A day in the life of a mint

sweat bee

A type of sweat bee, Agapostemon splendans, on mountain mint in a Connecticut schoolyard. Photo by D. Cappaert.


Growing plants is so much more interesting when you get to know your garden’s wildlife. Few of us will ever take the time to spend an entire day watching all the insects, spiders, birds, and reptiles attracted to our backyard garden. But if we did, we would probably be amazed at all the critters calling our yards “home.”

Fortunately for us impatient folk, retired entomologist David Cappaert has done just that. Last summer, after noticing an unusual abundance of insect life attracted to just one kind of plant in his local school garden, he decided to spend 12 hours of a day photographing all the fun.  The result is a 12-minute video showing 52 different insect and spider species attracted to the mountain mint, Pycnanthemum sp., in a Connecticut schoolyard.

The kind of insect diversity illustrated by this video is not something one will only find in Connecticut, or in a nature preserve, or in a uniquely special Eden. David’s school garden resides in a [biologically] “degraded urban habitat,” as he describes it.  The point is that there is much beauty to see in the plainest of flower patches.

The most famous of U.S. entomologists, E. O. Wilson, has observed that one could easily spend an entire scientific career peering into the life and chemistry of a shovelful of soil, or a trunk of a tree. “When you thrust a shovel into the soil or tear off a piece of coral…You have crossed a hidden frontier known to very few. Immediately close at hand, around and beneath our feet, lies the least explored part of the planet’s surface.”

I hope you’ll check out David’s video and, when spring returns, spend a little time observing the visitors to your garden.


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