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Archive for the ‘Bugs & Insects’ Category

In just two weeks, we had hundreds of them snared. Leafhoppers, cucumber beetles, mealybugs – all hopelessly trapped in our garden, thanks to the genius invention that is the yellow sticky trap.

Lots of bugs stuck to the yellow traps. Kind of gross, but well worth it to save the garden!

Lots of bugs stuck to the yellow traps. Kind of gross, but well worth it to save the garden

I don’t know why we didn’t try these earlier; they truly are a godsend for us this summer. So what is this miracle, you ask? It’s basically a thin piece of cardboard covered in a sticky, glue-like substance.

The yellow color attracts insects that are also attracted to the yellow flowers of cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, etc. Although in theory, this could catch bees and other beneficial bugs, we haven’t had that happen yet.

A pack of 15 (ordered from Amazon) was relatively cheap and it’s a non-toxic way to control insects. It’s something that is well worth it, in our opinion, to stop the little destructors that eat and sometimes kill our plants.

Cucumber beetle trapped!

Cucumber beetle trapped!

I do wonder if some of our zucchini plants would have survived if we used these earlier. Many of them were just destroyed by those tiny bug jaws.

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It’s becoming a summer ritual, but nothing fun like going out for ice cream or sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. Nevertheless, it begins every year around this time. We are preparing for battle against the squash vine borer.

Found several eggs on this plant -- very hard to spot

Found several eggs on this plant — very hard to spot (yes they’re in the picture)

I’ve written extensively about this problem before and always hope for the best. This summer we found vine borer eggs on our yellow squash and zucchini plants. They are hard to spot — very tiny light brown eggs laid on the plants not in clusters but individually.

My new nightly ritual for the next few weeks will be inspecting every inch of the plants, picking off and crushing any eggs I find.

Also, we’re taking a proactive approach and injecting each stem with Bt, a natural bacteria that can kill the borer if it hatches and tunnels into the vines. If the past few years are any indication, we’ll lose at least some of the zucchini and squash. If it happens again, we’re done with zucchini for at least a year or two so it can move on to someone else’s garden.

 

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We tried. We really did. Being vigilant about searching for and destroying eggs, watching for any signs of damage — we did it all. But it still didn’t work. The damn squash vine borer got our zucchini and yellow squash.

This shows squash vine borer damage on our zucchini plant. The frass is a sign of an infestation.

This shows squash vine borer damage on our zucchini plant. The frass is a sign of an infestation.

I noticed the tell-tale signs of frass a couple weeks ago. It looks a lot like sawdust and it meant our summer squash plants would die soon. That’s when I sprung into action and tried the Bt to stop the grubby invaders.

I’ve mentioned this before but for those who don’t know, Bt is a natural bacteria that messes with the borer’s digestion when they eat it. So as soon as we noticed the frass, I was armed with my garden syringe and a jug of Bt (it has to be mixed with water), stabbing away at the stems and injecting the solution.

This was the first time I tried using the Bt solution, and you know what? It worked like a charm. The zucchini plant has rebounded (for the most part), and there are even a couple growing again!

Even if we don’t get any more, I’ll at least count this as a success.

Related: How to control SVB

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This year we decided to try something new and saved some space in our raised beds for borage and nasturtium. Both these plants can attract beneficial insects like bees but they also repel a whole host of bugs.

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Our tomatoes are finally starting to turn red. We’ve harvested a handful of zucchini and cucumbers, plus an eggplant and a few Anaheim peppers. Not to mention all the fresh herbs we need.

Delicious homegrown cucumbers.

Delicious homegrown cucumbers.

So far, it’s been a decent season and could end up being one of our better gardening years. But of course not everything is perfect. Despite our efforts to crush the cucumber beetle and wipe away any trace of the squash vine borer, we’ve lost a few battles.

I suspect what made the leaves on two of our cucumber plants shrivel and die was bacterial wilt transmitted by the cucumber beetle. Either that or serious damage from a mega-infestation of squash bugs, which I promptly doused in insecticidal soap.

We did lose one of our yellow squash volunteers to the squash vine borer, as well as half of another yellow squash plant that somehow divided itself in two after it was in the garden.

While all this is upsetting, I’m trying to look on the bright side of things. Where we had to tear out the cucumber plants is a great place to plant a fall crop of peas, and the dead squash plant frees up a pot for some more fall lettuce.

 

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There are few new faces in our garden this year. And they’re not welcome. We’ve seen some familiar ones – squash vine borers, cucumber beetles, squash bugs – but there have been several we’ve never noticed before.

First, the leafhopper. It’s actually a very pretty insect. The ones in our garden are a light, minty green with blue and orange stripes, but they come in all sorts of colors. I saw one earlier in the season hanging out on our squash plants. They’re pretty fast and jump around when disturbed.

As always, I wanted to check out what it was before we destroyed it. Turns out, they’re not good at all. They suck out the juices of the leaf, and the toxic saliva produces a stippling pattern on the leaves. If they’re not controlled, they can cause the leaves to yellow, wilt, dry out and eventually die.

Next, the mealybug. We noticed these on one of the cucumber tendrils, and they look like white fuzz that moves. They’re also not good because they suck out the sap from the plant’s tissue.

The next two I have no idea what they are. Even with some searching I haven’t had much luck. One looks like skinny grasshopper with a small stripe down its back. The other looks like a lightning bug, but fatter and without the stripes on its wings or dot on its head.

We’ll keep monitoring this and see how it progresses. I’m going to mix up a batch of insecticidal soap and spray it on the unwelcome insects.

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We came home from a camping trip two weekends ago and were excited to see how our garden was doing. Everything looked great until we spotted it – the adult version of the squash vine borer. There it was, just sitting on the zucchini leaf minding its own business.

The adult SVB. From whatsthatbug.com

The adult SVB. Photo from http://www.whatsthatbug.com

These have been a terror in our garden for the past three years, destroying our squash plants. Ever since the first year, when our plants were perfectly healthy then dead within days, we’ve been watching for this. I thought we were in the clear this year, but I was wrong.

In a weird way, I’m glad we saw it. I wasn’t as diligent about checking for any signs of the squash vine borer because everything was healthy and doing well — no yellow leaves, no wilting.

I think our beneficial nematodes really helped because they killed most of the cocoons that might have overwintered. But, seeing this adult reminded us that we’re not in the clear, and we still need a plan of attack.

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