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Bugs

Houseplant Pest Problems Likely to Increase. Even though it is now the middle of November, it still feels more like the middle or even the beginning of October. Last week I even heard that some people were still harvesting tomatoes from their garden! We had better enjoy the warmer weather while we can because we all know that more seasonal weather is on its way and soon our landscape will take on a more wintery appearance. With the colder weather on the way, many gardeners turn to indoor gardening activities instead.     more


Bats and Bees in the Garden. According to an on-line weather site the hottest June 11 on record in Rapid City was a mere 102 degrees in 1953. We registered an anti-social 108 degrees at our house that day at noon.  As the day ‘cooled’ I emerge
d from my cocoon of iced tea to see if there was life (left) in the garden.  more

Wasp nest below photographed by Ray and Josephine Cowdery of Rapid City early in October of 2015.  It appeared in the Rapid City Journal as a black-and-white image.  Here it is in color:





Bothersome wasps?  This video will show you how to use paper bags from the grocery store to set up a rival wasp nest.  This solution is simple, quick, no cost, and chemical free.  Tender-hearted gardeners will appreciate the fact that wasps aren't really "destroyed," only made to feel unwelcome.  Of course, the same benefit can accrue to back-deck loungers, roofers, and others working on house-repair projects.

Mr. Miller is pretty much gone.  Here's a quick question....are you being bugged by bugs? More specifically, the seriously irritating dusty millers (correctly named Miller moths)? They are currently appearing in the evenings around both indoor and outdoor lights. The Miller moths, according to sources, are the adult form of the army cutworm. In the fall the moths will return from the Rockies where they have been feeding to the plains and lay eggs in and near alfalfa and small grains fields. 

After a few weeks the eggs hatch into cutworm caterpillars to spend the winter. In the spring the caterpillars burrow into the ground to emerge later as moths. All is not paradise for many of the moths feeding in the high meadows of the Rockies.They attract grizzly bears that enjoy eating them. There are many fascinating facts to be learned about these mid-summer irritations. Google 'Miller moths' for more information.

Good news! Bugs are finally getting good press. Or, to put it another way: insects are vital to worldwide food production. Bees, as we 

know, are acknowledged to be a keystone species whose reduction or removal from the habitat would be  devastating.  more

Bugs Rule! Early spring reading at its best.   There are trade-offs for the gardener when winter deprives us of time in the garden. I am referring, of course, to reading. To be specific, I am referring to Whitney Cranshaw and Richard Redak’s  new book, “Bugs Rule!” Cranshaw is a horticultural entomologist at Colorado State University and Redak is a Professor of Entomology at the University of California Riverside. Gardeners know Cranshaw and his first book, Garden Insects of North America, which should be in every gardener’s library.  more

Rethinking the wild behavior of plants. Jessica Walliser is one of my favorite garden writers. Her books, Good Bug, Bad Bug and GrowOrganic, were instrumental in educating me about the value of insects in the garden. Her latest book, "Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden," fascinated me by her excellent discussions of the various examples of needful insect/plant cooperation. These range from flower forms and nectars that accommodate specific pollinators to plants that produce poisonous sap, with a twist.  more

Pillbug is nature's little janitor.  We are familiar with the work of earthworms, millipedes and possibly dung beetles but the most fascinating is the sweet little roly-poly, the pillbug that we know because it will curl into a ball when disturbed.  

     These little guys include in their menu of rotting material the dung of macro and micro creatures as well as their own. Each time a pillbug defecates, it loses a small amount of copper, which is essential to its life. By consuming its feces, the copper is replaced. And, speaking of adaptive ability, the pillbug cannot urinate, instead releasing the ammonia gas through its exoskeleton.  more

As the days begin to warm we see the cool season weeds (argh!) and the arrival of many of the early pollinators. There is a growing body of research on the effect of pesticides on bee brains. 


As gardeners, we are going to be hearing a lot about learning to identify our native pollinators, including in our gardens flowering plants that will attract them and reducing our use of insecticides to protect the native pollinator populations. Here is an interesting article that exposes yet another truly fascinating ability of the bumble bee.


 

On the theory that we can neither dislike nor advocate for insects unless and until we know a bit about them, get a fresh cup of tea or coffee and watch these short videos about insects. These are youtube short shots ranging from one minute in length to seven. Some have a musical background and some are silent. There is a written narration for the danerous insects. There is no spoken narration.

Insects in a minute

Another minute with insects

Ten extremely dangerous insects

The Beauty of Insects



A Ted Talk: Respect the Bugs This is a wonderful film featuring Marc Berman stressing the point (important for gardeners...as well as the rest of us) that "respect" is a word built from Latin roots meaning simply "to see again"...take another look. Berman manages to illustrate that the little jumping spider is clever, a marvelous bundle of technology (eyes in the back of its head as well as the front) and, some might say, has a sense of humor. Well, that might be a stretch, but watch the video...and then watch it again with a child.

