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What’s Bugging You?

Posted by presspass on
What’s Bugging You?

bee-blackeyed susan conflowe.jpghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1312/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Whats-bugging-you.html

“…many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth.” Charles Darwin

Twenty-three honeybees, ten lady beetles, five lizards, three frogs, and several spiders.

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Within two hours on a very hot day this past week, the rescue count from the swimming pool kept mounting. I was afraid to leave the water lest more of my garden friends would drown.  It’s summer and the flying insects, creepy crawlies, and slithering creatures are in abundance.  The ones I want to save are the ones that are our garden guardians. 

The Good Guys


We’ve all heard about the Colony Collapse Disorder affecting honey bees worldwide and the importance of protecting our all bees. Don’t confuse honey bees with carnivorous yellowjackets. Bees, bumble bees, and yellowjackets are all pollinators yet honey bees and bumble bees don’t attack humans unless they are stepped on, slapped, swatted, or threatened. They are gathering pollen and the honey bees are making honey while keeping our fruit, flowers, and vegetables reproducing. 

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Lady Beetles

There are over 450 species of ladybugs in the United States and they are voracious consumers of aphids, caterpillars, lace bugs, mealybugs, scale, whiteflies, and mites. Lady beetles are perhaps the most beloved of all insects and even though you can purchase them for your garden, they will fly away when their food level declines. An adult will eat over 5,000 aphids in her lifetime.

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Don’t be afraid of these garden helpers. Lizards are carnivores, not plant-eaters. You are fortunate if you have lizards in your yard. They eat beetles, ants, wasps, aphids, and grasshoppers. They like to bask in the sun and also shelter under rocks or in the mulch. Predators to lizards include cats, snakes, and birds. 

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Both frogs are toads are amphibians living on both land and in water. They need moisture to survive and prey upon snails, slugs, and other insects. However, if they fall into a swimming pool without a way to escape, they will drown. In one summer, a single toad may devour over 10,000 pests.  Some species will eat mosquito larvae. Like our lizard friends, pets, birds, and snakes enjoy them as a meal. Enjoy their choral music at dusk.



Fear of spiders is one of the most common phobias even though most spiders do not bite humans.  The two biting spiders with venom that can be fatal to humans are the black widow and the brown recluse. Spiders are not insects.  Spiders are arthropods as they have eight legs.  As happy hunters, they are excellent garden pest control managers, actually considered to be the most beneficial and efficient insect eradicator in our landscapes.  When you see a spider web, admire its delicate intricacy. Don’t destroy it. Inside your home, spiders are helping eradicate more invasive bugs.  Spiders don’t carry diseases like mosquitoes or ticks. 

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To keep the good guys attracted to our landscapes, eliminate pesticides, insecticides, and chemicals. Companion planting with a diversity of species will provide a variety of stalking and dining options. Offer shelters of mulch, rocks, small branches, and a water source.

The Bad Guys


Mosquito bites cause puffy red bumps that can itch for a week. Worse, mosquitoes are vectors for West Nile Virus that they transmit to humans. Empty any standing water around your garden and punch drainage holes in containers. Change birdbaths daily or add a re-circulating pump. If you have a pool or hot tub, keep it effectively chlorinated. Check for leaky faucets. It only takes a few days for larvae to mature. Vector Control is available at no charge to add mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) to your pond water.


Although yellowjackets do help with pollination, they are scavengers for meat and sugary food, disrupting picnics, summer outdoor activities, and barbecues. Never squash a yellowjacket. When crushed they emit a chemical that calls to other yellowjackets to attack. They build nests in abandoned burrows, in eaves, and bushes. Because their sting is so potent and painful, if you find a nest, call Vector Control for eradication.


Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing epidemics with over 300,000 diagnoses occurring annually in the United States. Summer is the most likely time to be bitten by a tiny deer tick. Ticks are parasites that feed on blood. They live in brush piles, leaf litter, lawns, tree stumps, ground cover, and stone or brick walls. They even have been found on picnic tables and benches. It’s important to wear tick repellent clothing when outside and after being outdoors, conduct a full body check, take a shower, and put your clothes in a hot dryer for thirty minutes to kill any ticks, then wash your clothes. (I know, it seems weird to dry first, then wash, but the heat of the dryer kills the ticks) Check your pets. Ticks can be hard to find and can linger in your hair, clothing, or pet fur. If you find a tick, don’t twist it or turn it. Use sanitized pointed tweezers to grab the tick and pull it straight out. Wash the bite, apply antiseptic, save the tick for identification, and seek medical attention.

The “bad guys” are on my ‘danger watch out” list. I’ve had three trips already to either urgent care or the emergency room with ticks lodged in my neck that required surgery to remove.  Mosquitoes are my nemesis inflicting gigantic, itching bites with bumps that last for two weeks or more. In the last year, I’ve stumbled upon three yellowjacket nests, suffering multiple stings on my hand and arms with swelling that abated after a week. 

The “good guys” I’ll continue to rescue as they are my garden “watchdogs” along with the numerous birds and hummingbirds that thankfully aren’t nose-diving!

What’s bugging you?

Bug Out!

