The Gottlieb Native Garden

a california love story

The Gottlieb Native Garden is a flourishing ecosystem belonging to Susan and Dan Gottlieb, friends of flora and fauna and devoted environmental philanthropists. With more than 100 hand-selected plant species and hundreds of animal species, the backyard is a National Wildlife Federation-certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat and a Xerces Society-designated Pollinator Habitat.

Warriors, Slaves and Assailants – it’s all going on in the GNG.

If you look closely in your garden, you may find drama on a small scale. 

Warriors & Slaves
In this photo, Argentine Ants are herding their aphid slaves for food. The food source the ants are exploiting is the sweet honeydew substance aphids excrete after ingesting plant juices. In return for supplying this nectar to the ants, the aphids get protection from some predators.  

The Assailant
Trying to penetrate defenders, this Four-spot Aphid Fly (center) is looking for an opportunity to lay an egg.  This fly species lays a single egg on vegetation near active aphid colonies.  This strategy gives the hatching larva an opportunity to find food immediately and begin feeding on aphids.  Even though this fly did lay an egg, the ants will kill the larvae before it ever has a chance to consume any aphids.

Unfortunately this is a very good example of a non-native species (the Argentine Ant) disrupting the natural balance in a native garden by hindering a native pollinator (the aphid fly) and helping a garden pest (the aphid).

Four-spotted Aphid Fly Dioprosopa clavata looking for an opening in the Argentine Ants defenses.