| I realize I've been rather absent here lately. In the past month, I've moved once and I'm moving again. The first move was to an "eco-village" and unfortunately, after I moved in, I realized it wasn't what I'd thought it would be, and it wasn't quite right for me. Certainly, living in an eco-village would be a great fit for me, but living in THIS eco-village was not. In large part, it was simply due to the location, far to the north of where I hang out in San Diego.
Last weekend, I found an ad online for a place in San Diego's Ocean Beach. Monday I went to meet the guy who owns the place, and realized that the house is just a few blocks from two houses where my friends live. And the place has a huge yard, fruit trees, and raised bed gardens. Eventually, we'll have maybe five people living there, but right now it will be the homeowner, another girl, and me. I move in this coming Sunday.
When I first visited, I saw a horrible bug infestation in the garden. And that's what this post is about.
|When I first visited my new place, I saw the lovely raised beds - and some brassica (cabbage family) plants that were literally COVERED with bugs. There were at least hundreds of these bugs on the plants. I didn't know what kind of bugs they were, or what should be done about them, but Step One was obvious: Get rid of the bugs' food. This is the wrong season to grow brassica plants here - they like cool weather and we grow them in the winter - and if we didn't get rid of the bugs soon, then we might have to skip growing brassica crops all winter.
Today I went back over to my new place with my garden tools and a bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap and I got to work. The brassica plants went to the compost pile, and the I attempted to hand pick the little f***ers off the chard, where they were regrouping, and drown them in a bowl of soapy water. Then I called my friend who lives a few blocks away and asked to borrow a few chickens for a day next week.
It turns out the bug we're having the big problem with is a harlequin bug (Murgantia histrionica), a type of stinkbug. There were also some spiders there, a green bug, and some other species. I wasn't sure which bugs were bad, and which ones were preying on the harlequin bugs and which ones were eating the plants. The green bugs were either green stink bugs (Acrosternum hilare) or southern green stink bugs (Nezara viridula) and they were eating the plants. The green bugs were VERY vulnerable to the soapy water. The harlequin bugs died in the soapy water, but the green bugs died very quickly. (It was Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds in case you're curious.)
Green stink bugs will eat apples, cherries, peaches, eggplants, tomatoes, beans, peas, and corn. Southern green stink bugs have a preference for beans but they eat a wide range of plants. Harlequin bugs prefer brassica (cabbage family) crops but will eat asparagus, okra, squash, beans, corn, tomatoes, and eggplant too.
With the huge numbers we have, I think a natural predator of some sort is in order. If the chickens are willing to do that job, then we'll use chickens. (We don't have any chickens at my new place yet but we'll get some. In the short term, we'll let my friend's chickens come eat our bugs.)
For bugs that prey on stink bugs, one option is a green lacewing, which you can buy online. There's just no way that anything we spray or any amount of handpicking the bugs from the crops will get rid of these bugs, and spraying might kill beneficial insects too. I saw some spiders and a few other bugs around, and I hope that some of the bugs were predators - maybe assassin bugs.
We'll also try to remove whatever the bugs are feeding on, but there are limits to that. The brassica plants were not healthy and they were growing in the wrong season. I removed them today. The chard and squash plants are healthy and for now, I don't see a reason to kill healthy plants even if they have some bugs on them. And the fruit trees, obviously, are there to stay even if the bugs find them tasty. So I think finding natural predators is the way to go in this case.