Posted by Editor on
Bug Out!


Digging Deep-Gardening with Cynthia Brian

Bug Out!

By Cynthia Brian
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” ~ Albert Einstein

If 60 is the new 40, golden is the new green, and driving a dirty car is the sign of being environmentally correct, it’s time to talk about what’s really bugging us. With the drought many homeowners are experiencing an invasion of uninvited insects and varmints hungry to eat what’s left of our crops while some are dining on us as main courses.

vetch with euphorbia

Although many of the insects such as lady beetles, ground beetles, lacewings, praying Mantis, and predatory nematodes that visit our gardens are beneficial biologicals, the ones that we want to bug out are the bugs (arachnids, arthropods, and other entomological species) that bother, interfere, destroy, and traumatize.

Ants in the garden are actually dining on the sweet honeydew made by mealybugs and aphids. Although some species of ants feed on soft plant tissue or seeds, you’ll usually find ants crawling up and down plants where they are herding colonies of aphids or mealybugs. If you grow artichokes, you’ve probably witnessed ants infesting the chokes.  Armies of ants on the kitchen counter in summer are scream-able. Make a tea of cayenne pepper, lemon rind, mint, rosemary, and clove. Spray on the soil…and in your kitchen.

Stone fruit like apricots, peaches, plums, prunes, and nectarines are ripe and ready right now. Whether you buy them at the farmer’s market or grow them in your backyard, if left in the fruit bowl, fruit flies will appear. The eggs could be in the fruit, or the flies could be flying in through an open window or door. Fruit flies are just a nuisance doing little harm except being annoying. Keep your compost bucket outside and covered during the summer. If they are bothering you indoors, add vinegar, wine, and a piece of any fruit to a bowl. Cover tightly with foil. Punch holes in the foil and watch them drown!
Garden statues
Ticks are not going to damage your garden, but they could cost you a trip to the emergency room or hospital. Ticks attach themselves to the fur and feathers of animals and birds. Often they reside on grasses or brush and hop onto a warm-blooded creature where dinner awaits. As gardeners, hikers, or animal lovers, ticks are a common problem. Wearing long sleeves, removing clothing, and washing hair after being outdoors may help in the prevention of tick bites, however, because of the possibility of Lyme disease or a severe allergic reaction it’s best to see a medical professional immediately when bit. If you remove the tick, make sure to save it in a jar for identification.

Buzzing blood-suckers, these tiny vampires wreak havoc on humans. They are considered “public enemy number one” in the fight against global infectious diseases. Interestingly, only the female has the mouthparts to suck our blood homing in on exhaled carbon dioxide, certain body odors, heat, and movement. The itchiness you feel after a bite is an allergic reaction to the saliva. The only good news about these vectors is that birds, frogs, bats, turtles, and dragonflies eat them in the garden. Empty any standing water as they breed rapidly, slather on the DEET, and when outdoors, plug in a large fan to blow them away. Planting citronella on the patio may help.
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These true bugs puncture plant tissue and suck the juice, attacking our peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and many flowering plants. They prefer to be upwind in a garden and often are herded by ants. Overfeeding with nitrogen encourages aphid infestation as they eat new growth. Aphids multiply rapidly. Spray with water mixed with dishwashing detergent and use row covers on crops.

It’s a myth that the name was derived because these pinchers drilled into the ears of sleeping humans, burrowing into their brains. They are omnivores who tunnel into fruit and bulbs as well as dine on lettuce, potatoes, roses, zinnias, artichokes, corn, and many other plants. Make traps out of small cardboard boxes baited with a piece of meat and oil. They’ll hide at night and you’ll get them in the morning. Despite nibbling on plants, they do help gardeners by devouring other predatory insects.

With the California drought a reality, expect more intruders into your landscape pillaging, biting, and sucking. Get creative with natural tonics and use your imagination to keep the stinging, nibbling, and gnawing at bay.  Enjoy the coming attractions of summer!

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!
garden cloche

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Tips for July

• ⎫ PERUSE bulb catalogues for the varieties of tulips and daffodils that you’ll want to buy this fall for November-January planting.
• ⎫ PLANT succulents and cactus for the most effective waterless garden.
• ⎫ DISCOVER the benefits of Miniclover® as a lawn alternative. I have found that Miniclover® stays green when the rest of my lawn is “golden” and it is very low maintenance.  Although I mow, it probably would be fine without mowing.  Check out www.outsidepride.com for more information.
• ⎫ SPEND a morning at your local Farmer’s Market and load up on veggies and fruits that you are not growing in your garden.
• ⎫ HARVEST beans, eggplants, greens, and peppers before they reach their full size. Smaller vegetables are tender and tasty.
• ⎫ BEAUTIFY your landscape with pavers or crushed granite paths. Plant creeping time between the stones.

Read it all at Lamorinda Weekly

• Read July Garden Guide at Lamorinda Weekly
• Read Press Pass

Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.

Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best selling author, speaker, coach, and host of the radio show, StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® broadcasting live every Wednesday from 4-5pm PT on the Voice America Network.. She also is the creator and producer of Express Yourself!™ Teen Radio and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501c3 charity.

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