Friday, October 25, 2019

10 Halloween-Worthy Insect Names

A cartoon of a black insect with red eyes
As anyone who has ever taken even a cursory look at insects knows, many of them live quite gruesome lives. They are the terrors of the micro world they live in. Sometimes their behaviors are reflected in the common names given them, other times relatively benign insects are saddled with frightening names and still others have hideous names whose origins are not at all clear. Many of these names are regionally specific as well. Let’s look out some of these fiendish sounding creatures:

1) Assassin Bugs (Zelus renardii) – We sell oodles of these all day on our site. Their aggressive homicidal tendencies make them especially effective predators for many soft-bodied insect pests. For more about them, check out their page here.

A large black bug with its hind end raised. Known as the Coffin Cutter (Ocypus olens) .
Coffin Cutter
2) Coffin Cutter (Ocypus olens) – This decidedly cemetery-ish name is just one of the many sinister names that this Rove beetle goes by. It’s most commonly known as the Devil’s Coach Horse, but its AKAs also include Devil’s Coach Whip, Devil’s Footman and Devil’s Coachman. It doesn’t sting, but can deliver a hard bite with its large pincers. It also lift its tail up like a scorpion and spews a foul-smelling liquid from its abdomen when threatened. I found a neat little limerick about this bug by Janet MacConnaughey: 
      Satan's horses, no rinky-dink ginks,
     Are huge bugs, glossed with devilish inks.
     Devil's coach-horses (grubbers
    And hunters); and lubber
    (His horses) can also spew stinks.

A furry red and black bug on a log.Cow Killer (Dasymutilla occidentalis) .
Cow Killer
3) Cow Killer (Dasymutilla occidentalis) - AKA: Velvet Ant. Both of these names are misleading. They do not really kill cows and they are not really ants. Instead, they are wasps with a sting that feels (to those unfortunates that have felt it) powerful enough to kill a cow. The female has the stinger and stays on the ground, while the male has wings but no stinger (doubtless a good thing). These furry, red and black bugs pose no real threat to humans, unless you interfere with a female as she scrambles around searching for a place to lay her eggs. In which case, you probably deserve it. For more on this wasp that parasitizes bees and other wasps, go here. If you want to see someone foolishly subjecting himself to a sting, here’s one for you.
A black and beige moth with markings that look like a skull on the back of its head.Death’s Head Moth (Acherontia spp)
Death's Head Moth

4) Death’s Head Moth (Acherontia spp) - AKA: Hawk Moth, Death Moth. Many people are familiar with this moth; it played a role in the movie Silence of the Lambs. Apparently this formidable-looking creature loves honey and has a sweet little squeaky voice (something like if a cross between a rabbit and a cicada). Having a voice is fairly uncommon in moths, enough so that scientists have been studying it. Here is a quick read on what they’ve learned – and there is also an audio clip of the voice.

A close up of a gold, black and white dragonfly perched on a stick.
Ear Cutter
5) Ear Cutter – Dragonfly – AKA: Ear Sewer, Ear Needle, Devil’s Dragon, Horse Stinger, Mule Killer, Bee Butcher. According to this article, these are just some of the regional names used for dragonflies in the US. The myths surrounding dragonflies are much more extensive, and darker, than I ever knew.

A green and yellow cateptillar with red and black horns and many black spikes. It is hanging upside down on a plant stemHickory Horned Devil (Citheronia regalis) caterpillar .
Hickory Horned Devil
6) Hickory Horned Devil (Citheronia regalis) – There’s no mystery about the nickname here – these big (they can get hot dog-sized), fat caterpillars have giant horns on their heads and spikes all over their bodies. They live short-lived lives from late July to mid August in the southern and southeastern US. After that they become Regal (AKA Royal Walnut) moths.

