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Learn about how to handle garden bugs

Not all insects in the garden are pests. Many organisms are harmless or even beneficial to your garden.

Cari Taylor, an entomologist for the Springs Preserve, will explain the difference in a program, “What’s Bugging Your Garden,” at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. She’ll show you how to manage pests with minimal environmental risks.

Taylor loves insects. She watches over her scorpions like a hen watching over her chicks. To Taylor, it’s a miracle how scorpions make it in this world. The mother carries her babies on her back for a week or so after birth, protecting them from other pests. And later, if she becomes hungry, she may eat them. Taylor will have her scorpions at the seminar to show off.

Taylor is concerned about how we control pests.

“There are many good insects in our gardens,” she said. “If we give them a chance to build up, they’ll take out the bad insects.”

The lacewing is one of Taylor’s favorite insects. It’s a small lime-green insect that goes unnoticed doing its job of eating pests. Taylor will have these tiny bugs on a big screen TV at the seminar to show how they feast on aphids.

“Aphids are so busy feeding on plants they don’t know someone is eating them,” Taylor said.

Lacewings lay tiny football-shaped eggs on a half-inch high pedestal. Ants and other insects are busy looking for food under them, never realizing there’s food above.

“It’s not adult insects that eat pests; its the larvae,” she said. “For example, an adult ladybird beetle eats about six aphids a day to sustain it, while its alligator-looking larvae consume about a 100 aphids a day.

Taylor loves funnel spiders. It builds a funnel-shaped web and waits within it for her prey. The spider is lightning fast when insects visit her web to get them. She then injects venom in the insect and later enjoys the feast. This spider makes different kinds of webbing and knows which strands to walk on when maneuvering to catch her prey.

Then, Taylor mentions “insectary plants.” These plants produce nectar and pollen, which beneficial insects feed on while waiting for bad insects to come along. Taylor recommends placing these plants among established plants to keep the good insects around. It’s becoming the rage as we become more sustainable.

Here are some examples: desert marigold, chocolate flower, butterfly bush, brittlebush, buckwheat, trailing lantana, Texas sage, penstemon and globe mallow.

Finally, Taylor said, “If gardeners inspected their gardens more, they would never have to use chemicals. Pesticides wipe out good insects, while bad pests build up resistance to pesticides. They multiply faster and it takes time for good insects to build up.

TREE NURSERY PLANT SALE

The Las Vegas State Tree Nursery is having its plant sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs, 9600 Tule Springs Road. Go north on U.S. 95; turn right on Durango Drive and then right on Brent Lane to put you at the park. The entrance guard will direct you to the nursery. For more information, call 486-5411 or go to www.forestry.nv.gov.

There also is an educational component at the sale. At 10 a.m. Friday and at 9 a.m. Saturday, Norm Schilling will cover the “Five Keys to Successful Gardening,” and then at 10 a.m., “Plant Selection and Roles Plants Play in Landscapes.” At 1 p.m. Saturday, Dennis Swartzell of Horticulture Consultants will talk about “Shaping Trees for Beautiful Landscapes.”

The nursery has hundreds of water-conserving plants available for establishing a wildlife habitat and windbreak in your yard, as well as meeting other needs. Plants come in one- to 15-gallon containers, ranging in price from $3 to $25. All transactions must be with cash or check.

Here are some of my favorites for sale:

Chaste or vitex tree can be a large shrub or small tree. Its grayish aromatic leaves and numerous lilaclike flowers on the ends of every branch become very showy each summer.

Coolibah or eucalyptus tree is a fast-growing single or multitrunked tree that gets large. Its blue-green leathery leaves stand out in landscapes and it doesn’t have much of a litter problem. It tolerates reflected heat and strong winds.

The lacebark elm has bark peeling off that’s cinnamon colored to catch the eye. It’s a handsome, fast-growing tree, with very beautiful, arching vase-shape branches as it matures, making it a good choice for large landscapes.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@springspreserve.org or call him at 822-7754.

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