Creepy crawlers

Not only is the garden a place for plant growth, it’s a gathering place for insects and animals eager to enjoy nature’s bounty. Sometimes those animals and insects are what we consider pests, such as gophers (the war for the backyard continues!) and caterpillars in my cabbages. But many insects are beneficial in the garden. Bees have been headlining the list lately with the issues over hive collapse disorder, but other bugs are important, too. Ladybugs are a good example, because they eat aphids.

Anyway, here’s a sample of what’s creeping and crawling in my garden lately:

Here is a bee (it only looks green… it’s not a fly) gathering pollen from a male pumpkin blossom (the pumpkin is one of many plants that is considered “bisexual,” having both male and female flowers… more on that in a minute). Can you see the pollen on the bee’s legs?

A ladybug/ladybird beetle chillin’ in the dill. Hopefully protecting it from aphids and other pests!

Joining the ladybug beetle in the dill is a wasp. Humans definitely value bees over wasps for their pollen spreading services, but wasps are predators and are helpful in their own right. In the lower righthand side of the picture, there is an ant. There’s another in the middle bottom of the photo. I hope the wasp was hunting ants!

Here’s a crab spider (not sure exact kind) in the marigolds!

Oh, and since I mentioned the pumpkin flowers earlier, here’s a brief biology lesson: Many plants are considered bisexual or “perfect,” which means they have both male and female flowering parts.

Pictured above is the male pumpkin flower with its slender, pollen-containing stamen. Male pumpkin flowers usually come onto the scene before the female flowers, but eventually there are both at the same time. Pollen from the stamen will be carried by bees (or you can be your own bee: pick the make flower and rub the stamen on the female flower) to the female flower’s multi-segmented stigma, shown in the photo below. The pollenated female flower will go on to become a pumpkin!

I have to say I find it endlessly amusing that while some humans seem to consider anything but heterosexuality peculiar,
bisexuality in flowering plants (“angiosperms”) is considered perfect. Oh, the irony.

Anyway, that concludes today’s bug lesson! I hope you’ve enjoyed the up-close-and-personal view of the bug world in my garden. All this talk about bugs has me wanting to re-watch “Ants.” Remember that movie? It was the more adult version of “A Bug’s Life,” and the better of the two in my opinion. Think they’ve got it on Netflix?

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The hitch

There I was, lying in bed in the hotel room the night before my wedding, attempting in vain to get my brain to turn off so I could get some sleep.

In the room next door, someone whistled incessantly. Whistling? At 2:30 a.m.? I considered banging on the wall.

The phone rang. I ignored it. It was 2:30 in the morning after all. It rang again. And again. I stumbled out of bed and across the room.

The screen read the name of one of the groomsmen. He’s a sweet guy, but he’s always been kind of a wreck. We’ll call him Pete.

“What?” I asked, not bothering to hide my irritation.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know where anyone is and I don’t have anywhere to sleep,” Pete said in a drunken slur.

A string of profanities whirred through my head. I pushed back images of the grisly violence I would inflict on the offending groomsmen to answer Pete’s cry for help.

“Can’t you call the others? Call them to come get you,” I suggested.

“They’re not answering their phones,” he told me. “Oh, hang on, Ashley’s calling.”

Who’s Ashley? I thought to myself as he hung up. Maybe she’s coming to get him.

“Just let him figure it out,” Shawn said in a sleep-muzzed voice.

“And have to pick him up from the police in the morning? No thanks!”

About two minutes later, just has I had crawled back into bed and pulled the covers up, the phone rang.

“What is it, Pete?” I answered through gritted teeth.

“I don’t know what to do,” he whined.

“Oh for heaven’s sake, come to our hotel room and spend the night,” I practically shouted.

I told the groomsman which hotel we were staying in and despite my specific directions and the fact that he lived in Lincoln for years, somehow he managed to lose himself. Again.

“Which streets is the hotel on?” he asked during the 10th phone call in the past half-hour.

Out we went into the muggy Lincoln, Neb. night to track down the groomsman.

Standing at the door of the hotel eating a taco was a good friend who had flown in for the wedding.

“Oh hey, Nat” I said to her as I walked past. It took me a minute to recognize her because of how out of place she was standing there.

She followed my then-fiance Shawn and I into the street. I complained to her about the situation while she munched on her taco.

“Well, when the other groomsmen get married, make sure Pete has to spend the night with them,” Nat suggested.

Pete came tottering down the block, finally. On the corner another group of drunks harassed him and Shawn went across the street to lead Pete over.

We got him up the elevator to the eighth floor and were walking to the room when Pete leaned over the railing to look down on the atrium below.

Oh god, I thought, now he’s going to ralph all over the hotel.

Shawn and I were of one mind and we dashed back to guide Pete to the room. We steered him toward the bathroom and then deposited him firmly on the sofa.

We were finally getting wound down and falling asleep when Pete’s phone started ringing. He answered and began talking to whomever was on the other line.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered, while Shawn giggled about the whole affair. “Pete! Turn your phone off or you’re sleeping in the hallway!”

A meek voice answered. “Oh, OK.”

I’m proud to report that instead of killing Pete where he slept — I was sorely tempted — I even brought him a bagel for breakfast the next morning.

Our wedding went wonderfully. The reception was one heck of a party and everyone had a great time talking and dancing. I was glad the day went off nearly without a hitch.

Monday, as Shawn and I were making our way back to Montana, my mother called.

“I want to tell you about one incident at the reception,” she said.

Turns out Pete was hitting on her all night.

Oh, for Pete’s sake.