Tag Archives: cabbage worms

Time for a break?

I came across an interesting post the other day from little house on the urban prairie. It had a lot of the pests I’ve encountered over the years and a new one: the Japanese beetle. The photo caught my eye because I’d come across it the other day when I pulled up my collard greens that had signs of cabbage worm damage. It came up from underground when I pulled up the plant and disappeared by the time I’d come back from tossing it in the garbage. I wasn’t sure what it was. Now I know.

This article from The Old Farmers Almanac talks about how they emerge from the soil in June and start attacking plants. They attack over 300 types of plants! It says to look for signs of leaves where only the veins remain (skeletonized) as a telltale sign of Japanese beetles. Can’t say I’ve seen evidence of that type of damage.

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Signs of flea beetle damage on my radishes. Apparently radishes and nasturtium can be used as trap crops for the beetle so they don’t attack more precious veggies

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Signs of cabbage worm damage on my collards.

The article on beneficial insects referenced in the one about Japanese beetles reinforced what I often think about and aimed to do this year — plant flowers early to attract beneficial predators to keep the pests at bay. I think my problem is that I try to do most things from seed so they don’t flower early enough.

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Calendula came up early from overwintering seeds. They didn’t start flowering until June.

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Calendula starting to bloom. Cornflower buds at the front have yet to open

It crossed my mind already this season that next season I should take a break from veggies and just plant flowers and herbs in hopes that any pests overwintering in the soil would go somewhere else. It’s frustrating, feeling like you’re doing all the right things and still having pests invade. I guess I still have some work to do.

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Canada Day musings

Boy, did I drop the ball last year with the blog. But instead of beating myself up about it, I will jump back into it with a challenge for myself: 31 days of blogging for the month of July. Let’s start with some 2016 highlights:

Community garden

The highlight of last season was the arrival of a swallowtail caterpillar.

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Beautiful! And so smooth!

I’m glad he was a pretty one and not one of the ones that look like snakes (creepy!).

I had several volunteer (did not plant) dill plants last year. It’s not one of my favorite herbs (although the best pho I’ve ever had had dill in it), but it does a lot of good in the garden as a companion plant, attracting beneficial insects and discouraging harmful ones. I purposely planted one this year in hopes of attracting the caterpillar, but no luck yet. Sadly it hasn’t done much to discourage cabbage worms.

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A discouraging sight on my collard greens. Had to pull them and my kale.

There was a new pest in the garden last year: mealy bugs. I’ve encountered them before. They decimated my succulents at work. But this was the first time I’d seen them in the garden. I got to see them up close.

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Fuzzy mealy bug

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You can see his snout much clearer here. I could feel him sucking in the air across my palm!

The dill were covered so I just pulled them. By then the swallowtail was nowhere to be seen. I’d like to think he became a butterfly rather than a bird’s meal. Someone told me if I left a stick near the dill, it would pupate there. I’ve also heard it could have pupated on the side of my raised bed. Wish I’d seen that. I did see the caterpillar in the instar stage so it would have been cool to see the full cycle.

In addition to the mealy bugs, I was sad to find a cabbage worm on my dill. Once I checked the life cycle to ensure it wasn’t a swallowtail caterpillar, it went right in the trash.

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Cabbage worm, with evidence of mealy bug cottony webs.

Even when I thought I was bringing some nice dill in to work for a colleague, it turned out to be infested with aphids. Trashed again.

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Not a nice gift after all!

Despite not really being able to use a lot of the dill last year. I think it’s worth growing it for the beneficial predators it attracts and the beautiful swallowtail caterpillar.

 

 

 

 

 

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Critters: mimics, camouflage, and more ugly

In the last weeks of August, I probably spent more time photographing critters than doing any actual garden maintenance :). It’s amazing how much you can see when you walk around and just quietly observe. It’s like the whole garden wakes up before your eyes.

I was in the garden one evening a few weeks ago when I noticed this crazy-looking grasshopper sitting on a butternut squash leaf. I ran back inside to get my camera and take some shots:

Grasshopper on a butternut squash leaf

Looks like he would camouflage best in rocky areas.  I thought the raised areas of its head and thorax were interesting. He almost looks like a tank.

I think the pictures are blurry because it was early evening. Using flash just washed out everything. I should really learn the settings on my camera.

Another angle

Another angle

The next day I saw another grasshopper, a leaf mimicking insect, and another insect that I at first thought was a lacewing (because of its lace wings), but it looked nothing like the lacewings I found on the net.

Nearly stepped on this guy in the grass. Caught up with him on the fence.

Nearly stepped on this guy in the grass. Caught up with him on the fence. He jumped pretty high and far for only having one hind leg!

Saw this guy hanging out on my giant zucchini.

Saw this guy hanging out on my giant zucchini.

I really harassed the leaf insect. I kept poking his wings from behind, just to see what he would do. Most of the time he would just walk away until he finally got fed up and hopped out of sight. It sounded as if I flicked my finger against the zucchini leaf or a taught piece of tarp. I was surprised that something so small could make so much noise!

