Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pests and Friends

It's still a very buggy year out there in the garden!  We pulled up our tomato plants because they are at the point in the year where the return is not worth the effort of keeping up with them.  Because of blight, spider mites and leaffooted bugs, we decided to bag and throw away all the plants.   It's a breath of fresh air to have them gone.  They were huge plants and starting to escape their beds, so having them gone frees up a lot of space to move around the garden. 

But back to those leaffooted bugs.  I knew once the tomatoes were gone, they would take up residence somewhere new, but I wasn't sure where.  I killed off a few clusters of nymphs of the cucumbers.  Then today I saw a cluster on the black eyed peas.  If you spray sevin on black eyed peas, you have to wait 3 weeks to harvest, so I wasn't going to do that.  Instead, I marched up to Josh with a gleam in my eye and said, "I can burn the leaffooted bugs, right?"  He somewhat hesitantly agreed that yes, I could.  And sure enough, I could.  The plants were well watered , so they were in no danger of catching fire.  I rolled up some paper to make myself a torch (a small amount of lighter fluid may have been applied to the end to encourage a healthy flame), and I waved it right over those suckers.  Let me tell you, it was faster than any pesticide.  The bigger ones could move away, but they were injured and I caught up to them.  I do think I will be using this method again in the future.  It works immediately and no chemicals on the plants.  I'd really like to know what purpose leaffooted bugs serve, is anyone really gonna notice if we just remove them from the food web completely?

On the good bug side of things, I have found a few assassin bugs in the garden!  These are actually one of the few things that will prey on leaffooted bugs (and anything else, they aren't scared of humans either).  There are several different varieties, but the type we have hanging around is Zelus renardii
They are a bit like praying mantises, they stand their ground and act like they're ready to beat you down when you get close to them.  No fear at all.  I wonder if a researcher has looked at these bugs for a cure for anxiety.

I think this might be a baby assassin bug, but I'm not sure.  Anyone out there know?
Here's an itty bitty shiny fly that I just wanted to see if I could catch on "film", and I did!
Big giant fly.  Stable fly, I believe.  They bite.  And suck blood.  Fabulous, huh?  A lot of these are hanging around.  This was my favorite picture of the day.
Then there's this crazy guy.  About half an inch long, maybe longer.  They look just like giant ants, but they are always alone and tend to sit around in one spot.  I had to email this picture to the local ag extension office to get a definite identification and it turns out more than one person had to take a look to come up with an answer. They can't definitively identify it.  It's a nymph of something in the order Hemiptera, family Alydidae.  I think I'm going to have to catch one and try keeping it in a jar to see what it turns into. 

Update!  The entomologists came up with an identification for me!  Turns out it's a Hemiptera Alydidae genus Hyalymenus and perhaps species tarsatus, which would make it a Texas bow-legged bug.  Turns out they have been eating my black eyed peas.  The pods look normal and when they're shelled, the beans look normal on first inspection, but they are pretty much hollow.  Strangest thing. 

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