Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Killing Spree Continues - Know Your Enemy

The thing with pests is that it is a constant battle.  This isn't something you can catch up on weekly like weeding or watering.  You have to be out there twice a day, every day, fighting for your food.  If you aren't killing them, they're killing your food.  I like to think of it as The Hunger Games.  It's a fight to the death.  If you ignore it for a few days, not only are they going to kill this year's crop, they're going to be back next year.  In numbers too big to ignore. Constant vigilance is your only hope.  Otherwise you will be buying {gasp} canned veggies, or {for shame!} asking your friends to bring you their extra zucchini.  There are principles at stake here.  We can't let some little bugs beat us.

I've gotten rather good at the killing, and I'm afraid I enjoy it.  I have learned my enemies ways and I have devised the most efficient methods of stalking and killing them.  Slugs were my first victory a couple of years ago.  After each rain, in the evening, I take my special vintage shaker out and murder them by the dozens.  When I set out seedlings that are especially vulnerable, I surround them with diatomaceous earth.  If I want to kill them while I'm off doing something else, I leave them with a tin full of beer to drown in.  Drink up boys! There has been a significant decrease in the slug population.  I know where they live.  I know how to kill them.  They start to bother me, I will unleash a holocaust. **Evil Chuckle** Simple.

The next pest I learned to deal with is Japanese Beetles.  There really is no getting rid of them entirely.  You can only manage them.  Long term, a product called Milky Spore spread in your lawn will decrease their numbers as will beneficial nematodes.  If you have a sudden scourge of them, beetle traps are very effective but they will lure all the bugs from the surrounding neighborhood in.  And then the coons will find a way to get a hold of the trap and eat the beetles and then barf them up in your lawn.  If there is anything worse than a stinky, smelly, rotting bag full of seething beetles, it is that same bag full of beetles after it has been eaten and barfed up.  I prefer to sneak up on them in the morning, when they're sleeping, and knock them into some soapy water.  Its much cleaner.  Personally I prefer peppermint scented Castile soap.  It's minty fresh.  You will soon note which of your plants they prefer.  They love berry bushes, holly hocks, peas and beans.  They also love Linden trees and Porcelain Vine.  I always start my killing spree there.  There's no better way to start your gardening day than by killing a hundred beetles of various descriptions.

Morning is always the best time of day to murder any kind of beetle.  In the cool temperatures they are sluggish and groggy and much easier to sneak up on.  Japanese Beetles are clumsy anyway.  Every flight plan they've ever devised begins with "plummet towards earth and hope for a breeze".  Just hold your cup of water under them and give them a flick. **KerrrPlunk** 

The soapy water method is also the best for Asparagus Beetles.  Now these guys are a little more crafty.  They are hyper vigilent and shy but they also begin their flight by dropping.  The asparagus plants are a little too dense for holding a cup of water under them.  When I see one, I simply slide my hand, flat palm upwards, towards them, aiming about four or five inches below and when they feel the stems move and drop, they will (hopefully if you have good aim) drop right into your palm.  They are not too quick to evaluate this turn of events and you can simply dump them into the soapy water before they reconnoiter.

Cucumber Beetles took me a couple of months to master, but oh they are so simple to kill.  Yes the lures work, but unfortunately, they kill just as many friendly pollinators as they do unfriendly ones.  I am loving the Duct Tape Destruction method.  And I know just where to find them.  They sleep in the flowers.  And, um, do other things there too.  If you go out in the morning and look in the flowers, you will see a bug butt sticking out of almost every one of them.  They also burrow into the clustered new growth at the tip of each vine.  Just tap the bug out of the flower into your palm and stick him with your duct tape.  It's almost unsporting.  Like shooting fish in a barrel.  In fact, if you can get near a cuke beetle and just touch him with your tape you've got him.  Especially if you get him on the wing side.  If you stick him by the belly you'd better smoosh him down into the tape just to be safe.

And my final murderous victory... the Flea Beetle.  Yes, you can simply cover every thing.  It works just fine.  But if, for whatever reason, you find it inconvenient to cover, then use the tape.  Oh there never was a slicker use for duct tape.  I'm telling you...  a leaf covered with flea beetles is just begging for some duct tape.  I've pretty much run out of flea beetles which is a bit disappointing.  I did so enjoy killing them.

And now, the Horned Squash Bug. I'm still on the upward slope of the learning curve but wising up fast.  Early detection is the key to defeating this enemy.  Eggs are so much nicer to destroy than those creepy, pale, un-dead zombie-like nymphs.  But the good news is that both the tape and the suds methods work.  And the tape works for removing the eggs which is important.  I also found that a nice dusting of garden lime will kill them, so I will have that weapon in my arsenal next spring.  I am happy to report that we are now fresh out of stink bugs.  Unfortunately, we are also fresh out of squash plants.  But revenge will be sweet.  And next year I am planting extra squash.  And I'll probably have to master other murders such as Squash Vine Borer and whatever destroys the roots of things and has yet to be seen much less identified...  Let the Games begin.

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