Healthy Ecosystems have Predators

Healthy ecosystems have predators. Predators force balance into a system and help drive stronger, more resilient prey genes. They also help with pest control.

Out here, there are Wolf spiders all over the place. They are the apex arachnid, the persistent ground pounders crushing grasshopper and tick and chigger uprisings and every year.

Like their spiritual cousins the coyote, these scrappy wolf spiders cover nearly the entire north American continent. Take a walk in the woods or a pasture at night and shine a flashlight around you. Hundreds of beady little eyes will reflect back at you, crouched down between some furry legs and fangs. They’re everywhere.

Last year we introduced some barn cats into the workshop. We unbalanced the ecosystem. Turns out they had fleas and these fleas had no predators. We’re talking rabid angry hopping mad vampire fleas that come after the humans with vim and vigor. It was horrible. We banned the kids from walking near the shop because of the aggressive fleas.

Within two weeks the problem disappeared. No more fleas…but some amazingly large and quick wolf spiders. The predators came in and brought balance back to the system. The fleas haven’t been a problem since. Wolf spiders are ground predators, not web spinners, so our interests in the shop space are neatly symbiotic. Now they can occasionally be seen in the shop, but no more fleas and no other insect problems.

If we had come in blasting pesticides, it would have solved the flea problem for sure. Until their eggs hatched and the cycle starts again or the cats brought another batch of fleas in. Leaving the predators to handle the situation was a sustainable and low maintenance problem solve.

Next time, I’ll have a video of wasps and spiders fighting for domain of the shop.