In my youth I observed that all men of a certain age kept Dahlias. A prerequisite of cultivation seemed to be a supporting bamboo cane with a straw stuffed yoghurt pot on top. The ornament had a double purpose, to protect eyeballs and other tender parts from a poke with the stick and to trap earwigs for disposal. The beasts munch holes in petals, something that a serious gardener, particularly male, would never countenance. Now we know that they consume aphids as well as floral objects of obsession; it’s your garden, you choose.
Ipomoea (morning glory)
Many insects are useful. Bees are amiable but dim, pollinating flowers for fruit and seed production, whilst collecting the wherewithal to make honey. Wasps are spiteful and full of spleen. They are six legged Mafiosi, being cunning, sting with little or no provocation and exist mainly to ruin picnics. Woodlice are actually crustaceans and feed on rotting matter, having no effect on growing plants. They roll into balls when disturbed, leading to a colloquial name of pill bug. Chiggy pig is another moniker; I have no idea what that means. Creepy crawlies are at the base of the food chain, so encouraging them means more wildlife in general and birds in particular. I’ve installed a rather bijou creature hotel on a sunny wall, for beneficial insects only. I don’t yet know how I’ll insist on good buggery but time will tell. Perhaps the wasps will act as sharp suited enforcers.
Lathyrus latifolius “White Pearl” (perennial sweet pea) & Daucus carota (wild carrot)
I don’t spray for green/black/white fly, since toxic chemicals will kill bees and butterflies and numbers of these are declining drastically. I blast undesirables with the hose and if maddened beyond reason, will squash them in my fingers. At all stages of their life cycle, ladybirds eat aphids as if the former were emerging from a stringent twelve month diet. Prevalent in pots, vine weevils are a root consuming curse which I drown in a vile yellow drench. Dragonflies hawk around the pond at twilight, hoovering up midges, which saves me from doing the job. Flies are designed to put you off your sandwich if they get close enough. They lay eggs that hatch into maggots, which are nature’s recyclers. I work hard at being grateful. Anything with eight legs or more is there to make the insects feel a)inadequate and b)jealous. Slugs and snails are left gnashing their teeth in impotent, silent rage.
Atriplex hortensis (red orache)
Butterflies and moths are prima donnas; they flicker over the blossoms on trembling, painted wings. They emerge from the somewhat gross vehicle of a caterpillar to sip nectar and enchant humans of every age. Saw fly grubs look as if they will transform into something beautiful, so you allow them to annihilate your currant and gooseberry leaves, until a little research proves them worthy of slaughter. Crane flies or daddy long legs live in lawns as larvae known as leather jackets; these eat grass roots and can cause substantial damage. The destruction is entirely worth bearing if you have cats, as the surfacing adults may make your normally torpid moggy dance like Nureyev, as he tries to snatch a fluttering bug from the shimmering August air.