Insects. Caterpillars. Spiders. Millipedes. Any kind of bug is what I’m watching. I think all gardeners should take the time to do it, too!
Spending the better part of two years working on a master’s degree in entomology forced me to start observing—and trying to catch—bugs from as many groups as possible.
Lectures taught me the basic physical characteristics and behaviors to watch for, but taking time to stop and focus on the insects around me taught me more than anyone could explain.
I’m not sure when bug watching went from a study technique to an enjoyable pastime, but now I’m hooked.
Even if bugs are not your thing, why should you take the time to become a bug watcher?
A best management practice of Florida Friendly Landscaping is integrated pest management. An integral part of IPM is scouting and monitoring for symptoms and signs of pests.
If your landscape is designed and maintained appropriately, pest pressure should be minimal, but it is never eliminated completely.
The key to keeping a pest from decimating your landscape is to catch it early and take action if warranted. Taking the time to closely monitor your plants for pests will increase the likelihood of controlling problems quickly.
Once treatment is applied, it is important to monitor pests to see if they are maintaining, decreasing or increasing their numbers. There may be active natural enemies present, so applying a pesticide may harm beneficial insects.
Properly identifying the insects present will help you plan your next step.
Bug watching teaches the observer what is present and how it behaves. If you enjoy learning, bug watching teaches you about the insects in your garden and how they interact with other animals and the plants in your yard.
Observing insects usually leads to more questions:
What is it?
What is it eating?
Does it sting/bite?
What benefit is it performing in the garden?
Answering these questions increases your knowledge and satisfies your curiosity.
Share your finds. Taking clear pictures and videos of insects in action can be rewarding. Entomology hobbyists and professionals share photos on the UF/IFAS Entomology & Nematology Department Facebook page. Join the conversation using #bugwatching #bugidentification and #UFBugs on social media.
For more information about bugs, visit ffl.ifas.ufl.edu or follow UF/IFAS on social media @UF/IFASNews on Facebook and @UF_IFAS on Twitter.