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Garden Allies: Soil Macroarthropods

Articles: Garden Allies: Soil Macroarthropods

Jerusalem cricket (Stenopelmatus fuscus) Illus: Craig Latker

In previous articles on soil builders, we’ve explored earthworms, soil-dwelling microorganisms, and, most recently, the strange world of microarthropods. Many larger, more visible and familiar arthropods are found in soil and leaf litter. Many native bees and wasps build nests in the ground. In warmer weather, predaceous beetle larvae are abundant and active in the soil. All of these underground residents, including spiders and some fantastically alien larvae, have served as inspiration for movie monsters; Antlion larvae are reputed to be the model for the terrifying sand creature in the Star Wars movies.

Many insects pupate in soil, often spending the winter safely tucked away below the ground. Some arthropods spend their entire life in topsoil and leaf litter, while others have both underground and aboveground life stages. Some arthropods including some spiders, earwigs, and beetles, spend the day hiding in soil and leaf litter, emerging in the dark of night.

Macroarthropods help build soil structure as they tunnel, creating channels for sma...

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