity. Gardening enhances well-being through exercise, accomplishment, and connection to nature. It is truly a form of self-care that can be done jointly with children. Plants and bugs have so much to teach, and are an essential part of organic gardening. Here are three fun ways we use bugs to garden organically:

1) Lady Bugs: Ladybugs are a pesticide-free way to control pests. They eat aphids and other critters that damage plants. Every few months, we will buy a container of ladybugs and release them into the garden. The little ones LOVE this activity- as ladybugs are so much fun to play with. In addition, distributing ladybugs around the yard is a way to practice mindfulness. Each plant must be carefully studied to find aphids (a good place to release a ladybug). Place the ladybugs in the garden at dusk to increase the likelihood they will stay in your garden (otherwise they are quick to fly away).

2) Praying Mantises: The praying mantis also eats aphids and other critters that damage plants. Similarly to ladybugs, organic gardeners release baby praying mantises into the yard to control pests. You can buy a container with the praying mantis egg sack for sale at the local nursery. The praying mantis egg sack provides a great lesson in biology (and patience as well). Keep the egg sack in the container, as it can take weeks for the baby praying mantises to mature and hatch. That means that your little one will excitedly check on the egg sack daily, until one day- surprise! The container is suddenly full of baby praying mantises! Again, distributing them among the garden is a mindful activity. Each mantis needs its own territory- so you want to release them far and wide, so they don’t eat each other. Also, be aware that if you have a butterfly garden, they will eat caterpillars (even the Monarch caterpillars), so keep them away from that area.

3) Earth Worms: Lastly, earth worms are great for aerating soil and increasing nutrient content. You can buy earth worms at the local nursery, or order them online. After a good rain, you can pick up a few for free as well, as they rise to the surface and are easy to find. Of course, kids are probably more interested in worm hunting then you are! We distribute earth worms in our compost, or in the raised garden bed. Earth worm castings (aka worm poop) are rich in nutrients. Their burrows also help open the soil so air, water, and nutrients are more accessible to plant roots.

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