Quotes: About fending off bugs and animals

enlarge this image

Pests have a decided advantage. They're out there 24/7, constantly testing our defenses. So we have to make the most of the advantage we bring to the game -- brains. 

Return to Quotes directory 

One of the best scarecrows we ever used was a kid's toy duck with big eyes (eyes seem to have great effect) and a motion detector that triggered a quack. We stationed it at the base of the plant we figured was next on the menu.

- Janet Macunovich -
see What's Coming Up #141



We have descended into the garden and caught three hundred slugs. How I love the mixture of the beautiful and the squalid in gardening. It makes it so lifelike.

- Evelyn Underhill, theologian and author -
see What's Coming Up #34


The best gardener is a baby killer. Baby insects are much easier to kill than adults, and haven't yet developed the big mouths and voracious appetite of the adolescent.

- Janet Macunovich -  
see What's Coming Up #95  


The families of rabbits or woodchucks will eat the salad greens just before they are ready to be picked; I plot ways to kill these animals but can never bring myself to do it...

- Jamaica Kincaid -  


The key to good growing, especially to keep problems in check, is lots of shaking hands with plants. Don't just wave hello to them from ten feet away. Go touch them, look under a leaf or two, and notice the small changes that are the first signs of trouble.

- Janet Macunovich -
see What's Coming Up #95

 RabbitCageAp583_10s.jpg ShakeHandsA8889s.jpg ShakeHandsB8896s.jpg

Breeze through a garden and you miss a lot, from big bunnies to tiny sawflies. Stop, shake hands, and look to stay ahead of the trouble.

It's best to smoosh pine sawflies with rubber gloves.
Their guts eventually soak through cloth. Eww.

- Sonja Nikkila, Lessons from Childhood Apprenticeship -

Below, left: Better, also, to smoosh the black headed sawflies that plague mugo pines when the insects are tiny. Those you see here are needle-long, ready to drop off and pupate, and their damage is all done for the year. Earlier they may even be knocked off with a hard stream of water. Once down they are unlikely to find their way back up; too young to pupate, they die or fall prey to all the hunters on the ground.
Below, right: The sawflies freeze in needle-like posture when they sense motion. It's surprisingly effective. People often walk right by.

Sawfly5461s.jpg Sawflies2443s.jpg

See what it's doing -- is it looking at you? That's a predator insect.

- Dr. David Smitley, Michigan State University Entomology -
see What's Coming Up #149

 PreyMantis8759s.jpg MantisNoFear0410s.jpg MantisNoFear0425s.jpg

Predator insects are great to have  on your side. They don't know to back down, only to keep eating. When you see a preying mantis cock its head at you, or your cat, it's doing what comes naturally. Plant eaters hide or scuttle away. Predators advance.

On every stem, on every leaf,... and at the root of everything that grew, was a professional specialist in the shape of grub, caterpillar, aphis, or other expert, whose business it was to devour that particular part.

- Oliver Wendell Holmes -
see What's Coming Up #129

To the preceding quote we can add, "...and on the heels of each one was at least one kind of predator insect." Let predators like ladybugs and spiders work for you -- don't use broad spectrum, kill-everything insecticides.

LadybugS.jpg Spider8771s.jpg

Plants are the original chemists. Their sophistication makes DuPont and Monsanto look like little kids with chemistry sets.

- Allen Lacy, in The Inviting Garden -
see What's Coming Up #90

Insects leave (Madagascar periwinkle) Catharanthus roseus out of their diets. So, for that matter, do deer. The reason is that the plants are loaded with alkaloids so potent that they are the source of vincristine and vinblastine. These are drugs important in routines of chemotherapy for treating Hodgkin's disease and certain forms of leukemia...

- Allen Lacy,  in The Gardener's Eye and Other Essays -
see What's Coming Up #119

 Below: Catharanthus roseus, Madagascar periwinkle.


Internal chemistry is key when plants must fend attackers that invade their tissues and work from within. Galls on leaves rarely cause the plant serious harm. Most otherwise healthy plants use their chemical prowess to put a damper on the gall-making pests' lifestyle and reproductive rate,


Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.

- Chubb Harper -
see What's Coming Up #178

'What do you do with slugs, Georgie?'


'Pretend you don't see them.'

- E.F. Benson, Lucia in London, 1927 -








Although Helix aspera, the common or garden snail, was an accidental import, its ravages led to the introduction of that enthusiastic consumer of slugs and snails -- the hedgehog.

- from A History of Gardening in New Zealand by Bee Dawson

 Snail0025s.jpg SnailPeering0006s.jpg SnailFace0023s.jpg
These characters mugging for the camera are the European brown-lipped snail (a.k.a. grove snail, wood snail, Cepaea nemoralis), a pesty emigrant to the New World. We made the mistake of setting a bounty on them in our yard so the kids would collect them. The approach was not a mistake -- our kids rose to the challenge and often deputized friends. Our error was in setting an individual bounty rather than per-pail or per-pound. We thus made ourselves the chore of counting hundreds of snails. No less than an accurate count would satisfy those highly competitive hunters.

'What sort of insects do you rejoice in, where you come from?' the gnat inquired.
'I don't rejoice in insects at all,' Alice explained.

- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-glass -

InsecTussokMoth3315s.jpg  InsecHwkmth3395s.jpg One of the tussock moth caterpillars (maybe the white banded tussock moth, Halysidota tessellaris), and the "is that some kind of hummingbird?" insect known as a hummingbird hawk moth. Both are fun to observe. Neither is likely to do any significant damage to your garden plants as a leaf-eating caterpillar, and no damage as a nectaring adult.