Had to get a good angle

Look at those eyes!

I have no idea what this is. He was camouflaged in the sage leaves.

The body looks too big to be a lacewing, yet it has lace wings. Hmmm....

The body looks too big to be a lacewing, yet it has lace wings. Hmmm…. Check out the antennae!

Back to the usual uglies:

I was upset when I discovered that these brightly coloured beetles, which I labelled as harmless flies, were the dreaded squash vine borer!!!

Squash vine borers on one of my zucchini plants

Squash vine borers on my zucchini near the strawberries

If I had known what they were, I would’ve killed them. No question. I was even more upset when I discovered from a University of Minnesota article that after the worm destroys the root, it bores its way into the soil to pupate and reemerge next spring! If I had known this, I would have pulled up the giant zucchini plant it had invaded! Well… it would have been a tough call. This plant produced an abundance of fruit despite the serious damage it sustained.

Squash vine borer damage

Look what it did to my giant zucchini! Absolutely shredded!

Earlier this summer when I looked closely at the big white patches on my beet greens, I noticed worms burrowing under a thin layer of the leaf’s surface! This was the first time I’d ever seen the leafminer worm. Although it’s really neat to see it underneath such a thin layer of the leaf, I kinda wish I’d never seen it. It’s pretty gross.

The dark stuff in the tract is poo or frass

The dark stuff in the tract is poo or frass

This guy has made a mess of this leaf!

This guy has made a mess of this leaf!

Leafminer eggs

Leafminer eggs

At least I know what the eggs look like now. I’d seen them earlier this summer when I was washing the greens for my family. I just washed them off. If I had told my sister what they were, the greens would have ended up in the garbage.

Not sure what this is. A spider perhaps?

Not sure what this is. A spider perhaps? I like the colour contrast against the leaf.

Cricket!

Cricket! These guys don’t stick around to be photographed.

Such a tiny guy made such a big hole!

A baby cabbage worm. Such a tiny guy made such a big hole!

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Cabbage moth –  the final developmental stage of the cabbage worm (and the producer of more eggs) – on an acorn squash leaf

Leafhopper

Leafhopper – these guys suck the juices out of plant leaves, leaving them mottled and distorted

Cucumber beetles

Cucumber beetles mating in a zucchini flower

 

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Critters 2: … and the ugly!

I came across these cute (and gross) creepy crawlies last Friday. They were all over the kale in the greenhouse. At the time I thought they were caterpillars but I later learned, through a lot of Google image searching, that they are cabbage worms or cabbage loopers. They attack brassica family plants, such as the kale and collard greens that are currently in the garden.

These guys hide in plain site. I almost didn't see them, and then I saw a ton of them!

These guys hide in plain site. I almost didn’t see them, and then I saw a ton of them!

According to About.com, the worms are the larva of the cabbage white butterfly. As soon as I read this, I remembered chasing a little white butterfly with my camera as he fluttered through the garden not long ago. At the time, of course, I thought it was so cute. Little did I know, their larva are the ultimate ugly.

What’s ugly is the amount of damage these little buggers can create. Unbelievable.

They have teeth!

They’re eating the kale right before my eyes!

I thought about picking them directly off the plants but I couldn’t bring myself to handle their soft, squishy bodies with my bare hands. Stroking their backs was as brave as I could get (they’re furry!).  Seeing their little mouths chomping on the kale was another deterrent from picking them up. I didn’t want to get bitten :).

I came across this interesting post yesterday by Urban Organic Gardener while I was searching for  information about cabbage worms. His post showed that the black spots in my picture below are actually worm poo and not aphids as I’d thought.

I thought this was aphids

That’s a lot of poo, which can only mean — a lot of worms! Nooo!

I managed to pick up a copy of Grow Great Grub and You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail from my local  Hamilton Public Library branch. I remember the books having sections on organic pest control (as most gardening books do) that I had ignored in the past but now I desperately wanted some reliable info on cabbage worms.

Here are just some of the recommendations from the books and entries from Hubpages and Better Homes and Gardens that I came across:

1. Companion planting – with items such as Aster family flowers (which if Wikipedia can be believed includes sunflowers, yarrow, and calendula), onions, and sage that either deter the worms or attract insects that will prey on them. Note that the examples I used are all growing in my garden. The sunflowers and calendula are close by but they aren’t in full bloom yet.

2. Use floating row covers to keep the butterfly from laying its eggs on your brassicas.

3. Handpick the little buggers off of your plants.

First calendula bloom of season.

First calendula bloom of season. Hopefully it will attract some predatory wasps to eat the cabbage worms.

I took home some collard and beet greens last Friday. When I got around to washing them on Sunday, I found two worms had hitched a ride and survived the fridge (well, one was moving in the water; the other wasn’t). A clear reminder to check my leaves carefully before I bag them.

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