We have been very lucky with our gardens the past few years that we have not had a lot of trouble with insects on our favourite crops.
Not so this year.
Not too long after they sprouted, the leaves of our squash, cucumber, and zucchini plants started to get holes in their leaves. I must admit that, at the time, I was too busy trying to get all the gardens cleaned out and planted that I didn’t think much of it at the time.
But yesterday, while I was weeding, I discovered that our plants were looking pretty poor, and also that they were covered in these little yellow and black striped bugs.
A little Google detective work led me to discover that our garden has been attacked by the aptly named cucumber beetle. They will eat the leaves, flowers, and fruit of the plants, mate (and let me tell you, there was a lot of mating going on yesterday!), and each female will lay 1500 eggs in the soil at the bottom of the plant. When the larvae hatch they will feast on the roots of the plant. Yep. Not a gardener’s best friend.
So now, how to get rid of the little beasts?
The “pick and squish” method of bug removal which has worked well for me with slugs and cabbage worms is not effective with these quick-moving and flying bugs (although they are an easy enough target when mating…)
So yesterday I made a batch of some old-fashioned insecticidal soap (recipe below) and went bug hunting. I have to admit, I did get a certain joy out of seeing the bugs falter under the spray of the soap, and the ants were happy as they dragged all of the carcasses away to their nests (homicidal clean-up: nature at its best) But the fight is long from over. The soap is only effective if the bugs get hit with it, so I missed any that flew away, or that were hiding. I went hunting twice yesterday and found about the same number of bugs each time, and I am sure I will find more out there today. But it’s a start in the right direction, and hopefully in time to rescue at least some of our plants.
Next year, we are going to grow these plants under floating row covers so the beetles can’t get at them (an ounce of prevention….)
For this year, I think the squirt bottle and I are going to be good friends.
Make Your Own insecticidal Soap
To two cups of water add 1 tablespoon of liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s). Mix and spray.
I also read somewhere yesterday that a little oil makes the soap more effective on hard-shelled bugs like these beetles. So I added 1 tablespoon of olive oil to mine.
Have you had difficulty with any garden pests this year? How have you handled it? Please share your ideas in the comments!