Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Ever Seen One Of These By Your Beehive?

September 15, 2011

I was working my hives the other day and had a visitor…

For some reason there seems to be a greater abundance of these creatures this year.

As with everything else this year, we’ll blame it on the weather.

Better yet, we’ll call him an opportunist!

This the Giant Robber Fly or “Bee Killer” and they feed on honey bees and other insects.

But because the honeybee supply is so abundant and accessible here, they are called “Bee Killers”!

They’re fast when they snatch a bee out of the air and they’re very noisy so it’s easy to know when these insects are around.

However, they have eternal patience while they wait for just the right moment.

Grab and Go meals 🙂

I like the fact that these are predatory insects, just not wild about the fact that around here their prey are my bees.

Here’s some other interesting information about the Giant Robber Fly:

There are over 7,000 species of robber flies world wide; nearly 1,000 in North America.

All robber flies have stout, spiny legs, a dense moustache of bristles on the face (mystax), and 3 simple eyes (ocelli) in a characteristic depression between their two large compound eyes. The mystax helps protect the head and face when the fly encounters prey bent on defense. The antennae are short, 3-segmented, sometimes with a bristle-like structure called an arista.

The short, strong proboscis is used to stab and inject victims with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which paralyze and digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied meal much like we vacuum up an ice cream soda through a straw. Many species have long, tapering abdomens, sometimes with a sword-like ovipositor. Others are fat-bodied bumble bee mimics; the effect is quite convincing.

Florida Predatory Stink Bug

June 22, 2011

I was walking up to the front porch this morning and saw this sight…

Two things about this made me smile.  First, the orange and black bug is a Florida Predatory Stink Bug – a benenficial.  Second – he was eating a cockroach.  I REALLY dislike cockroaches.  The little American Cockroaches, like the one captured here, aren’t quite as bad as those BIG cockroaches that fly!!

I must admit, I’m fascinated by these Assasin Bugs!  See that “tube” extendging from his mouth?  They inject an enzyme into the body of their prey which liquifies the insides.  Then, The Florida Predatory Stink Bug sucks it all out – kinda like a Cockroach Smoothie!           

The fact that the FPSB (Florida Predatory Stink Bug) could catch a cockroach in the first place, puts him high on my list.  Those little suckers are fast!   …the cockroach, not the FPSB.

Another note of interest, typically a “stink bug” is a bad bug and you want to squish them.  But this particular stink bug is a beneficial so it’s good to know what they look like.  The nymphs for this particular bug are beautiful!  They look like little jewels – brilliant in color.     

Another note of interest – the FPSB will also eat those annoying little Plastabid beetle, now called the Kudzu bug.  They’re those little beetles you find all over your bean plants here in the south.

Here’s some more info on the Florida Predatory Stink Bug…

Lady Bug Look-alike but it’s a Colorado Potato Beetle

June 7, 2011

I was out in the garden and noticed this bug on my tomato plants.  At first, I thought it was a Lady Bug metamorphasizing.

But it’s not.

I’m not sure what it is actually.

They remind me of a tick when it’s swelled up and they’re very messy – yep, a lot of poop and whatever that liquid is 😦

The front end looks like some sort of a beetle…

They have a neck…

and really squishy looking bodies with lots of dots on the side.

The “tail” reminds me of the back two “legs” of a caterpillar.

And the spots…

The more these bugs ate, the bigger they got – all puffed up.

Don’t they sorta look like a Lady Bug??

But they’re not.

Anyone know what this is?  Would love the info so I can know too!

Garden Walk – May 19, 2011

May 19, 2011

My cabbages are coming along nicely so far.  The weather’s been perfect but it’s supposed to hit the 90’s by the weekend.  Since cabbages are a cool weather crop, we’ll see how they hold up.  I was really  hoping to make sauerkraut this year!

Pulled quite a few cabbage worms off of them this morning.  Wasps will also eat the worms but I thought I’d lend a hand!

So far, I like the cucumbers on the bed frame…

It does require a bit more time for tying up the plants.  I’ve gotten 3 cukes out of here so far.

Remember these eggs from the last post?  Well, they finally hatched…

Thank goodness for the micro setting on my camera.  I honestly couldn’t see them.

After seeing these pics, I do believe these are Ladybug larva and they consume more aphids than an adult Ladybug.  This particular tomato plant had quite a few aphids on the leaves.

These eggs still have not hatched but they went from being clear to this greyish-brown color.  I’ll keep checking…

It’s the end of the season for this lettuce.

I pinched out the middle so they wouldn’t bolt and it’s helped them last longer.  Don’t they look like little trees?

I have to say, this is my first year for growing Kale and I love it – both the look and the taste.  It will definitely become a regular in the garden from now on.

Garden Walk – May 13, 2011

May 13, 2011

This year I tried something new with my cucumbers.  I’d seen in a book where the person had used a bed frame as a trellis.  Only it was a horizontal trellis.  This is a left-over bunk bed frame.

