Snakes, spiders and bats – Oh my! These creatures suffer from a lot of bad press, but their reputation as villains is vastly undeserved. In reality they are soldiers that work tirelessly to fight against the multitude of maladies that can befall your beloved greenery when you’re not around to defend it.
Spiders are important for several reasons. Of course their biggest role in your garden is to prey on insects that can eat your plants, successfully decreasing the populations of bad bugs. Another thing you might not have considered is the benefit of their webs. Spider webs are incredibly strong and some hummingbirds use their silk as a key component of their nests. Yes, these arachnids are born hunters, but so are cats and dogs and that doesn’t make then evil. So maybe we can live with some itsy bitsy spiders if they create a more balanced and pest free environment.
Snakes have their place in the garden because they feed on destructive rodent species and scare away rabbits and deer. They can even act as a balance for frogs and toads that might make just a bit too much noise in your garden. Garter snakes in particular are a garden’s best friend!
Frog and toads are important for the same reason that spiders are: they eat what eats your plants. They also act as an excellent measure of the overall health of your garden because they are highly sensitive to pollution and sudden changes in their ecosystem. Fun fact: frogs breath through their skin so try not to hold them for too long!
Bats have a bad reputation despite being harmless and even beneficial to humans. Not only do they eat bugs (including mosquitoes!) but some species also help to pollinate night blooming plants. Unfortunately, these amazing creatures are in peril. Bat populations across the nation are plummeting at alarming rates due to illness and habitat loss. Consider building a bat house to help them out!
Opossums are probably the ones that suffer most from their bad reputation. They may look tough with their big hairless tails and sharp teeth, but in reality they are incredibly shy and non-aggressive. They would much rather play dead than attack, a tactic that unfortunately doesn’t work on motor vehicles. Possums are marsupials, America’s only marsupial in fact, so put your over-sized rat theories behind you. They eat just about anything but they love snacking on common garden pests like moles, mice, beetles and find slugs particularly delicious. They also devour an estimated 4,000 ticks a week reducing the risk of Lyme disease to humans (something possums don’t have to worry about.) Opossums also have a total immunity to rattlesnake and cotton mouth venom. Because they are nomadic they don’t stay long in one place, so even if one startles you in the backyard one evening it will quickly scamper away never to be seen again. Fun fact: They may look ferocious but you will never find a rabid opossum. Why? Because their body temperature is too low to incubate the disease. How cool is that?