The original title of this week’s column was intended to be ‘The Birds and the Bees’, but attractive (and perhaps naughty) as these five words may be, I could not deny the spotlight to a dear friend from the beetle family – the Lady Bird. My commitment stemmed from the fact that in combination with the birds and bees, the lady bird forms a fellowship that is cherished by every gardening enthusiast.

Last year, the apple and peach trees in my back yard began wilting, no thanks to a tiny pest called ‘the aphid’. Since I abhor spraying pesticides on garden produce that is intended to be eaten by friends and family, I embarked upon a quest to find an alternative. The wonderful world of the Internet came to my rescue and soon after, my better half was chagrined to discover that I had commenced to recruit an army of young grandchildren to supply me with jarfuls of what she called ‘horrid bugs’.

Those of my readers, who have regretfully not had the opportunity of a lady bird’s acquaintance, let me describe him (or her) to you. Messrs LB and Company are small flying beetles from a family, known to entomologists as Coccinellidae. These cute looking tiny insects are generally found in yellow, orange or scarlet colors with small black spots on their wing covers – and believe me, their favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner is aphids.

If readers want a deeper insight into lady bird activities, I would advise them to go to the world wide web and take a look at the work of a French animation team, who have immortalized the adventures of this ‘bug’ in a series of videos, guaranteed to brighten a terribly dull day. To cut the long story short, my recruitment drive was successful beyond measure and I was soon in proud possession of a dozen jars containing these wonderful creatures. My family now enjoys the fruits of my labor (rather peevishly), while the lady bird population in my garden appears to have found a happy home.

I lately discovered that a family of Hoopoes had taken up residence inside a tree next to the garden wall. The Hoopoe is classified by ornithologists in the same category as kingfishers, bee-eaters and rollers. This medium sized bird has a distinct crown on its head, which opens fully in case of an alarm. It has a long sharp beak which is an effective tool to dig out worms and other insects from the ground. My discovery of this resident species also led me to the fact that they were actually helping me get rid of the termite population in my lawn and flower beds. I am now engaged in seducing this family to make their stay permanent by putting special tidbits on the bird table.

While I am very fond of spring flowers, my endeavor is to adorn my garden with perennial shrubs that will show color and aroma round the year with the minimum of effort. The colorful and aromatic environment attracts another insect friend – the honey bee to my premises. These ‘stingers’ pollinate my flowers and provide me with honey. A cousin of the honey bee is the bumble bee. Its name is misleading as this insect does not ‘bumble’. Larger in size than its honey producing relative, my bumble bees come in three colors – orange and black, yellow and black and finally a shiny blue and black. These illustrious workers also pollinate flowers and devour pest larvae.

In the final analysis, I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by friends, whose presence keeps my garden in shape. So dear readers if next time a lady bird or a bee lands on your tea table, refrain from panicking and squashing it with your favorite magazine for after all who in his right mind harms a friend.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.