Into the Wild: Vegetable Garden

By MDC | May 1, 2021
From Xplor: May/June 2021

People aren’t the only animals that love homegrown veggies. Wild critters — some big, most small — also adore the garden.

Take a Closer Look

The next time you sniff a flower, a sneaky hunter may be hiding right under your nose. Crab spiders don’t weave webs to catch prey. Instead, they patiently wait on flowers and rely on camouflage to stay hidden.  When a fly buzzes by, the spider pounces.

Do More

Planting flowers in your veggie garden — especially native wildflowers — is a great way to attract bees and butterflies. These hard-working insects will pollinate your plants, which will help your garden make more vegetables.

Do More

What’s covered in warts, eats bugs, and comes out at night? It’s a toad, and you can invite these helpful amphibians to live in your garden by building a toad abode. Place a chipped clay pot upside down on the ground and top it with dirt or moss to keep it cool inside.


Snakes and other reptiles sometimes soak up the sun in vegetable gardens. Though they may startle you, they’re actually a gardener’s best friend because they eat rodents and other garden pests.

Did You Know?

You might think all bumblebees are the same. But Missouri has more than 10 different kinds of these fuzzy, buzzy insects. To learn how to tell one from another, buzz over to

Do More

Putting up a bluebird box or wren house near your garden is a fantastic idea. The birds’ bubbly songs will keep you company while you’re pulling weeds, and parent birds will pluck tons of insects from your garden to feed their hungry chicks.

What Happened Here?

The back of this tomato-munching caterpillar is covered with cocoons. Inside each cocoon is a tiny baby wasp. The baby wasps eat the caterpillar’s insides as they grow. When the babies turn into adults and buzz away, the caterpillar dies.

Take a Closer Look

To gather pollen from plants like tomatoes and peppers, bumblebees use “buzz pollination.” First, a bee clamps down on a flower with its jaws. (The bite marks are called “bee kisses.”) Then the bee vibrates its flight muscles, which causes a loud buzz. The buzz travels through the flower and shakes out pollen like salt from a shaker.


Eastern cottontails may hide their babies in overgrown rows of vegetables. A waist-high fence made of chicken wire will usually keep mama rabbit and her hungry bunnies separated from your lettuce and carrots.

Also In This Issue

American Lady

Use Xplor’s mini field guide to discover 10 of Missouri’s most common butterflies — that are anything but ordinary.

American Mink

For Father’s Day, wild critters pay tribute to their top-notch pops.

This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Alexis (AJ) Joyce
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White