How small is small? When you’re less than 1/8 of an inch long planet earth is a vast gigantic jungle. Even the tiny pharaoh ant dwarfs the little guy in tonight’s feature image. To give you the scale the Heal-all flower spike that he’s on top of is only about an inch long so he’s far smaller than 1/8 of an inch. When I spotted the little guy I was reminded of a poem I heard in grade school.
“If you missed me it’s not my fault.
I’m only the size of a grain of salt.”
I have to wonder if that because he’s so small if he can even perceive me as another life form and not some celestrial event like an eclipse. The tiny little bug is a flea beetle. But big trouble comes in small packages.
Experienced gardeners will know what the irregular shaped holes in the leaves of their crops mean. One flea beetle exploring a wildflower is kinda cute but 1000 of them one your favorite salad vegetables can be maddening. Especially if you have strong feelings about chemical pesticides on your food. Encouraging predators into your garden is always a good thing. Braconid Wasps and Tachinid Flies larvae both feed on flea beetles but I found it hard to believe they’d be able to host on one this small. However, a quick internet search revealed a tiny wasp even smaller than the beetle in tonight’s feature image. Plants like yarrow and Queen Anne’s Lace are generally considered to be weeds but they do attract parasitic wasps that are beneficial in the fight against garden pests like the flea beetle. Plants like mint seem to repell flea beetles as well as other pests while attracting pollenators
The tiny world is a dangerous place but aside from its shiny armor the flea beetle has an active defense. Their secret weapon is Maulik’s Organ. An organic spring built into the hind legs that is cocked and when released sends the flea beetle sailing through the air as if fired out of a cannon!
Some flea beetles are actually beneficial insects themselves. Depending on the species. They seem to be selective in their food choices and the plant they host on. Some will eat the weeds right out of your garden and never touch the plants you want to grow.
The little flea beetle in tonight’s feature image eventually decided that it didn’t like my presence and with a flick of it’s hind legs performed a disappearing act to rival any on stage. One second it was there and the next it was gone.
Image Titled “Heal-all Spike 71020”.
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