The idea is to get the plants to grow on top of the frame and the cucumbers, or whatever else you grow, will hang under the frame.  This will help with air circulation, mildew problems and keeping the fruit or vegetables cleaner.  And maybe I’ll see the cucumbers before they become baseball bat size!

I have lots of these on my plants…

And these…

But this is my favorite!!!

Ever grown Tomatillos?  They’re a staple in Mexican cuisine and wonderful in salsa!

The flowers remind me of Spanish dancers…

And the fruit or tomato comes wrapped in a paper sack.  They’re  wonderful to grow and by the looks of mine – we’re going to have an abundance this year 🙂

And here’s the baby tomato we’re all familiar with.

Was glad to see this on the underside of one of the tomato leaves.  Know what it is?

It’s the egg of a Lacewing – a beneficial insect for the garden.  I love how they look like little balloons on the end of a string…

And I saw these on my tomato plants too.

This one plant has more than I like to see…

But between this Lady Bug and the Lacewing, they won’t be there long!

On the same leaf as the Lacewing egg, I also saw these…

And these…

Three different types of eggs on this one leaf.  I feel like there’s a major battle about to begin.  I know that insects lay eggs where they know there will be food.  I just want to know if these two are beneficials or not.  I left them on the leaf so I can check on them to see what emerges.

Okay, I’m thinking Sci-Fi….

And the alien is born!!!!   (the flower of a wild onion)

Did I tell you that one of my Guineas is setting?  I’m so excited, although I’ve heard they’re not great mothers…

She sure is beautiful and so far, very committed!  Hmmm- shouldn’t that one egg be tucked up underneath, Momma Guinea?

These were everywhere today in one part of my flower garden.

I believe this is the American Hover Fly and they are hugely beneficial!

Adult drinks nectar. The larva preys on aphids and larvae of scale insects.

Ahh, and the jury is out on this one!  Stink bug or Soldier bug?  One is good, the other is not…

It was on my Rue plant and I found it interesting that it was yellow underneath.  Don’t remember noticing this before…

The flowers on this plant are yellow and about the same size as this insect.

And one of my favorites!!  Found this Praying Mantis on the Lambs Ear.  Must feel like a giant feather bed!

This little guy was only about a 1/2″ long…

Ever look closely at all the little tiny flowers of the Yarrow plant?  They’re beautiful….

Thanks for sharing my walk with me 🙂

Spring Garden – March ’11

March 27, 2011

I finally got to the beds in my garden this week for the final turning of the soil.

The interns were a big help.  The hen house floor was dug down about 6 inches and the dirt was added to the beds in the garden.

Then the soil was turned one last time and it was time to plant.

I put in Red cabbage, Green cabbage, collards, and lettuce.  I still had spinach and swiss chard that survived the winter.

My Guineas leave those other plants alone…

but not the cabbage!

With 7 acres of other plants and lots and lots of bugs, why must they hone in on my cabbage?

I have plans for these plants….Sauerkraut!

Won’t get much from plants that look like this….

At least those Guineas leave my flowers alone 🙂

Juvenile Black Widow Spider

February 4, 2011

I know there are quite a few out there who don’t like spiders….I can understand why since they’re almost always given a bad rap.  However, I am not one of those people.  I love spiders and have a huge respect for their force in the bug world.  I’ll admit, I don’t like them crawling on me, especially when I’m sleeping but I do love to watch them.

The other day, a turned over rock revealed this spider…

I used to think that this was  a male Black Widow since I knew the males were smaller.  But it’s not a male….

It’s a juvenile female.  And yes, she still has the “hour glass” on her underside.  This one was about the size of a pea – a small pea.  The coloration is beautiful!

Males are smaller, brown in color, and aren’t venomous to humans.

I’ve educated my children about Black Widows and unless the spiders are truly in the way, I’ve asked them not to kill them.

They are voracious eaters and they help to cut down the population of bad bugs in my gardens.

Here’s a link for more information on the Black Widow spider –

Five-Lined Skink

January 31, 2011

This weekend was a farm work weekend.  Another friend and I work together on both farms one weekend a month.  On Saturday, we were working on her garden area and when she moved a pedestal from a birdbath….

…this is what we found!  It’s a Five-lined Skink.

Five-lined skinks are common in most areas of Georgia and South Carolina, but are most abundant in the Piedmont.

The ground was cold and he was still in the shade so he wasn’t moving very fast – he’s cold bloodied and his speed increases with the warmth of his body.

Five-lined skinks prey on a wide variety of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.  See that little snail shell next to his head?  I’m thinking maybe that was a meal at one point 🙂

I had no idea those back feet had toes that long!  Five-lined Skink can also hang out in trees so I’m guessing toes like that would be useful for going up!

The blue on the tail is so beautiful…

The color tells us that he is under a year old.  And yes, if the tail breaks off, they will grow another only it’s not as nice as the original.

That hole on the side of his head is his ear!

Female five-lined skinks lay clutches of several eggs in moist soil or rotten logs during the summer and attend the eggs until they hatch about 60 days later.

When the Skink hatches, it’s about 2″ long and independent.

