Tuesday, May 10, 2011

License to Kill

I'm a softie.  I steer away from movies like Dumbo, Bambi and Old Yeller (I'm sniffling just thinking about them).  I can't eat lobster (what a way to die...poor dears).  Once, I caught a VERY badly behaved mouse - and rather than kill it - I drove several miles away and released it in a cornfield.  But bugs?  Well, they're more of a gray area for me.  I have two boys who love to inspect and capture or kill them, so we have developed some guidelines to regulate insect treatment.

If the bugs are in our house, they're trespassing (a capital offense).  If they're outside, leave 'em alone.

This standing order has saved the lives of countless Daddy Longlegs and the ruination of many an anthill.

BUT there are a few bugs on my Watch List.  I think of them as little terrorists.  No mercy.  The house rule goes out the window for them.  Inside, outside, upside down.  I don't care.
I'm the terminator.

Bug #1: Japanese Beetles
Decked out in their iridescent copper and green coat, these little menaces might be mistaken for something beautiful.  They're not.  Destroy them.  However, not being a fan of the CRUNCH experienced when crushing buggy exoskeletons, I kill them humanely.  Well, at least it treats ME humanely.  I drop them in a bucket of soapy water.  The soap destroys the water tension, rendering the offender helpless to escape.  Additionally, soap does damage insect cell membranes, but beyond the technical jargon, this is what you need to know: it kills them.  During Japanese Beetle season, I work outside in my garden with a bucket of soapy water by my side.  Fortunately for gardeners, JBs are not as wily as the common housefly.  They are easily caught and tossed in the bucket.  If you have kids, give them each a bucket and promise an ice cream cone to the one with the most beetles.  If you're a softie like me, you can just give them all an ice cream cone when they've done the job.



Bug #2: Grubs
Grubs are nothing more than baby beetles.  In Illinois, our two main grubs are the Masked Chafer and the Japanese beetle.  They live in the soil, so I usually find them when I'm planting or weeding.  They roll up in a C-shape when disturbed.  No soapy water to soften the brutality of this deed: I smoosh them soundly with whatever tool I have on hand.  (Confession: my softie nature took over and I released the pictured grub after our little photo shoot.  It took me awhile to get just the right shot and by then, I'd just spent too much time with him to not become somewhat attached.  So warning to fellow softies: don't think about it.  Just do it.  And whatever you do, don't name them.)




Bug #3: Bagworms
Why are bagworms such successful pests?  Well, it's really a two-pronged attack.  First, they're camouflaged in their nest: a small enclosure that often looks like a pine cone or other natural plant structure.  Second, there's SO MANY of them.  Each nest contains 500-1000 eggs which will hatch in May and unleash hell on your plant.  So pick them and burn them.  Or pick them and smoosh them.  Or pick them and drown them in soapy water.  But just be sure to destroy them.  Bagworms can also be sprayed in early spring with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), neem oil or spinosad.

1 comment:

mama weez said...

Oh my goodness, what a funny view on garden pests :) I thought Big Daddy was the only one merciful to bugs....

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