It happened. The pests have descended. When I go out in the early morning to water the plants, everything is covered. We got by easy in the first months, probably cause there were so many new plants everywhere, plus it takes a while for them to build up. Now that they’ve found our garden though- well. I’ve always said that most of gardening or farming isn’t in the growing things, it’s in killing the things that are trying to prevent your stuff from growing. Weeding and squashing pests! That’s what farming is really all about, and it’s a dirty job. Remember to click photos to see them larger. Bonus points for bug identification.
The first was the bean leaf beetle, which I’ve already shown you. Those have disappeared, I haven’t the faintest idea where they’ve got to. They didn’t end up doing too much damage, so it wasn’t a big deal. The first real crisis, however, is the squash vine borer. They’re HORRIBLE.
Over the past week or so I thought my zucchini plants were wilting because they weren’t getting enough water, and it’s so hot, and we haven’t had rain in ages. Then two of them up and died. When I went to pull out the plants, I thought they had maybe just rotted, but then I saw this:
That is evidence of squash vine borers. They leave behind what looks sort of like orangey (or yellow) damp saw dust. Usually it’s not so prolific, but I didn’t get to these in time, so they had time to do a lot of damage. The initial damage might just be a small little spot, either at the top of a leaf stem or especially around the base of the plant. Essentially, the squash vine bug, which supposedly looks a bit like a parasitic wasp though I haven’t spotted one myself yet, lays eggs in the stems of the plant. When the eggs hatch, the larvae travel down (inside of) the stem of the leaf to the base of the plant, where they set to work boring holes all through it. Eventually they will bore all the way through, cutting off the plant’s ability to absorb water or nutrients from it’s roots. Then the whole plant, which up til then may look totally fine, will suddenly die.
BLECH. The only way to deal with them once they’ve got going is to cut them out of the stems- to slice open the base of the plant and dig around with a sharp knife until you find them, and then squash them and bury the stem of the plant, and hope to heaven it survives. When they had just got two of the zucchini plants I was kind of like, whatever, I have 16 zucchini plants- but then they got into my heirloom winter squash. My beautiful, sprawling, unbelievable healthy looking heirloom squash which are trailing all over the garden and have leaves three times the size of my head (no lie). THE DAMN BORERS WERE IN THERE! I spent a full hour going through each plant, carefully digging out the worms, and smashing them. My favorite plant, one of the funny Italian ones that is just huge and sprawling and wonderful, had no less than 5 worms at the base. I’m praying that I got them all- sometimes they get way up in there higher than you cut and you can’t find them. If that plant dies- oh, there will be hell to pay. The one upside is that they apparently don’t like melons and cucumbers (says my book), but prefer zucchini and pumpkins.
This means WAR. I’ve been checking for them every morning, which often ends in me showing up to my office with my hair awry, sweaty and covered in dirt and the rash I get from squash vines. No idea what causes that, but a lot of people get it. I think it’s the hairs on the stems, they’re so prickly they probably get stuck in your skin.
We have other pests, of course. We have the same thing that’s bothering everyone else, but fortunately it’s not too bad yet:
The brown marmorated stink bug from hell, of course. Usually just smash those when I find them, though of course I’m usually not wearing shoes so sometimes I just throw them to the chickens (don’t think they’re eating them though, the chickens can be a little slow on the uptake).
A squash bug. It’s not a stink bug. As you can see it’s a different shape, and they’ve got some orange under their wings.
I think these are their eggs. They’re all over the squash, and I’ve been turning over every leaf and squashing them when I find them. And there’s a lot.
And these are the nymphs.
Of course the garden is filled with a million other bugs as well, but we like the other ones. Spiders? Big thumbs up. Parasitic wasps? Huzzah! Grasshoppers and crickets and the baby praying mantis I saw the other day? Even better! And of course there are plenty of small biting gnats who fly up my skirt and make my life hellish. Such is life. Now, can anyone tell me how else I can attack these damn squash borers???