Wildlife in our yard and garden tends to drive us crazy. After all, deer can eat everything in sight from all the plants that you put in as well as expensive flowers and bushes while rabbits and groundhogs seem to mock your gardening efforts as they enjoy the salad bar they think you planted just for them. If that is not bad enough, there are the squirrels, tearing up the lawn or making fun of your cat in the window. Of course, how can I forget all of them love to take a dump right in your lawn as their way of saying they love you. But other visitors in the yard are wonderful to find since they are beneficial pest assassins that you want to encourage to your garden to control insects.
For instance, toads are strange little guys that aren’t the prettiest of creatures, but despite their lack of beauty they are also beneficial pest assassins. They are voracious when it comes to eating insects from what I observed from several that hopped into my garden over the years. They can eat 100 bugs and slugs a day. Where do these little natural predators put them?
Apparently, you shouldn’t be handling toads since they can secrete a chemical. So if you happen to touch one accidentally or have an urge to relocate one to a new spot, I would wash my hands. You won’t get a wart from any toad because that is just a myth. Regardless, there is still a possibility of coming in contact with that milky-white secretion that is a toxin that you want to avoid.
If you want to encourage garden visitors like toads around to control insects, you can also tempt them by creating a place for them to stay. They like plenty of foliage and in a high area. They don’t need to have a pond like a frog but they like it moist. Having toads around may save you from using a toxic chemical pest control, which is not good for toads or you anyway.
Toads they will figure out a place to live but you can even build them their own DIY toad house. You can use things like planters that can shield them from the elements and in a shady spot that they can crawl into. The ideal spot in your yard or garden is where the foliage is thicker and will protect them better from baking in the sun.
Another natural predator for biological pest control is a mantis. People call them Praying Mantis because they stand up a bit and they have these huge “hands.” And let me tell you they can use those hands well.
I had a cat growing up that encountered a mantis and being a cat had to investigate. The cat can just eat the mantis you would think. But my cat kept getting hit in the face by those huge arms and finally my frustrated cat thought that mantis wasn’t worth her time and walked away.
The mantis will lay its eggs and you will see these weird things stuck to branches of plants. Try to imagine some spray foam you might spray out of a can to insulate your house. When it dries, the mantis egg mass will look like that. And whatever you do don’t let kids bring them into the house!
My brother as a boy took one of those mantis egg masses that he found to school in a container. It was cold then and around Easter. He took it for some sort of school project when he was in elementary school. The egg mass was out in the cold when he found it, but it was warm inside the school building where a mantis nest remained locked in its container through the holiday. Somehow, the mantis eggs hatched and released a massive invasion of mantis babies all over his school room. Coming back after school break the kids watched the janitor spraying down the entire back wall of the room covered in tiny mantis bugs looking for a meal! I have seen a few mantises around and you can buy them through mail order or so I’ve been told too. But if you come across one be careful. Leave it in your yard and not your house.
Ladybugs are other friendly garden visitors you want around to control insects. In fact, my state released them directly into the environment just for their excellent help eating a lot of bad insects. Leave them be if you come across them.
So as we douse our gardens and yards with more and more chemicals we kill the good with the bad. Now this year I had to go chemical. I had moles. I heard the owl hooting and one year he ate the moles but this year he slacked off from duties! Even after an application of the Grub-X, the toads and other visitors were ok. I am never going to be one of those people who have the tank truck spraying the yard down all the time for what it can do to the environment and health. I’ll use foul-smelling chemicals only as a last resort when I need to do, but that’s it.