Small Bites, Big Problems! May/June PESTS!
Flea Beetles! For the first time, I got down close to my poor perforated eggplants, lifted the leaves, and, ugh, there they were, flea beetles! The ones I saw are tiny, about one-sixteenth of an inch, shiny black beetles with enlarged hind legs that enable them to jump like fleas, just a bit bigger than our pet’s fleas, easy to see, and, they are buggers to catch! They DO jump, vigorously. And they are not particular. They munch on eggplant, potato, tomato, sweet corn, peppers, radish, Brassicas, and, you’ve seen all those pinholes in your arugula leaves? That just drains your plant’s energy. You can imagine what they can do to a tiny plant just coming up. It’s a race to see if the plant survives, outgrows how fast the beetles feed.
Here’s a cure from Maria Coombs, Plot 37, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden:
‘When I realized my eggplant was losing a battle between life and death against flea beetles, I began my search for a viable organic pest solution. I studied several gardening books: old, new, traditional, and organic to help me. After an unfruitful search, I searched the good ol’ web and found several organic tips. However, one stood out from the rest: a concoction of chili and garlic. Based on the fact I had ingredients to make it, I decided to give it a try. The tip didn’t come with a recipe, I made it up. So, you could potentially use any chili you have….. it would be interesting to see if anyone tries a different type and if it does/does not work!
The simple home recipe is: 1 cup boiling water, 1 Thai chili (cut lengthwise), 3 garlic cloves (shredded)
Place chili and garlic in cup of boiling water. Let it steep until cool and strain. I felt it necessary to put the chili and garlic in boiling water to help release the oils, but you may not have to. I put the concoction in a spray bottle and drenched the plant, tops and undersides of leaves, and the soil around it.
Dousing is needed every 3 days to kill newly emerging fleas (there were fleas again on the 4th day), until you don’t find them anymore. However, I would recommend checking the plant every day for awhile, then spot check from time to time. The potency of chili and garlic will vary, and temps may affect hatching, which may change the timeframe.
Good Luck fellow eggplant growers!’
Thanks to Maria for inspiring me to get over my fear of looking for the flea beetles, then actually doing something about it! Every year I make progress.
Cucumber Beetles? Cute, but NO, NO, NO! One morning Kevin Smith, Plot 44, at the Terrace, showed me these small creatures publicly procreating in our zucchini blossoms! Take a look down into the center of your zuch flowers, you may be shocked – at how many of them there are! Not only cucs & squashes, and beans, but eggplant suffer too! Thought it was flea beetles on your eggplant? See for sure. Here’s what cuc beetles look like, this one below is on an eggplant. The simplest remedy is to remove them by hand. Learn more at Vegetable Gardener.
THE LARGER PEST – GOPHERS
We have been plagued, the gophers have thrived this year. 3 helpful ideas!
1) If you decide to use chicken/aviary wire barriers, you could do small areas at a time as they become available. You could purchase, or make, wire ‘baskets,’ very small to quite large, for areas that you want to plant gopher favorites like lettuce, beans, cucs, chard – soft bodied plants. My other thought is to install a border of wire vertically to see if that works, rather than digging up the whole plot and laying wire underneath. I’ve seen two places where people installed these boundaries and the gopher piled soil outside their plot where the barrier stopped them. They didn’t go underneath it.
Several people at Pilgrim Terrace have made varieties of sizes of wire baskets – see Hillary’s Plot 24, Marion Freitag’s, Plot 19, Hoanh’s Plot 45. Hoanh installed black plastic flats vertically around his plot as a barrier as well. He said to use the small grid flats; they chew through the large grid flats.
2) Raised boxes with wire stapled to the bottom are another barrier type option. See Bob Berdan’s Plot 30, Ginny Woliver Plots 5-7. Nice thing about this option is you can take the boxes with you if you have to change plots when the lottery comes, or you can take them with you if you leave the garden, or you can give them to someone when you no longer need them. Easy to empty and transport. Yes, boxes and wire degrade over time.
3) If you want to use traps (UC IPM), get someone to show you how to use them. There are a few tips that you learn with experience. And, really, they are dangerous, so respect them completely. Traps are a temporary solution. Of course, after about 3 years, the wire and wood barriers degrade and need to be replaced.
One of the tips I would give, is trap immediately if you decide to trap. I have caught them in 20 minutes, while I was working in the plot! That means no more plants are eaten or damaged, at least by that gopher! Otherwise, they can just mow an area.
The cheaper little Macabee wire traps, not the large ‘black hole’ tunnel kind, need much smaller holes to insert. That’s less damage to existing plants, less need to remove any plants to make room for the traps. But the big traps might have a better success rate with smaller gophers. Both kinds of traps are dangerous to humans – DO NOT SET THEM UNTIL THE HOLE IS READY FOR YOU TO INSTALL THEM. Do not leave them lying about once they are set. Not a project to do with children about.
4) You can use a combination of the top 3 ideas.
Beeper repellent stakes Battery operated is expensive – price it out, you’ll see, or do the recharge dance. Solar beepers on sale are better and they last 2, 3 years. They work best in ‘open’ areas where the sound can carry, like lawns. If you put one in an area planted with tall dense plants, it won’t do much good. But if those plants are special and you want them protected, that works. Be sure the solar panel gets a lot of sun, doesn’t get shaded by your plant growing over it. If it is shaded, it fades to no beeping. Underground critters depend on hearing and vibration to alert them to danger, so take careful notice of the radius the beeper says it will cover per the area you need to work for. Heavier soils such as clay are superior transmitters of sound and vibrations than are sandier soils, so our loose garden soil isn’t going to get great mileage.
Poison is not a good choice because of neighborhood pets. They could somehow ingest the poison, or an animal that has been poisoned. There have been instances where people found only partial remains in traps that had been dug up by predators after the gopher had been caught.
Very funny, sometimes touching, dialogue at the Garden Web Forum! The more I read, the more I laughed, having great empathy with many of the writers, real people with their various experiences! Worth the read.
So part of your decision is based on budget. Buy traps, wire, lumber. Think now, gather materials, perhaps install raised boxes this fall for your winter planting?