Getting grubby with grubs

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The grubs I found in the garden

I’m trying to get a handle on who lives in my garden. The mammals are easy: three primates as permanent residents, and transient squirrels, rats, raccoons and domestic cats. What interests me are the birds, insects, arachnids and other invertebrates (I’ve never observed any reptiles or amphibians – but some would be welcome such as garter snakes and tree frogs).

The arrival of spring means I must ready my garden beds for planting. To that end, I’ve been spending a lot of time on my hands and knees weeding. Being that close to the ground makes it easy to spot the slugs, worms, millipedes and grubs hiding in the soil. Slugs get fed to the hens. Worms and millipedes get a free pass as their presence is beneficial.

It’s the grubs I wonder about. Will they grow into a beneficial insect or one that will munch on my veggies? The picture shows a grub I’ve been finding a lot of lately. They are big, some the diameter of my pinky, and plentiful. I collected the three in the photo a few days ago and sent them to be identified. I don’t want to make the mistake of decimating the young of a carnivore that would hunt down the bugs eating my plants. Consider the fire-engine red, included-in-every-child’s-garden-book ladybug – it’s larvae looks like the inspiration for the mind-control-insect Kahn put into Chekov’s ear in the original ‘Wrath of Kahn‘.

My hope was the grubs were European Ground Beetles (Carabus nemoralis) – an beneficial and pretty beetle I often see in the garden. But they weren’t. The grubs are caterpillars of the Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba), a moth with yellow wings as its name implies. This moth eats plants, so the caterpillars went to the hens.

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European Yellow Underwing

As a tangent: both the European Ground Beetle and the Large Yellow Underwing are European invaders to the area. The beetle likely hitched a ride in the ballast of early ships from Europe, while the moth was released, by accident, in Nova Scotia in 1979.

Thanks to my husband for taking both these great pictures.

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