Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Miss Diagnosis

I picked up a hitchhiker yesterday.  Clinging to my windshield as the Honda hurtled toward Herscher was a small, yellow cucumber beetle.  I don’t know what his hurry was.  Perhaps he was late for football practice.  We certainly were. 

On second thought, I’m not sure that it was a cucumber beetle.  I wasn’t trained to identify bugs by their undercarriage, which is mostly what I could see from my vantage point.  Honestly, upside down or right side up, I’m no genius at identifying bugs.  I pulled an A in Dr. White’s Entomology 280, but it’s been a few years since I sat under his esteemed tutelage.  And I must confess, my interest level in the insect world was marginal at that time.  As a 20-year-old, I was hopped up on hormones and cramming for 4 other courses.  My personal interest in the life cycle of a cucumber beetle was about a 2 on a 10 scale, and that was only because my GPA was directly attached to my knowledge of their love life and appetite.  With no cucurbits of my own to protect, I didn’t have a vested and pressing interest in understanding the complexities of the cucumber beetle.  I was studying purely for the grade.  Five minutes after the final exam, all the hard-won memorization evaporated from my brain synapses.  Poof! 

A cucumber beetle....I think.

Now, in the sunset of my thirties, the distractions have expanded.  The hormones of my twenties resulted in offspring that litter my house with nerf bullets, legos and empty yogurt containers.  The dishwashing and loads of laundry have certainly increased from the free-style life of my college days.  But one significant difference has changed everything between me and Mr. Cucumber Beetle:  it’s personal now.  The insect attack is no longer theoretical.  I have tilled the soil (okay, technically the husband did that, but I supplied the lemonade), planted the seeds, watered the soil, weeded the weeds, watered, weeded, watered, well…let’s just leave it at this: I’m invested.  And now my zucchini are drooping.   This is the life cycle of my zucchini: sprout, flourish, flower, produce 6-7 fruits, then wither, shrivel and die. 

Have I mentioned that I love my little squash?  I slice them thin, fry them in butter, season them with salt, pepper and indecently gooey amounts of parmesan.  Only one of my children inherited my passion for zucchini, which is fine by me, because there are fewer people with whom I must share.  Besides, the two of us alone can eat four medium-sized zucchini in one sitting.  We’re serious about squash. 

No question about it....that's zucchini.  

And now I’m feeling the sting of my lack of focus so many years ago.  My Ortho book suggests the cucumber beetle is not guilty of this serial squashicide.  I feel like a doctor who is unable to diagnose her own child with the chicken pox.  Good thing I didn’t go into medicine.  Research suggests I may have an infestation of squash vine borers.  And they don’t just attack zucchini.  Remember my fruitless pumpkin patch?  A week after I wrote to you of my woeful lack of jack-o-lanterns, I discovered baby pumpkins growing on the vine.  Two days after that, the vines wilted and died.  Cucurbits and I are just not meant to be. 

So what to do?  Give up?  Never.  I can’t garden without zucchini.  It would be like celebrating a birthday without cake.  No can do.  I’m going to burn down all the plant debris this fall and ammo up with some Bug-B-Gone.  I hear it controls cucumber beetles and squash vine borers.  Just in case I’ve misdiagnosed again.  

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