Tag Archives: leafminers

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! 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!

Cabbage moth

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


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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Hot and humid

It’s been really humid this summer. I’m noticing that plants such as the borage and tomatoes that were so chipper and upstanding last year are looking limp and sad. It thunderstormed yesterday afternoon, bringing much needed rain. As a fellow gardener said to his friend: “If I don’t water, it won’t rain.” I watered in the morning as well and as I watched the downpour I worried that my plants might have gotten too much water. But I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the rain. You can water as much as you want, but it’s only after the rains that plants really flourish. It must be the nutrients in the rain. I don’t have much nutrient-rich kelp meal left,  so I’ve been saving it for when I plant the fall crops.
While at the garden, I picked the first zucchini of the season.  It was small, about 7 inches long, but firm with very few blemishes. My family enjoyed it raw in a bean salad. Very nice.

First zucchini of the season!

There are a lot of male flowers  on my zucchini plants (the female flowers are at the end of the zucchini). I picked two, one of which was housing about 6 earwigs (I shook the flower and they fell out). I’ve been reading online that you can batter, stuff, and fry them up and that they taste divine. I might just try it or a less labour-intensive baked version.

A male zucchini flower ready for harvest, with some young zucchini in the background

Gardening is definitely giving me an appreciation and  a comfort level around bugs. I used to be really creeped out by earwigs, in particular, when I was younger. I can say this year they don’t bother me so much.

Earwigs hiding in basil leaves

I managed to photograph the very beautiful cucumber beetle exploring a cucumber flower. I’ve had a hard time killing these little buggers, they fly away so quickly. I’ve been a bit obsessed with trying to photograph as well as kill them. I’m  glad none of them have managed to damage my zucchini. I’ve read online that you can plant radishes near cucumbers to repel the beetle so I planted some Hon Vit radish from my Spicy Salad Mix package. You can also lay down onion skins. I don’t know how effective these interventions are so we’ll see what happens. Apparently the Marketmore cucumber I planted are disease resistant. I guess that’s not the same as pest resistant.

Cucumber beetle explores cucumber flower

Incidentally I’ve been wondering when I will start seeing cucumbers. Turns out they can take anywhere from 55 to 70 days, which I had forgotten. This is length of time is disappointing, but reassuring that my lack of fruit at this stage is perfectly normal. I think I planted around the beginning of June so I should see fruit around the beginning of September.

I’ve been quite lax with picking off the suckers of my tomato plants. Some of them have already turned into long branches with flowers so I picked off the ones without flowers. I’ve noticed on one plant that the bottoms leaves are spreading out across the ground.  I remember reading somewhere that you should remove the leaves close to the ground but I can’t remember why. Many of the forums I’ve looked at today say that removing the bottom leaves increases fruit yields, that they should be removed if they are yellow, and that because they are close to the ground they could pick up diseases. The leaves near the ground on my plants are green and show no sign of disease. Some forum posts gave logical arguments against removing leaves, stating that leaves are required for  photosynthesis and that we don’t go around pulling leaves off of other healthy plants so why do it to tomatoes. I think I’ll just watch and see what happens. It does seem like I have less tomatoes than I did last year, but maybe it’s still early.

A sucker

I planted some dill and parsley. I was happy to see that the collard greens I had planted either last week or the week before are starting to come up but upset to see that leafminers have already begun attacking them!

Leafminer damage already!

I had to tie up my borage plant with twine. It was falling onto one of the tomato plants and keeping the parsley that is already growing from getting any sun.  One branch was actually breaking off but I thought if I tied it up it might heal itself. Many of the flowers are not open yet, but the few that are open are being visited frequently by pollinators. Good stuff.

Pollinator at work

I harvested mostly basil today, with some nasturium leaves, borage flowers, a beet, and the zucchini.

Harvest July 15th

A lovely beet

My brother told me the blogger for our community gardens wants to feature our plot in an upcoming blog post. Exciting! We’ll see if it comes to pass. I think what stands out in my plot are the flowers. One might think they are a waste of good growing space (especially my 3 squares of sunflowers), but they are essential for attracting pollinators. And they look so pretty!

Garden July 15th

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The garden has no end of creepy crawlies. There are the usual suspects you expect every year – slugs, snails, earwigs, ants,  earthworms – some of which are helpful, even beloved (I’m thinking about the earthworm), while others do no end of damage when you’re not looking.

We’ve had problems in the gardens this year with aphids and leafminers. When I bought my tomato plants, little green bugs that I suspected were aphids were hiding under the leaves and on the stem! I spent the bus and train ride home obliterating the little buggers with my fingers to ensure that I wouldn’t put them into the garden infected. That could have been disastrous!

Leafminer trouble on a nasturtium leaf

The whitish brown spots on the beet greens are leafminer damage

I’ve read that the least toxic and best method of controlling leafminers is to remove the affected leaves. Not a big deal. It took a while before I could see improvement in my plants but they improved. After our most recent community gardening day, where we work on the community areas of the garden group, I was tending my garden and talking with another gardener named Michael. He was able to tell me what was affecting my plants, which helped me determine that the blotches were leafminer damage and not sun damage from watering the leaves as I’d thought or potentially some other kind of disease. For his help, I gave him one of my many onions.

On Sunday June 3rd, while I’d gone on a washroom break, my brother came across the creepiest critter: a long, thin, white worm! Horrific and disturbing! Needless to say we rushed home in search of info on this awful creature. Turns out it was a horsehair worm, a cricket and grasshopper parasite. Completely harmless to humans (pfew!). My brother recorded a video, but since I haven’t enabled video in this blog, you can check out the Cricket infected with parasitic worm video on Youtube to get the full effect of the damage this little guy can do to its hosts.

Horsehair worm

After that horrific encounter with the horsehair worm, I become fascinated by this awesome snail exploring the garden.  So amazing – the colours and symmetry of the shell, the different textures (hard shell, soft body), his antennae (where my brother tells me his eyes are)… still, he would only do damage so I had to remove him.

A snail exploring the garden box

Snail exploring my garden glove

My brother said pick him up with my bare hands. Yeah, right.

My garden is always overcrowded because I’m too lazy and nervous about thinning out the weaker plants. What if I pick out the strongest one by accident? Or pick out a plant instead of a weed? My brother also likes to go with the “let’s just see what happens” method of gardening. Well, I’ve learned that this practice can lead to disease as well as overgrowth of weeds that can choke out other plants so I’ve had to learn how to practice tough love.  I can always replant more seeds if I pulled up something I shouldn’t have.  Tough love!

The garden post weeding and harvesting June 3rd

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