Thursday, May 13, 2010

Of Buglies and Beasts

Better Boy Tomatoes

The above photo is just a tease and a warning. The tease part is just so you won't freak out at what this post is really about. The warning is this - ugly things to come. But these little tomatoes look nice, don't they?

Calliope Eggplant with flea beetle damage

The buglies and beasts are upon us now. It's been a strange spring, with little to no rain, hot temperatures, and hot winds. My plants are starting to suffer. First the bug damage. Above is a lovely little eggplant showing flea beetle damage. You may be able to see a couple of flea beetles to the left if you enlarge the photo by clicking on it. Flea beetles are very tiny and like their namesake, jump off the plant at the slightest touch.

Ichiban Eggplant and flea beetle damage

When the damage gets real bad, the plant can look like this. These pests are hard to control, especially organically. Since I only have a couple of eggplants (don't ask me why they like eggplant so much), I try to squish the buggers with my fingers. But the man I bought this plant from, who normally gardens organically, said he's found only Sevin dust works on them. He's got a lot of plants he has to keep nice looking though. So if anyone knows of a good organic remedy for them, before my plants totally succumb, I'd sure like to hear it.

Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers on Victoria Regina Agave

How's this for an outbreak of pests? I have never had so many of these ugly buglies before. Maybe the cold winter inspired them or something. I doubt it though; it's more likely I let a few adults get away last year and they laid too many eggs. According to, a lubber means "a clumsy or lazy person". Apparently these grasshoppers taste so bad that they haven't needed to develop the ability to fly away, thus their name! Around here they're called Graveyard Grasshoppers and I read online that the folks down in south Louisiana call them Devil Horses (love it!). You can see some damage on my daffodil leaves in the photo. Imagine what damage they can do when they turn into their 4 inch long adult selves! I've lost whole plants to those guys. Last week I spread an organic solution that gets ingested by them and supposedly kills them. But it looks like I didn't get enough of it out there. I squish as many as I can and have even gotten to the point where I don't mind picking them up with my hand and throwing them to where I can do a better squish job (that should also give you an indication of how they don't fly away). Ugh, it's going to be a tough bug year I think.

On to the beasts. Warning - next photo may be a bit much.

Deceased baby robin

I was actually a bit hesitant to post this photo of a dead baby robin but I've been dealing with the baby robins these last two days. Such is life I guess. Yesterday I heard the harrassing cries of some robins so I investigated. I found a big old crow in the middle of the street about 10 inches from a baby robin. So I shooed the crow away and the baby hopped off under the watchful eye of the parents. Today I heard the same cries in the alleyway portion of my backyard so I was determined to come to the rescue again. Alas, a neighbor cat had just killed this little guy. Very sad.

Tomato casualty

And here's another casualty but this time the beast was me. Have you ever tried to gingerly move part of your tomato plant back into the tomato cage only to have it snap off in your hands? Well let me tell you, you feel pretty stupid when that happens.

When I gardened in Texas I called it "macho gardening". You had to be tough to put up with the droughts, the floods, the searing heat, the sudden freezes, the biblical pests and beasts. Then I went to Botswana where the lodge manager had to chase elephants out of his vegetable garden and it put things into perspective. Though I still deal with pests, heat, and floods, I suppose things could be worse!

Big news for me - I start a full-time job this coming Monday. It's been so long since I had a job where I went into work that it remains to be seen how I'll manage to also garden, keep the drought at bay, do the laundry and blog! :-) I leave you with a photo of something nice for a change, a Siam Queen basil plant. I don't know if I need to keep the blooms off this as I do for my Genovese basil plants. I kind of like the contrasting flower buds on this.

Siam Queen Basil
This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. It's a tough garden world! I watched a starling climb in a wren's next and destroy it before I could move across the drive. gail

  2. Good luck with those pests and critters! As for the tomato - look at it as an opportunity to make another tomato plant. Accidental prunings root very easily.

  3. I'm not seeing that many buglies but the heat, drought & wind are taking a toll on both garden and gardener here on my corner of Katy.

    Enjoy the new job!

  4. I've never seen flea beetles before, I learned something today. :-)--Randy

  5. Macho Gardening! I love it! Thanks for this educational post. I'm a bit of a luber (luper?) when it comes to looking up pests...I've got that thing on my eggplant as well! Dagnabbit!

    BTW, I'd pinch those purple buds to encourage more bushing...I just love basil! All of 'em!

    Great post!

  6. I'm so sorry about all the nasty beasties in your garden, Jean. That's one thing that I haven't had to contend with...yet. But once summer is here, I know I'll be fighting the same battles. I will resort to using Sevin if the squash/cucumber beetles attack my squash, but some years by the time they arrive, I've had my fill of zucchini and squash anyway:)

    Good luck in your new job! When I was working full-time I seemed to be a lot more efficient with my time than I am now. I know you'll adjust after awhile.

  7. Hope you like the new job, Jean- and hope I never see those graveyard grasshoppers.

    We just finished watching the TV series of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana- it sounds like a very special place, even with elephants in the garden ;-]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. Great post. I've bookmarked that site, to look up some buglies.

    Good luck with the job. Hope it all works out well.


  9. There are so many small tragedies in the garden... not so small to the birds of course, but we do see life and death when close to nature. Blue Jays are hard on Robins too but Crows and Cats most likely are the worst predators. Poor little Robin and it's parents. ;>(

  10. Yes, so many small tragedies in the garden. Everything coming round full circle I guess. Congrats on your new job. I hope we'll get to work together.~~Dee

  11. Dee - I'm sure we'll be working together. I've already edited one of your articles!


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