The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Soil-life vignettes

Scarlet-bordered assassin bug

Life in the Soil is one of those rare books so chock-full of information that I can't really hit even the highlights in a lunchtime series.  So today's post includes some tidbits too good to skip, but which don't fit into a cohesive post.

  • Soil beetleThe most common insects in soil are usually a combination of ants, mites, springtails, beetles, and fly larvae, with the winner depending on the habitat.  You might not have heard of springtails, but chances are you've seen them if you live in a climate with cold winters.  These tiny insects look like black dots hopping around on top of melting snow, having come up out of the ground to escape the inundation.
  • Not all snails and slugs are grazers of your crops --- many eat decomposing plant matter, or even each other.  And snail and slug populations are kept in check by lots of predators in the soil, including ground beetles, daddy long legs, glowworms, flies, and birds.  Some glowworms (the larvae of fireflies) even track snails and slugs by following left-behind slime!
  • How to make a fly trapDung beetles and flies are in constant competition for high-quality herbivore dung.  (Carnivore dung just isn't as sought after.)  So dung beetles hedge their bets by carrying around tiny mites.  As soon as the dung beetle hits a new cow pie, the mites jump down and go in search of fly larvae, which they kill and eat.  Once the cow pie is used up, the mites hop back on board their beetle partners to ride to the next patch of dung.  (This makes me wonder if you could cut down on fly populations in pastures by somehow encouraging the mites and dung beetles?)
  • Some fungus individuals cover 1,500 acres and are 1,000 to 10,000 years old.

Is your appetite whetted?  There are many other fascinating tidbits in Nardi's book, so this is definitely one you'll want to check out on your own.

One of the top ways to encourage soil life is by using no-till cover crops.  Learn more in my 99 cent ebook.

This post is part of our Life in the Soil lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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