|KINDLY OLD LEATHERPUSS|
But today I have to tell you about one of the most insidious, clandestine, persistent, nastiest, butt-ugly destructive scourges ever to plague any garden, with or without a garden shed.
What Billy? Aunt Agnes? Ho ho, no, close but no cigar. No, we are talking about this little ugly gray insect right here.
|ANASA TRISTIS, FAMILY COREIDAE; THE SQUASH BUG|
Ugly little spud, is it not? And what total havoc this invader creates in the garden. Lets take a quick look.
Do you like your squash vines to look like this?
Or, like this?
Tough choice, isn't it? Would you like pumpkin pie made from these?
Or, from one like this?
The problem starts in the fall, when the adult bugs burrough into the garden debris and over winter there. A quick, early and very hard freeze is an ally at this point, and will kill many of them, reducing the problem the following year. A mildf winter however leads to low bug mortality and a correspondingly quick and voluminous start in spring.
Squash bugs become active in june, just about the time the squash are developing and from that point on, it is all about the squash. Your squash.
Squash bugs are insect vampires, plunging their proboscis into every vein on the leaves and stems of the plants and eventually into the fruiting bodies themselves. They can collapse the vines and leaves, killing the plant outright and causing the squash to rot.
They have unprotected squash bug sex right on the vines and deposit their distinctive egg cases directly on the undeside of the leaves. Other generations replicate and before long, the squash bugs are out of control and you are looking at a dissapointing crop, if any at all.
WHAT TO DO
Watch for these little creeps beginning in early June, on the leaves of your squashes, particularly underneath, and by the very base of the plant. Kill every single one you see, and crush every single egg. Start early before the hordes multiply and you have a chance to avoid damage. Spray the vines and leaves with any deterrent containing pyrethrine, these are specially effective vs. squash bugs. Be relentless; a few lax days and you could have squash bugs up the gagootz.
Know when you are beaten:
If you had a bad infestation last year and a mild winter, you might be overwhelmed no matter how fiercely you battle Anasa tristis. Do not hesitate. Get a hot fire going, perhaps in a 55 gallon drum, rip up the vines, squash, bugs, eggs and all and consign them to the flames. Do NOT put unburned squash vines into your compost! The ashes, of course, will be fine.
Toss in all mulch, ground litter etc. where other bugs can be hiding.
This may violate local ordinances; in our view here at the Shed we have an obligation to violate bad law. But follow your conscience on this one.
If you cannot bring yourself to burn the vines and litter, fill the largest garbage bags you can get with the debris, spray in generous portions of Raid or the like, twist the bag tightly closed with a length of wire and pliers, and give the spoils to Mr. Garbage Man.
Heresy I know. We mulch everything in our garden, but not when battling squash bugs. It only gives them a breeding ground and a safe haven. Unmulched plants are much easier to inspect and the bugs easier to catch and kill. Sacrifice sound gardening practice for a season or two to deal with these interlopers, it is worth it in the long haul.
Fall clean up:
Scrape the garden clean, all old plants, all mulch, all fallen leaves, grass clumps; in short anything that could provide shelter for these critters overwinter. Pile it up, and drop a match. Its good to clean the garden thoroughly in the fall anyway but now you are on a mission!
It is discouraging to have squash bugs show up and steal your prized crops from under your very nose, but they can be dealt with, although it is never easy. Now get outside and check those leaves!
That's it for this segment of the Children's Hour, thank you for stopping by!