All hail the bugs of March. 

Ah! March 15. The Ides of March, made notable to contemporary society as the day in history, 44 BCE, when Julius Caesar ignored the advice of the soothsayer to “beware the Ides of March” and was stabbed to death at a meeting of the Roman Senate. 

      Ignoring the ripe opportunity to make tasteless jokes about the Senate, as gardeners, let us consider some gardening issues that present themselves at this launching of the gardening season, this mid-point of March. more (#10)

Aphids still in your garden?  Aphids. Every garden has some. With almost 4,500 species of the little (a really big aphid is about 1/3 of an inch) critters gnawing on plants worldwide, they have either arrived or will be coming soon to your garden.

We have had them on roses, on the bittersweet vine, in galls on the poplar tree and sucking the life from plum tree leaves. And that doesn’t mean we don’t care. We do. As destructive as they are, they are also fascinating.  more



Ticks sometimes like gardeners, so . . .  Apply  a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with  the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20); the tick will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away.  This  technique has worked every time I've used it (and  that was frequently), and it's much less traumatic for  the patient and easier for me.  via email

Beetles are defeating natural spirit--and garden. The season, about three weeks slow at our house, fooled me into thinking the beetle attack would be slight. I was beginning to feel very virtuous. Then there were beetle sightings on the columbine (always the first to go) and then the pasque (the beetles were a bit more enthusiastic in stripping the stems than I thought necessary), and then a little action on the buttercups. A-ha, I thought: moderate damage, spread about the garden. Ithought my pacifist plan might work.  more

Mason bees are good pollinators, easy to keep.  For various reasons, keeping hives was not practical. Then I discovered the gentle, small, super-low maintenance native orchard mason bees (Osmia lignaria). We’ve all seen the ads for mason bee boxes that look like  containers of straws with the promise, “Hang it and they will come.”  The project is low-cost, low-tech, high-interest and supports native bees. Fostering orchard mason bees is a project that we are finding fun, educational and insect-friendly.   more

Thrips in the garden.  As diversion from obsessing about voles and thistles, we revisit thrips, the insect we love to hate, review how and when we feed the soil and ponder a fun way to grow potatoes (next year!)  
      There is fascination as well as irritation with thrips. Even their name causes confusion; “thrips” refers to one or a million – and it is usually  millions So small they can feed on a single fungal spore or plant cell, they are from 0.5 mm to 14 mm long and typically yellow, black or brown in color. If you miss seeing the critter you notice the slick varnish-like appearance on the damaged leaf and the tiny black dots of frass or insect poop.  more

 

Bug banks help keep balance of good insects.  Farmscaping for Beneficials — creating habit for beneficial insects, as well as information to teach how to build a beetle bank. Fieldwork is under way to learn more about beetle life cycle and dietary needs.  more

Insects can protect us from illness and dangers.  Think of it: roaches as sources of new, wonderful antibiotics. Bees as anti-terrorists. Sequencing insect genomes to potentially eradicate insect-borne disease.  It all makes me want to make a cup of tea and read. 
more


Bugs may rule, but that doesn’t mean I love them.  Sources suggest there are 200 million insects for each human on the planet.  The New York Times speculated that, worldwide, there are 300 pounds of insects for every pound of humans.  It is estimated that there are 10 quintillion (that’s 10 with 18 zeros) insects alive.  My peace with insects is directly related to the fact that we are outnumbered.  More





News

Summer Food in Wintry February

 

16 Popular Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze

1. Garlic – You can freeze whole garlic, garlic cloves or chopped fresh garlic. Frozen garlic does lose some of its texture, but the flavor remains intact.

2. Corn – You can freeze fresh-picked corn on the cob for up to one year. Pack it in freezer bags — husk and silk and all. For store-bought corn, husk and blanch it before freezing.

3. Avocados – The bad news is that frozen avocados lose their consistency. The good news is that they do not lose their taste, so you can use them for guacamole or dressing. Wash and halve them before peeling. Freeze as halves, or puree them with lime or lemon juice and then store for up to eight months.

4. Mushrooms — You can freeze raw button, creminis and portabellas mushrooms for later use. Chop and slice mushrooms and then spread them on a cookie sheet. Freeze. Then transfer the pieces to bags or containers.

5. Onion – You can save chopping time – and tears – by freezing onion for cooking later. Store peeled, chopped onion in plastic freezer bags. The best part is you can just toss them into your recipes without thawing them first.

6. Hummus – Scoop your fresh hummus into plastic containers. Then drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on the top to keep it from drying out. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before mixing and serving.


more such winter gardening from Off the Grid News