7) Stump Stabber (Megarhyssa macrurus) –AKA: Giant Ichneumon Wasp. Though small (about 2” long) the females of this parasitoid wasp species have the longest known ovipositors at twice the length of their bodies. Although they look like scary stingers, they are for depositing eggs – oh, and drilling. These wasps seek out insect hosts under the wood of stumps and trees and, once she finds the right one, she drills a hole down to them and lays her eggs in their nest. Here are some great pictures and even a video of her in action. I guess the male Stump Stabbers just go by Mr. Stump Stabber.
A close-up of the front of a yellow and black bug floating in water. It is holding part of a fish.Toe Biters (Lethocerus americanus)  
Toe Biter with prey

8) Toe Biters (Lethocerus americanus) - AKA:  Giant Water Bug, Indian Toe Biters, Alligator  Ticks. These large (up to 2½”) beetles are native to North America and are very common in both manmade and natural bodies of water. Watch out for them in the shallows - when disturbed, they do bite. Toes are usually the victims of these bites as people step on or near enough to them. Although the bite will not cause lasting damage, it does produce burning pain, swelling and even skin discoloration. If you want to see the same guy that was willing to take a Cow Killer sting getting bit by a Toe Biter, check him out here.

9) Vampire Moth (genus Calyptra) – If, when you think of moths you think of delicate little things fluttering helplessly around your porch light, you may want to reconsider your thinking. Because there really are moths that are vampires - yes, some moths actually pierce the skin of verterbrates (including humans) and lap up the blood. Scientists are still determining just how many of the 17 species in this genus are blood-eaters (so far it’s 8-10), but since only two species are here in the US, you probably don’t have to worry about them. But, you never know…Here’s more on them and here’s a video of the little blood lovers.

A long gold and black bug,Witch’s Horse (Anisomorpha ferruginea) 10) Witch’s Horse (Anisomorpha spp) – AKA: Devil’s Riding Horse, Devil’s Darning Needle, Spitting Devil.These bugs are North American members of the extensive stick insect family. During mating, the males can be seen “riding” on the backs of the females, which may explain some of the
horse references. But, the Spitting Devil moniker is more accurate. These guys emit well-aimed sprays of a noxious-smelling, burning liquid as a self-defense mechanism and they aren’t hesitant to shoot. A direct hit to the eye can cause serious damage and the fumes alone have respiratory effects. It’s best to let these horses pass unhindered.

A black and white clip of people running from a giant spider as it comes down the road. From a late 1950s era horror movie.
Ahhh, the insect world! A haven for the macabre, full of endless stories of blood lust, zombies and creative ways to feed on other beings. And also cute little guys who only want to eat some leaves before they get eaten.

Submitted by Pam

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Partnership Announcement - Rx Green Technologies

ARBICO Organics is privileged and excited to announce our partnership with Rx Green Technologies as a distributor for their complete line of cannabis nutrients and additives. Rx Green Technologies focuses on cannabis specific research & development to ensure the highest quality product for cultivators growing indoors and outdoors. Their products are designed with scalability in mind for both small and large cultivation facilities.

R & D – Always improving. Always seeking. 

Rx Green Technologies has a team of scientists with years of experience in the traditional agriculture and cannabis industries. This wide-ranging experience combined with their consistent desire to improve has led them to develop some of the highest quality products catered to the cannabis market.

Customer Satisfaction – Priority #1

What our two companies share are customer-first mentalities and a commitment to customer satisfaction. Our teams encourage questions and dialogue to build relationships while maintaining the health of your soil, system and plants. If you have specific needs, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-827-2847 and we will work with you to find the best solutions for those needs.

Simplify The Process – No More “Potions”

It can be difficult to wade through the inundated market of cannabis nutrition products. Rx Green Technologies’ complete line of plant health additives is formulated to reduce the decision making and labor involved in the process of maximizing plant health. Simply dilute and apply. No pH adjustments are necessary (or recommended).

You can browse the complete line of Rx Green Technologies products here. They have also created an easy to use feed chart as a reference guide for growers on a 12 week cycle.

Have questions or would like to order? Call or email us today to get started!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Spooks in the Garden

A white statue of a hooded woman, her face in shadows, against a background of large green leaves.
Most people associate gardens with beauty and tranquility, a place where one goes to de-stress and enjoy the beauty and wonder of Nature. But not all gardens are restful and not all the people who visit them are living. Ghosts, the ultimate winners in the sustainable living category, are as much a part of certain gardens as are the trees and plants. There are haunted gardens all across the globe, but let me introduce you to some good ole American ones:

