Tuesday, July 26, 2011

San Diego garden pests

I was on high alert in the garden today because bad bugs are trying to take hold at the farm where I'm interning, and yesterday was a great day for me to identify some of the most destructive insects that are common here in San Diego.  

Tomato Hornworm
The dreaded tomato hornworm gets massive and will decimate your entire crop of tomatoes in no time flat. BT is an organic solution if you catch them in time. Hand picking also helps but be careful because these things are aggressive! Tomatoes aren't the only crop at risk, this bugger was not found on a tomato.

A very small corn earworm
Corn earworms are another very destructive garden pest and even though they are called Corn earworms, they will attack a wide variety plants. They are also controlled with BT.

Spotted cucumber beetle
The spotted cucumber beetle will also attack multiple species of plants. They seem to prefer vines and are also fond of tomatoes sometimes. I found a great article about them that I hope I never have to use, because I have never seen one in Gidget's Garden. They may be easy to confuse with ladybugs but these are longer and lighter in color than lady bugs are. Lady bugs are beneficial for your garden, so are bees, and spiders.

"Bugs? Finally some real food..."
I did not find anything quite as intimidating as a tomato hornworm in our garden but I did find what I think may be mealy bugs, or mealy bug destroyers. The Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America shows photos of both and they look very similar. I am going to take one to Walter Anderson Nursery and ask what they think.

Mealy bug or destroyer?
I have a feeling they are mealy bugs and that's not good because they suck sap and can transmit viruses. If that's what we have then we'll use some Safer soap on them. UPDATE: They are mealy bugs. They turned yellow when squished and the destroyers have a reddish color when squished; according to the helpful guy at Walter Anderson nursery.

We also have an abundance of ants, and those nasty earwigs are popping out again. I recently read that Splenda will kill ants, but I'm afraid my animals will eat it, so I am going to try Safer soap on the ants too. For the earwigs, I will set out shallow dishes of cheap vegetable oil at night. They crawl into it and drown for easy disposal in the morning. 

I spent several hours in the garden feeding some plants and pruning but then the sun started blazing so I came in to write this before going to the nursery and running errands.

Front garden in blazing sun
When I came in I found Sierra and Gidget discussing the ownership rights of Gidget's most recent fig beetle catch.

Sierra trying to steal Gidget's beetle


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