Bugs, Slugs and other Thugs

That’s the title of an organic pest control book we have at the High Park Children’s Garden, which made it into our book bin this summer. I don’t think we really used the book much, but the title was one we constantly refered to all summer. It’s just too good! And also a good way to start off a little post about some of the critters we saw at camp this summer.

As always, we saw (and heard) LOTS of cicadas. But it’s always pretty special to see them when they’ve just moulted.

A freshly-moulted cicada.

There was also this cool zipper spider that we saw in the garden last week – check out its web!

A zipper spider in the High Park garden.

Then there was the snapping turtle we hung out with (from a distance) while down at the Brickworks with the LITs.

Hanging out with a snapping turtle at the Brickworks.

I also practiced my tracking skills in the garden this summer, identifying a critter by its eating patterns and its poop.  I was in the garden one Friday afternoon, checking out the tomatoes, when I stumbled upon some half-eaten tomatoes, and then on a nearby leaf was a nice pile of poop. I knew it wasn’t mouse or squirrel poop, and started speculating that it might be that of the dreaded tomato hornworm (who definitely fit into the “thug” category, when speaking in garden terms). When I got home, I googled “tomato hornworm poop” (do the same if you’re curious: it’s pretty distinctive-looking poop), and sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed. I e-mailed my supervisors who had a garden event coming up that weekend, and they had the kids search for them and find about a dozen. Over the next few camp days, we found probably about the same amount. I had heard about tomato hornworms for years, but had yet to see them in real life. They’re HUGE! The ones we found were probably about 10cm (4″) long, but apparently they can grow to about 15 cm (6″)! Wowzers! And they’re big and round and have a marshmallowy texture. I’ve never been one to think bugs are gross and I’ll always take bugs and spiders outside if I find them in the house, but over the past few years of gardening, I’ve developed strong feelings against garden pests. If I were to see a hornworm innocently hanging out in the woods, I would think it was really cool. If I see it eating my tomatoes, well, watch out hornworm!  Anyway, for those who haven’t see them, here are a couple of pictures.

Tomato hornworms hanging out in a bug box.

One of the LITs holding a tomato hornworm.











And, this last creature is most definitely not a bug, slug nor other thug, but he’s just too cute not to post a picture of. And he IS a creature I got to hang out with in High Park over the summer.

Hanging out with Kaboom, the baby wallaby in the High Park zoo.

Happy growing!


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