Beneficial Creatures

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Our gardens and yards are hosts to a wide variety of fascinating living creatures. They are an important part of the outdoor ecosystem that they call home. In a few hours in the children’s’ garden we observed a large yellow garden spider, two green tree frogs, paper wasps, two hummingbirds, several large earthworms, two tomato hornworms with braconid wasp, a daddylonglegs, lots of bumble bees, a few butterflies and a black dragonfly. What are they all doing there?

The yellow garden spider, Argiope aurantia is one of the araneid or “orb weaver” spiders that builds the common circular spider web to snare their prey. The web can be up to two feet in diameter and very complex. They benefit us by eating a wide range of flying prey including aphids, grasshoppers, flies, moths, beetles, mosquitoes and wasp. The female spider builds a web that has a conspicuous zig-zag band of white silk in the center of the web. That is the reason these spiders are often called “writing” spiders.

Argiope aurantia is a common, distinctively colored (black and yellow), large spider that is frequently seen in the Fall in gardens, yards and along roadsides. They prefer sunny places with little or no wind to build their webs. These spiders will stay in a location unless they are frequently disturbed or they cannot catch enough food.

The female produces from one to three brown papery egg sacs that are round and about one inch. Each sack can contain from 300 to 1,400 eggs. After the eggs hatch, the hatchling spiders become dormant and stay in the sac until spring.

Some people are concerned about being bitten by this large spider, they are not dangerous. If harassed they may bite but the bite is similar to a bee sting. Think of them as free pest control.

Dragonflies are one of the most successful creatures on earth. Fossils indicate that they have been around for 300 million years. They can be found near ponds, fountains and are attracted to boggy, wet areas. Flying up to thirty miles per hour they hunt for food consuming their own body weight in bugs each half-hour. They eat flies, mosquitoes, swarming ants, gnats, midges, moths and other small pesky flying insects.

Dragonflies are also called mosquito hawks because like hawks they have good eyesight and can fly fast. Aren’t you glad they eat lots of mosquitoes?

These creatures are called beneficial and should be appreciated.