Oh, No! Ohhhh…Cool!

It’s been raining lately.

People often say when the sun is shining, “Isn’t it a beautiful day?!”

It probably is. And it’s also often a beautiful day when it’s raining. Because rain isn’t a “problem.” Rain tonight means I am typing this instead of picking tomatoes. Both are great and give me a happy.

The problem is, our species likes to problematize things.

  • Oh, no! Something is eating holes in the kale!
  • Oh, no! My flowers are only half-blooming!
  • Oh, no! Something crapped a funky dump on my plant!
  • And is that whiz on my grape leaves??!
  • Yes, hungry cabbage worms (caterpillars of Cabbage White butterflies) did cause those holes. It might not look attractive, but with a healthy ecosystem in the garden that includes spiders, wasps, and small birds, the large majority of caterpillars won’t grow up to be big and do major damage. The eggs and small caterpillars are a cog in the food chain that exists before you harvest kale, broccoli, rutabagas, etc. If you feel squicky about eating something that has been chomped on by baby butterfly teeth (or if you worry there might be some hangers-on), fill a large bowl with lukewarm water and stir in a hefty pour of salt – the cheap stuff that doesn’t have iodine added. Give your veggies a swirl and brief soak in there. Any cabbage worms will disengage and you can flush them away. Then rinse your greens well. Problem? Nah.
  • Those flowers actually had full blooms. As they aged and the seeds matured, they attracted American goldfinches! Goldfinches eat a great variety of seeds including dandelions, hyssop, tithonia, and zinnias. If petals are missing, you hosted a goldfinch for lunch. Cool!
  • Nope! That is not feces on the leaf, it’s a mimic! Eastern Black and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies both look like bird droppings when they are young caterpillars. “No need to eat me, predators, I’m just a little old poop.” Brilliant!
  • That wet-appearing zigzagging track on the grape leaf is not urine, it’s the result of a European Wool Carder bee. Females pull the tiny leaf hairs (trichomes) from the surface and roll them into a ball of ‘wool’ that is used to make nests for baby bees. How cool is that? See for yourself in the video below.
Video of Wool Carder Bee collecting grape leaf trichomes. Watch until the end to see her with the fluffy ball. The ambient soundtrack adds to the experience.

The next time you look around the ecology at your place, if there’s something seeming odd, gross, deformed, misshapen, or just funky-weird, I hope you’ll be curious. While it could be an actual problem on your plants (disease spreading, damage unchecked naturally) there’s a really good chance it’s not a problem at all.

What is not a problem at your place? Feel free to share. We’ll all keep growing and give a collective, “Oh! Cool!!”

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