Hard to believe that lizard came out of this egg at some point- the shell is about the size of a Jellybelly  jellybean.

I moved my camera and and the sun began to warm him up.  Five-lined skinks are most active in the day.

Soon he was scurrying to find some place to hide.  If you look carefully, you really can count all 5 lines.  (the 5th line can only be seen by his head.)

As Spring starts heading our way – I’m sure we’ll begin to see more of these fascinating creatures.

All Day Garden Workshop – April 2, 2011

January 4, 2011

Class fee:

Early registration – $50 per person

After March 1st – $60 per person

**There is a class limit of 30

Please contact to register for this workshop or call 770-289-2301

This workshop is designed to cover all the basics for a successful gardening season.  There will be door prizes and drawings throughout the day, adding to the assortment of tools needed for starting your own garden.  A packet of information will be available for each workshop.

Lunch will be provided by the Lazy B Farm “chefs” using items from our own gardens.

Workshop Schedule:

7:45 am: Meet and Greet

8am – 10: Square Foot Gardening

10:15 – 12:00 pm:  Herbs

12:00 – 1:00:  Lunch    Guest Speaker – Salina from Remedy (herbal shop) in Athens

1 – 2:45:  Beneficial Insects     Guest Speaker – Amanda Tedrow

3 – 5:00:  Hoop Houses

Class Description

Square Foot Gardening

We’ll gather in the classroom and cover the basics of gardening, soil preparation and the technique of Square Foot Gardening.  Together, we’ll construct a square foot garden, complete with plants.


Herbs are such versatile plants, although most people only use them for culinary purposes.  We’ll discuss the best way to grow herbs, how to incorporate them into your landscape, and the herbs that grow well here in the Southeast.  As a class, we’ll harvest herbs from the farm and learn how to preserve them for future use.  We ill also discuss the more “unconventional” uses for herbs like teas and tinctures.

Beneficial Insects

I love bugs and have realized how beneficial bugs can be for our garden…if you know the good ones from the bad ones.  During this class, we’ll scour the garden and find “specimens” to bring back to the classroom.  We’ll identify the bugs, whether they are beneficial or not, and how to “organically” get rid of the bad ones.

Our guest speaker will be Amanda Tedrow who has just completed her Master’s degree in Entomology – bugs!

Hoop Houses

You may have heard of hoop houses but what is the difference between a hoop house and a green house?  What’s the benefit of a hoop house?  How can I use them successfully in my yard?

We will discuss this and more in this session.  Time permitting, we will construct a hoop house that will be perfect for any backyard.

What to Bring:

*Notebook and writing utensil if you’re the kind who likes to take notes.  (There  will be handouts for each workshop.)

* Boots and gardening gloves – you will be playing in the dirt.

* Extra clothes if you really like to get into your work.

* Coffee mug if you’re a coffee or tea drinker – helps us in our efforts to be good stewards of the environment

* Containers to carry home plants

* Water and snacks – there will be light breakfast items available in the morning

If you’d like to attend this workshop, please contact to register or call 770-289-2301

The Wheel Bug and the Red Wasp

November 18, 2010

The other day I was out on my driveway building a gate.  I’d seen this huge Wheel Bug hanging around and was pleased to have the visitor since I now know he’s a beneficial bug.  I thought about taking some pictures but I was pretty focused on the project.  I saw him periodically throughout the day.  And then, just as I was cleaning up and the dusk was beginning to fall I saw this….

Of course I had to move in closer…

The Wheel Bug had caught the Red Wasp and was having his supper!  Can you see the “straw” inserted into the abdomen of the Red Wasp?

When it encounters a prey item–usually some adult insect or caterpillar–it typically lunges forward in its own slow way, grabs onto the prey with its front legs, and buries its hypodermic beak into some soft body part of the hapless prey.

The Wheel Bug has some of the best-developed mouthparts of any True Bug. Its formidable beak  arises at the anterior end of its long tubular head and unfolds forward.

After he was done with the abdomen, he moved his beak to the thorax…

Look at the eye of the wasp – isn’t it beautiful?

The Wheel Bug  injects enzyme-laden saliva–which immobilizes the prey within 30 seconds and turns its parts into porridge–after which the predatory bug sucks out all the victim’s bodily fluids.

This activity, of course, kills the prey item, which is why the Wheel Bug is classified in the Reduviidae–the Assassin Bug Family. It’s worth noting that Wheel Bugs aren’t all that particular about where they stick their beaks–which is fair warning that humans should use appropriate care when handling one.

Some folk have allergic reactions to the bite, while others simply say a Wheel Bug nibble hurts ten times more than a hornet sting and takes weeks or months to heal.

Do you see how the Wheel Bug holds the Red Wasp with his leg?

I watched the Wheel Bug until it was too dark to see- he’s not a very fast eater 🙂  I was thankful the Wheel Bug had been there that day – I like to think he was protecting me from that Red Wasp.

It’s amazing the amount of activity that’s happening all around us in the insect world while we carry on with our day.  I love taking the time to sneak a peek every now and then into their world.

A thank you to the site of  for added information on the Wheel Bug.