I’ve been on a waiting list for a plot at a community garden for some time, and last week learned that a plot was available. Since it’s gone untended all year, that means a lot more clearing out than actual growing just yet. As I cut down and dug up a forest of wild carrots and mint gone rampant, I discovered that my garden was not just home to lots of weeds, but also to lots, and lots, of bugs.
I am not a bug person. Spiders make me scream, bees will elicit a flurry of arm waving and hopping and flinching, and ants, beetles, crickets, and millipedes will all have me running for a corner of the room that is as far away from them as I can get. But as I dug in the dirt over the past few days, I discovered a few things: first, I don’t so much mind bugs when they’re outside, where they belong; and second, that they are actually kind of fascinating to watch. My kids and I watched giant ants scurrying to save their larvae after we turned over a log that they had been living in, we saw more types of spiders than I knew existed, and my son dug for “roly-poly parties,” as he called them, and we watched them all running away or curling up into balls as they made their escape. It turns out that I actually like seeing all the bugs in my garden. It makes me feel as though any spot that can support that much life will surely also support the plants I put in.
Books on insects and entomology might not be your first choice for summer reading, but they are actually a pretty good seasonal pick. To help me identify what some of the little guys are, I picked up A Field Guide to the Insects of America North of Mexico, as well as The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. My parents used to have copies of several of the Audubon Society field guides, and I always loved trying to figure out what different types of butterflies I saw. It’s actually a little difficult to find a field guide to insects; there are just so many different types that most books don’t try and tackle them all. So even though using a field guide is a lot of fun, I also plan on using a book like Good Bug, Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What They Do, and How to Manage Them Organically (All You Need to Know About the Insects in Your Garden).
Even if you don’t garden, there are still other interesting books on insects. A Fly for the Prosecution: How Insect Evidence Helps Solve Crimes and Maggots, Murder, and Men: Memories and Reflections of a Forensic Entomologist are both about how insects can be used in forensic investigations, to determine time of death or whether a body was moved from a crime scene, for instance. And if you’re looking for a novel, you can always pick up Robert A. Heinlein’s classic Starship Troopers. Like all good science fiction, there’s a definite subtext here, but the story at face value is about a war on an alien planet on which the aliens are giant arachnids. *Shudder*