Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bugs in the Bug Garden: Overview, Caveats, Definitions

There’s been a lot of talk in previous posts about garden bugs, but not much in the way of evidence. Now that I’ve got the garden evolved to the stage where it started attracting more than the usual suspects, I think it is time to start celebrating the bugs and other critters that make life interesting for the discerning bug gardener. From time to time I will digress into some aspect of gardening theory or practice, but for the moment lets enjoy some bugs.

ABOUT the PHOTOGRAPHS: As time and weather permit, we do our best to document the diversity in our yard, but neither of us are professional photographers: taking pictures is a way for us to relax and the quality of the images will vary. Most of the macrophotographs (and all of the good ones) that appears on this blog were taken by my wife and she retains all rights to them. If you wish to use them for some purpose, then you must request permission (leave a comment). Ditto for any of my images – but feel free to link to them or feature them.

MISINFORMATION @ The Home Bug Garden: I (the HBG) do the preparation and labeling of the photographs. If anyone sees what they think is a mistake, then please let me know (leave a comment). If you are correct, then I will change the id and give you credit. Any and all suggestions about improving the identifications are welcome, as are any comments about the natural history of the organisms. Remember, take all identifications on this blog with a grain of salt. The higher the taxonomic level, the more likely the identification is to be correct. So, family names will usually be correct, genera less often so, and species least of all.

WHAT is a BUG in the Home Bug garden? The HBG view on animal life on this planet is Manichean: there are the charismatic invertebrates (the bugs) and then the other 1%, the birdibrates. We do keep track of the birdibrates (birds and other animals with a backbone, such as myself) – any one we can see from our yard is fair game, from the sandhill cranes in their thousands as they gruk overhead every spring and fall, to the coyote scurrying across the street in the predawn, to the white-tailed jackrabbits that eat the shoots of anything in the Rosaceae that doesn’t have spines, to the red-breasted nuthatches and house sparrows that fight over the bird boxes every spring. In total, we have identified 31 families of birdibrates (including Hominidae) visible from or in the Home Bug Garden. In contrast, and remember we do this as a hobby while both holding down full-time jobs, we have identified 137 families of invertebrates actually in the Home Bug Garden. If we were just a little more industrious, say actually trapping insects and lugging them off to a microscope (instead of taking their pictures), we could have easily doubled this total.

So, let’s start bringing on the “bugs”.

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