|Flowering mint covered in pollinators|
|Syrphid fly on flowering mint|
|Large syrphid fly (wasp mimic) on flowering mint|
The mint is loaded with butterflies and syrphid flies (bee and wasp mimics) that serve as pollinators. Some syrphid flies also have predatory larvae.
I find 4 or 5 Japanese beetles eating my okra leaves each morning. A quick spritz of NeemII and they are gone.
|Black blister beetle eating tomato leaves|
About a week ago, I found about 20 of these black blister beetles on the lower leaves of my tomato plants. Blister beetles eat leaves and can defoliate a plant if their population is left unchecked. They are called blister beetles because, when disturbed, they release a chemical blister agent that can cause chemical burns. Because of this, I am not hand picking them off the plants. This is the first time I've ever had a problem with this pest. I've stalked them each morning and given them a quick shot of the organic insecticide NeemII. That seems to be taking care of the problem just fine.
While volunteering at the heritage gardens at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, I hoed up this cutworm beneath the tomato plants. Cutworms encircle plant stalks and can cut them off at the base or eat the outer layer which will cause wilting and death. If you have a cutworm problem, wrap a small skirt of aluminum foil around the base of your plants and that will exclude them. I don't have many cutworm issues, because I let my chickens dig through my soil at the end of the season and eat anything they find. If you don't have chickens, removing any organic material such as mulch and turning the soil over will help.
Squash bugs can be a real problem. They reproduce rapidly and in large numbers can suck a vine dry. In the picture directly above, you can see the piercing mouth part with a drop of plant juice on it. Despite the pictures, squash bugs haven't caused a huge problem for me this year. I haven't seen any nymphs (small, gray versions of the adults) and the most adults I've seen at one time is two. I regularly check the undersides of the leaves for eggs. When I find them, I scrape them off with my thumbnail. I spray any adults I see with NeemII.
I found this tomato fruitworm on one of my plants this morning. I picked it off and smashed it. I haven't found any of the characteristic fruit damage or any other caterpillars. If I start to find more, I will use a treatment of Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). BT is an organic treatment of bacteria that only affects butterfly and moth caterpillars.
|Cut worm beneath tomato plants|
|Squash bug eggs on the underside of a butternut squash leaf|
|Two mating squash bugs on a butternut squash vine|
|Closeup of a squash bug on a butternut squash leaf|
|Tomato fruitworm on a Roma tomato plant|
|Japanese beetle on an okra leaf|
The Good and Ugly:
|Wheel bug on an okra leaf|
I have two of these rather large (1.5") insects living in my okra. They are called wheel bugs and are easily identified by the spiky wheel on their backs. These are GOOD insects to have around. They are related to the squash bug, but instead of sucking juices from your plants, they use the large piercing mouth part to suck the juices out of other insects. They are voracious predators of crop damaging insects, but if disturbed, they can deliver a painful bite. So if you find them in your garden, leave them alone and be thankful they are there.