Fierce Creatures in the Garden – Pest Extermination

Angry ground hog in havaheart trap ready to be transported

When you deal with nature, it is a given that you will also be dealing with fierce creatures, both plant and animal. You must deal with them very firmly and not show any mercy or your garden will be just more fodder for the beasts.

Naughty –  Not Nice –  Bunnies

Take rabbits for instance.The incursions that rabbits make into my garden are far more damaging than deer. Rabbits operate under the radar and skulk about at night when you can’t see them.  Go out and visit your garden in the light of day and all the tops have been sheered off neatly while you were sleeping. I am a big Beatrix Potter fan and love her illustrations of delightfully naughty bunnies. Her bunnies are mischievious but definitely not mean.

Cover illustration from The Story of a Fierce ...
Cover illustration from The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 

Bunnies are not usually thought of as fierce but if you are a Monty Python fan as I am, you are familiar with the bunny in the cave who initially looks so cute and suddenly turns into a raving killer rabbit that pulls limbs off. Not that my bunnies are going to mutate into killers, but they definitely are plant killers. I try to turn a blind eye when my dog kills them.

Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog (Monty Python) "That is the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!"

Recently, I discovered a nest of baby bunnies in my compost pile and resigned myself to future damage by an exponentially growing population of bunnies.  I kept telling myself that I should nip it in the bud, but I am a softie and have trouble harming soft furry things.  A few nights later, I saw my Border Collie making running starts at the compost pile and coming out with tiny squeaking bunnies that she quickly and efficiently broke their little scrawny necks. She then proceeded to chow down on the succulent morsels. Outwardly, I was horrified and yelled at her to leave them alone, but inwardly I egged her on.  Once a Border Collie gets hold of an animal, there is no letting go.

Rabbit nest found in playground wood chips, O'...

Rabbit nest found in playground wood chips, O'Fallon, Illinois 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bunny killer getting a bath

The Dreaded GroundHog

So, when a groundhog turned up, I knew that I had to take care of it before the dog tangled with a bona fide ferocious animal. Borrowing a hava-heart trap from a friend, I followed her advice and baited it with apples and peanut butter and waited. The hava-heart, which traps the animal with food, doesn’t harm them but can make a ground-hog very ornery. It took less than 24 hours for the creature to be captured and was it angry! He chortled, glowered, snorted and smelled really bad.  He was plump, had beady eyes, and tried to snap at anything that got near his face. I carefully avoided eye contact so I wouldn’t feel sorry for him. We gingerly stuck a pole through the carrier and lifted the whole thing into the back of my pickup truck.  He was a big fat one and we struggled to lift the cage!  The object is to travel at least 5 or 6 miles away so the hopefully disoriented and confused groundhog would not return. Another factor to take into account is avoid making the groundhog someone else’s problem so we looked for large fields and woods far from houses. Once we found the perfect spot, we opened the door and the ground-hog shot out like a cannon, hopefully never to be seen again. I breathed a little easier since the damage that a ground-hog makes to a garden is like scorched earth.  Nothing would be left!

Snakes Are Nice!

Yes, you read that right! I like snakes in the garden.  They kill voles, mice and other nasty critters for me. They will chow down on my bullfrogs when they are crafty enough to catch them but there are plenty to go around. This is a picture of a snake devouring a frog which seems to be way too large.  But he was fat and satisfied a couple of hours later!

Garter snake and unfortunate frog

Saddlebacks Are the Worst Kind of Fierce

My nemesis in the garden is the Saddleback Caterpillar.  Fortunately, this is the only poisonous caterpillar that I have encountered in Maryland.  Further south in Florida, they are blessed to have a poisonous array of nasty ones –  http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/state/poisonous-hag-io-puss-and-saddleback-caterpillars-flourish-in-south-florida-as-weather-warms

Becky of cloverandthyme.wordpress.com saw my picture of the saddleback and exclaimed that they look like “evil clowns”! I couldn’t have described them better myself.

Saddlebacks look fierce and sting fierce!

Several years ago, I brushed against a Saddleback that was devouring my Japanese Maple and it felt like my arm was on fire.  Their barbed poisonous spines become embedded into your skin and the recommendation to remove them is to scotch tape the barbs out of your skin. The stinging was extremely painful. Saddlebacks can also cause swelling, nausea, and a painful and long-lasting rash. It is difficult to get the venom out of your skin and it hurts ten times worse than a bee sting. Saddlebacks start appearing at the end of the season so we have a couple of months free yet.

Illustration of Peter Rabbit from The Tale of ...

Illustration of Peter Rabbit from The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About Claire Jones

Claire Jones is a landscape and floral designer and owner of Claire Jones Landscapes, LLC. She designs and helps people to create their own personal outdoor oasis and loves to write about her gardening failures and successes.
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8 Responses to Fierce Creatures in the Garden – Pest Extermination

  1. majaskitchen says:

    Loved reading this post… I have similar experiences with these garden “enemies,” but, I have no dog to take care of them. I too had brushed against a Saddleback caterpillar during the years I have tended my garden, and yes, it was most painful, but I did not know about scotch-taping the barbs out of ones skin….It took many days for me to feel no pain…..
    Thank you for this most informative and well written post….

  2. I am a real softy when it comes to furry critters. I had a groundhog I named Gareth at the bottom of my garden, but I think he got hit by a car. :-(
    I do try to grow deer and bunny resistant plants, and I have some killer recipes for repellents. I use so much hot sauce, it always smells like I’m making Buffalo Wings! :-)

    • My deer problem is taken care of by a very active dog, thank God! But as a designer, I have to design gardens for others with deer resistant plants. It is such a shame because deer eat so many plants!

  3. P.S. I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! :-)

  4. Becky says:

    O my goodness! That saddleback thing looks like an evil clown with, well, a saddle on his back! Yikes! Glad we don’t have those guys around here!

  5. Pingback: Bullet Dodgers | Small Town World . . .

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