- Author: Riva Flexer
When you work in your garden, you cannot help but see who, or perhaps, what co-exists alongside you and your trowel. Some creatures you simply must observe, such as the ants and aphids that infest your Pittosporum tobira, or the little sowbugs that wriggle and scuttle when you disturb the dead leaves under your Distictis Rivers vine. Speaking of which, it’s a good time to disturb those dead leaves and all the other detritus under your plants, on the soil surface. By cleaning up you are removing potentially harmful pathogen spores, such as black spot and rust, which will be only too happy to infect your plants come springtime. The organic material may have functioned admirably as a mulch, but cleaning up is more important now that the rainy season is coming.
But back to those creatures in the garden. I’ve been noticing lots of ants, and, more dramatically, the arachnids. There seem to be plenty of orb spiders this autumn. You’ll recognize them by their beautiful, often enormous spiral webs, which they construct at night, and which we see, often glistening with dew, in the early morning. The spiders can be large, with half-inch bodies and then, of course the eight legs… for those of us with a genuine phobia, it can be the stuff of nightmares.
But they are your best friend. Take a look at a web and you cannot count the number of gnats and fruit flies caught in the sticky fibers. If we are prone to blundering into webs, just imagine the hapless insect. I’ve been watching ‘Charlotte’ for nearly three weeks now. I couldn’t help but notice her web, first attached to my upper deck and my ‘ XXX Soldier ‘ rosebush. She’s big, and her webs are too, with long (4-5 foot) anchor lines up to the deck underside, where she lurks and feeds off her prey. I’ve seen her wrapping up a paralysed bee in silk, carrying it up for a meal. I’ve watched her take down her tattered web by eating the silk. She is just fascinating, and her web is full of little flies. I respect her enormously and avoid her, as she does me. Live and let live…