Rocky Mountain AHHHH – Visitors to Denver’s Botanic Garden can enjoy many seasonal activities at this time of year, including a corn maze and Dia del los Muertos celebrations. But, it does not have to be Halloween to get spooked in this garden; there are spirits about all year long. Like many ghost stories, these hauntings are centered on a burial ground and disturbed remains. The land that part of the gardens are on was established as a cemetery way back in 1858. Over the years, the original cemetery devolved into a dumping ground for all sorts of unfortunates. When the city decided to make it into a park in 1893, they hired (for $1.90 per box of remains) an unscrupulous undertaker (another common horror trope) to remove the bodies and take them to another cemetery. He, being a wicked and greedy man, decided to boost his profits by hacking up the bodies and putting them in multiple boxes. Naturally, it did not end well for anyone – living or dead. Visitors report strange sights and smells and, in a decidedly modern twist, cell phones being affected. Here is more on this ahhh-inspiring haunting.

A white marble entry way into the gardens with mist all around.
Yaddo Garden
New York State of Creepy – There are so many hauntings around New York that the state government has a website dedicated to them, the Haunted History Trail of New York State. One of the most interesting of these is Yaddo in Saratoga Springs. Now best known as a prestigious artist’s community, this 400-acre estate was the home of the Trask family in the early 1900’s. The native Mohicans were there first, of course, and, at some point before the Trasks, Edgar Allan Poe also lived there. Supernatural activity has been reported on this land since well before the Trasks arrived and one has to wonder if Poe was drawn to this place because of the goings-on or if he helped create the continuing myths. At any rate, the current activity seems to happen mostly in the elaborate rose garden that was a favorite spot for Katrina Trask. Is she still pining away there for her four children who died so very young and/or are the spirits those of the children playing in the garden? Or is there something much more ancient dwelling there? For more on this upstate haunting, look here.

Red and pink long-stemmed roses in a glass vase on a wooden table with a white wall behind, There are petals floating in the air around the vase.Unsettled White House - Our current president is not the only one haunting the hallways in the White House; in the 200 years since it’s been built, there have been a great many well documented spirit sightings. Abraham Lincoln has probably been seen the most often, with many illustrious people (including Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman) reporting encounters with his ghost. Lincoln may dominate the inside, but Dolley Madison is the ghost in the gardens. As the story goes, Dolley (the wife of the fourth US President, James Madison) imagined and planted the original White House Rose Garden and was very fond of the space. A hundred years later, when Woodrow Wilson was president, there were plans to tear it up and plant something else. When workmen arrived, they were lambasted by the forceful spirit of Dolley herself and work stopped on the spot. Although it makes a good story and does reflect the feisty spirit that Dolley had in her living years, there are many who dispute the details of the story and there is none of the real documentation that exists with the other White House spirits.

Close up of an old plaque in White Point Garden, Charleston, commemorating the hanging of Stede Bonnet and 29 other pirates
Pirate Monument - White Point Garden, Charleston
Ghosts Ahoy! – History, warfare, hurricanes and all sorts of general tumult are all parts of the whole that is Charleston, South Carolina. And they all seem to converge, with a laser-like focus, on the Battery in the Charleston Harbor. This fortified seawall and promenade has been a witness to all kinds of death, from the first shots of the Civil War to executions - notably pirate hangings. It is these buccaneers that are said to haunt White Point Garden on the Battery.  Considering that in one day alone, 30 men were hanged there and their bodies thrown unceremoniously into the marsh, the spirits probably have good reason to be upset… even if some of them were pretty despicable in life. Speaking of pirate ghosts, apparently the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World is haunted: check it out.

Close-up of a drawing of a green woman's head with leaves and flowers surrounding her face. The Green Lady of Wahiawa
An strangely attractive Green Lady of Wahiawa
Green Goblin Aloha – For our final garden visit, we’ll have to travel over 4600 miles from Charleston to Hawaii. There, on the island of Oahu, is the Wahiawa Botanical Garden. This 27-acre site consists of not just gorgeous tropical gardens but also a densely forested gulch. It is in this gulch that the Green Lady of Wahiawa roams. Like Katrina Trask and La Llorana, she is said to be mourning and searching for her lost children. But, in Hawaii (a place with many terrifying spirits), this poor spirit has become a part of the jungle itself. She is said to have ghastly green skin with scales and is covered in moss and leaves. You will probably smell her foul smell before you see her and never bring children – she will steal them. Or so they say. Here is a short film about her from people in her neighborhood.

