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Balcony Wildlife

Saturday morning while watering the plants on the balcony, I spotted a nymph praying mantis on one of my pepper plants. Called kamakiri in Japan (meaning scythe), it is enough revered for its strength, tenacity, and fight that it warranted a motif on a warrior's helmet. This praying mantis is quite possibly my new best friend. My pepper plants had been plagued by aphids (like my zucchinis in the garden), and I was preparing to do battle with insecticidal soap and tinfoil. The praying mantis is a happier solution overall, and certainly better than the one I contrived last year. (In Michigan, I'd thankfully had loads and even one in the hoophouse.)

My usual aphid routine had been to squish, rinse with water, and repeat; however, Saturday there were none to be found and this little fellow staring back at me. (You'll have to squint at the photo but his pointy little head is just visible on the top leaf.) My plan now is to encourage him to stay, and make himself at home. The balcony is already a fairly diverse habitat - flowers, herbs, vegetables, and even a small tree - with plenty of places to hide, hatch babies, etc. I don't imagine all of my pest problems are gone, so food probably won't be an issue. The nectar from the assorted flowers and herbs I've got (plus the multitudinous blooms of my fellow urban gardeners) should suffice. Water is the only thing left, and I'll put out some small shallow bowls around for sipping. (That's a bit of advice I've followed for years now from Sally Jean Cunningham's Great Garden Companions, an indispensable garden reference.)

Here's hoping the little guy (or gal) decides to stay, and here's hoping I find similar beneficial in the garden. Or how to say insecticidal soap in Japanese....

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