In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dangerous garden

As soon as the seedlings began to emerge I saw silvery traces of slime in the garden beds. The tiny turnip leaves were already being chewed. Slugs. I had read about setting out beer traps so on Saturday evening -- a perfect time for a party, or a drowning, however you prefer to imagine it -- I took matters into my own hands and did just that. I used the dregs of Greg's latest home brew, not wanting to waste the real thing on such undiscerning drinkers. 

My organic gardening book warned that I needed to build a complicated contraption or risk the collateral damage of beneficial insects. I ignored the advice, thinking it overly scrupulous.  I set out plastic lids turned upside down and filled them with beer dregs.  I imagined the slugs, under cover of darkness, slitherng eagerly into the lids and enjoying a brief moment of drunken ecstasy before permanent oblivion closed upon them. They would die happy I thought, or at least in a stupor. 

But when I checked the lids this morning there were no slugs. Instead I found four beetles deep in the brew. Disgusted with myself, I dumped three of them into the garden path and brought one into the house to identify it.  Margot and Dave and Skipper and Dylan were coming for breakfast, so I carefully placed the beetle on top of the book case. I thought a drowned beetle wasn't the most appetizing sight for guests, even if they are island neighbours who are used to a number of conditions not encountered in the polite world. I would look him up later. Then, getting ready for breakfast, I forgot about him.

"A bug just flew off the  shelf," Dylan announced during breakfast. It's true what they say: Dylan does have sharp eyesight. When I investigated it turned out that he was right. The bug -- miraculously revived -- now lay on the floor, on his back, waving his legs. After breakfast I identified him and put him back in the garden. I noticed that his three fellow partyers were not where I had dumped them earlier. They must have dragged themselves home with serious headaches. 

My tiny drunks are ground beetles, among the vast crew of beneficial insects you really don't want to lose. They are, literally, do-gooders. They were on my side all along! Or, more precisely, on the side of light and life and tiny turnip greens, which I like to think of as my side even though obviously that's not always true. They are ancient animals whose favourite menu includes slugs, snails, cutworms and root maggots. Sometimes they eat an earthworm, too, but nobody's perfect.  

I hope I have learned my lesson. From now on I'll depend on the mercy of ground beetles, sober and alert, patrolling the garden while I sleep, being good for the garden even though I don't deserve it. 

No comments: