June 12, 2023

The Good Guys


Our orchard really bugs me, thousands of them do.

What I mean is thousands of insect species call our orchard home. And that’s a good thing, really. It indicates a healthy ecosystem. Most of them do no harm to the pecan trees but a few do and it’s my job to monitor the population of those damaging pests. They will almost certainly be present in the orchard at some level, but their numbers are almost certainly held in check by the Good Guys.

And who are these Good Guys?
Let me introduce you... 

First, the queen of the Good Guys, ladybugs. I saw their population explode this spring beginning with the egg masses on  the underside of the leaves (photo 1). They hatch into nymphs, creatures that look like tiny alligators with an appetite to match (photo 2). They feed on anything with six or eight legs. Then they pupate and undergo a magical transformation. Check out the picture with two pupae and one nymph (photo 3). Now that’s a beautiful sight. The resulting adults (photo 4) are just as carnivorous as they were when they were nymphs.
photo 1
photo 2
photo 3
photo 4

The next Good Guy to begin populating the orchard are the lacewings. I’m seeing more and more of these single eggs elevated on a silken stalk waiting to hatch (photo 5). Once they do these adults will feed on aphids and other soft-bodies prey (photo 6).
photo 5
photo 6
Spiders are the next big family of Good Guys. Not necessarily the ones that spin the webs to capture airborne prey, though they fit the Good Guy profile, but also the hunting spiders. Here is a picture of a hunting spider and a fly.

The fly lived to see another day, but it brings up a pretty good point. These predators don’t discriminate. They are equal opportunity killers. Spiders will feed on ladybugs and lacewings in addition to flies and aphids. Lady bug nymphs will feed on ladybug eggs as well as aphids and harmful moth larvae. Good guys, bad guys, neutral guys. It’s one big web of predatory life going on in the tiny world of bugs. Eat and be eaten…. It’s tough being an insect in our orchard. But that doesn’t bug me at all.


- Andy Sherrod
Orchard Manager