Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beneficial Insect or Just Another Pest?

Kale is my favorite cool weather crop. We grow Red Winter Kale and Winterbor Kale and have had an abundance of both beginning in January of this year! I can't believe I still come across people who have never eaten it. I brought a big bowl of kale sauteed in mojo de ajo to a party (I'm that kind of party girl, ahem, very popular), and the kids loved it as well as the adults. The bowl was practically licked clean. Here I thought I'd be bringing home leftovers for lunch the next day...
 
However, those darn cabbage moth caterpillars are such a nuisance to my brassicas. No wonder my seventy-something neighbor down the street is always seen with a butterfly net in his hands during the summer. At first I thought it a little odd, but now I think he may be on to something -kill the moths-, no moths/no caterpillars. Hmmmm.
 
Caterpillars took over the crop in the back garden, and I was content to let them do so because they were ignoring the more delicious looking crop in another garden. Here I am thinking all is well, we can share, there will still be plenty of kale once the weather turns cool and sweetens it up...but nooooo-ohhh.
 
 
Now, it's personal. Every single plant is covered in caterpillars! I've got these and these. Variety is usually nice. I read an online article that says the problem with an infestation like this is because I have an imbalance of garden insect pests and beneficial insects. Yes. Exactly. Noted.
 
I've intentionally planted things to attract killer beneficial bugs, and have witnessed their presence just this year. Eleven years on this property, by the way. We've had quite a few Assassin Bugs, Lady Bugs, and although I haven't seen them, Praying Mantis egg sacs in several spots. But who do I hire to help me with these pains in the bum caterpillars?
 
 
Daughter and I caught this little guy in the act while I was whining about all the caterpillars. Who is that hero? He had a piercing-like straw inserted into the caterpillar, who, by the way, was limp and lifeless. Note that I'm not feeling bad about this.
 
 
He was a little shy about getting his photo taken during meal time and kept moving to the underside of the leaf, extending his straw all the more. So, who is he? And, how can I get more? I've tried to ID this bug with no luck....it resembles the Green Stinkbug Nymph and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. No where can I find that it eats insects as well as leaves of plants. Thoughts?
 
 
He was a lone only guy trying to get the job done, and it's a bigger job than he can handle. So I resumed to my little 'hobby' of taking care of business. If anyone had told me ten years ago that I'd spend a good portion of my 'free' time squishing bugs with my bare fingers, I'd a told them they were crazy.
 
 
Daughter volunteered to help me. She thinks it's fun. That's sound disturbing to me on some level. No matter. Four hands are better than two.
 
I still use the skeleton-like leaves in my morning juice! If I thought I could pickle and can the little pest buggers, I'd do that too...bet they taste just like kale...hmmm.
 
Enjoy the day-
 
This post is shared at Blog Hop #82 and Backyard Farming Connection.