Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Love Bugs!

Hi, my name is Jennifer and I recently got acquainted with MHC through a service learning project offered through a class (L350) that I'm currently taking at Indiana University. I've heard about MHC before through friends who've volunteered there and through my church but never really had any hands on volunteering experience there myself. I knew I would be helping out at the gardens but other than that I didn't really know what to expect. I imagined some weeding, some pruning, and some planting, but never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined the best part of volunteering at MHC would be the bugs! No, that isn't a typo, I'm actually really excited about the different insects I've encountered at the gardens, and I've ended up taking some home to keep as bug-pets! 

There was a swallow tail caterpillar in the mason jar that I found on a dill herb plant right in front of the MHC building while I was weeding! The really neat thing about these caterpillars is that if they feel threatened at all (or if you gently poke/squeeze them by the head) they will shoot out these bright orange antennas that not only help them look more scary than they actually are but also emit this sweet smelling odor as to warn potential predators to stay away! These caterpillars love to munch on fresh dill, carrots and parsley, and they turn into gorgeous butterflies!

I have also found some other unique and interesting bugs like grasshoppers, bees, and crickets that I just admired and left at the gardens. At the butler garden Kendra actually found a horn worm feasting on a pepper plant which she gladly handed over to me to take home! Even though they are called horn worms (the horn being the spiky thing located on their body), they actually resemble more of a caterpillar than a worm and end up turning into a large brown moth. They are notorious for eating a lot of plant material like tomato plants, pepper plants, and even rutabaga plants in a very short amount of time! They are often deeply camouflaged and can be hard to find; many times you will see their ginormous droppings before spotting the actual hornworms themselves! Kendra told me sometimes people think deer or rabbits completely ate up a garden when in reality it was actually these pint sized pests! They are living proof that you should never underestimate anything (especially this little bug) by its small size!

Finally there was this praying mantis that I found wandering on a corn stalk. It was camouflaged against the plant and was hard to locate at first. Don't underestimate these little guys as well as they can run/jump/even fly pretty fast! This one I would say is a teenager simply due to its size. Those can get pretty big (maybe double this one's size if not a little bigger) and are much more intimidating! If it were an adult I don't think I would have been able to catch it or hold it (especially without gloves)! Their little arms have spikes that pinch and hold their prey! As babies and teenagers they are still not as large or sharp so if they do feel threatened by you and end up pinching your finger or hand it just feels like a small prick; not a lot of pain at all. The adults on the other hand, with the fully developed spikes are even scary for me (a self-proclaimed bug lover) because those spikes are larger and definitely hurt more if they pinch you! Usually the adults I admire from afar and leave them be! They are also harder to catch because their wings are duly developed so they can fly away easily and quickly and with the youngsters their immature wings don't help them escape much! They rely more on their legs for jumping and running!

Don't get me wrong, gardening and harvesting have been a lot of fun here at MHC, but I still think finding such unique bugs take the cake! I've met a lot of new friends here as well (some who share my bug longing passion, others respectfully admire from afar) and I can't wait to continue my gardening and bug finding adventures! If you come out to volunteer Monday's or Wednesday's you just might find me (with high probability) deep in the gardens bug catching! :)

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