Are you sure your garden is not haunted? Do you know what was on your land before you? You may want to check it out - just to be sure.
Happy Halloween!

Submitted by Pam

Friday, October 4, 2019

When You Know The Water's Coming

Animated images of rain falling in water with tall trees in the background. gif by giphyWater, water, water everywhere – this has been the reality for millions of people this year. If you are one of those affected, the consequences can be devastating. Hopefully, as you are reading this you have moved passed the drying out and cleaning up phase and are ready to assess what’s next. Because there will be a ‘next” and it will bring more water your way. Climate change is real and one of the undeniable effects it has on real people is that storms are bigger and more destructive than ever. As we work our way through autumn and into winter, it is a good time to determine what you can do before spring rain (or perhaps an unseasonable snowmelt) arrives. Preparing your home and family for even minor flooding encompasses a long list of variables (here is a flooding preparedness checklist from the Red Cross), but preparing your lawn or garden is something that need not be overwhelming. Many of these things you can even do in stages, to reduce time and money spent.

Backyard patio alongside raised terraces and rock channels (aka swales and berms
Swale and Berm landscaping
Runoff rundown: The objective here is for you to be able to determine where the water will go when it comes. Swales and berms are landscaping techniques that have been used since ancient times to direct water. Swales are depressions in the earth that hold water. They are often used in conjunction with dams, cisterns and other water catchment systems. Where swales are dips, berms are rises – they are raised beds or hills that move the water down into swales and/or other preferred drainage areas. French drains are another method that can be used to channel water. Simply put, they are sloping trenches lined with stones that has a pipe leading water away (here is a video on how they work). These are used extensively here in Southern Arizona, where our rain comes fast and furious Their name, by the way, has nothing to do with a country in Europe; it comes from Henry French, who wrote about them in 1859. While you are considering runoff, look at your rain spouts; redirecting their flow can be done relatively easily with great results (here are some wondrous examples). If you have them empty into rain barrels or a cistern, the water you don’t want in your yard can be stored and used later on your terms.when it comes.

A orange rain spout in the shape of a giant watering can against a grey wall. In Anacortes, WA by Joe Mahl
Anacortes, WA by Joe Mahl
Soaking it up: As an extension of some of the ideas above, you may want to look into better drainage around the hard surfaces in your yard (patios, driveways, etc.). You can always create drainage alongside these areas, but a better (albeit more costly) solution would be to change out concrete or asphalt for gravel, rock, brick or permeable paving materials. Loosely apply these materials so that water can slip right through and into the ground. You will have less water in your yard and be doing your part to recharge ground water.

A cluster of decorative plants in a depression at the foot of a tree.
Rain garden
Planting with purpose: Before planting anything in your newly flood-proofed yard, make sure you’ve got your soil right. Why? Because, that’s always the first step in planting. And (if you read my blog last week you already know this) soil that has been flooded will most likely need to be amended to bring it an optimal condition. Well-structured soils are able to absorb and drain well, with sandy soils being able to drain better than clay-like soil. If you are more committed to a flood-busting landscape than you are to a particular look, it would pay to seek out those plants that like the sandy stuff. Likewise, if you feel that you will still have standing water at some point, pick plants that are tolerant to wet roots. Additional ways to improve your chances of success are planting native plants, diversifying the plant species you choose and aggressively cleaning and clearing out any area or thing that can dam up or hold water. Still unsure what plants will work for you? Here are some ideas to get you moving down that path.

A closeup of a water droplet on a green leaf.
Embrace the rain: Instead of trying to create a garden that can handle excess water, why not just go all in and plant a rain garden? A rain garden is similar to a swale in that it is on a downslope or depression and meant to catch water, but these gardens are filled with decorative plants, while swales are meant simply as water catchment systems. Determine how much and for how long water will be in your garden and pick plants that will flourish in those conditions (here are some plants that can handle extended submersion). If you are dealing with sea spray and/or salt water, be particularly careful to choose plants that can literally stand up to those elements. Let your imagination fly and create a beautiful garden in what would have been an area of standing water.

Preparing for a natural disaster and praying it won’t happen seems to be the sensible way to roll these days. It is widely accepted that certain steps can and should be taken to lessen the effect of wildfire on property, flooding should be viewed in the same way.

Submitted by Pam

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