In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Butterflies are bugs, too, so be very careful when spraying Bt.
Buzzing Bugs Bugging You?
Buzzing bugs got you down? We spend long hours outdoors during the summer months in the company of bees, wasps, beetles, caterpillars, and other creatures intent on their tasks.
Many years ago I was working at the Senior Center in Napa, hoeing weeds along the creek, when I accidentally hoed into a nest of yellow jacket wasps. They swarmed out of the hole in the ground, livid at my interruption. There was no misunderstanding that I was an unwelcome guest in their home. Yes, I got stung several times and, yes, I am very careful when working in the garden to this very day. We feel the same when yellow jackets invade our outdoor picnics or barbecues uninvited.
Yellow jackets are aggressive wasps that command attention. There are traps available for yellow jackets that use either pheromones (which work well during the breeding season in late summer) or bait. One of the old-fashioned remedies is to hang a piece of raw fish or meat over a bucket of soapy water. The theory is that the wasps will gorge themselves on the meat, become too heavy to fly, then fall into the bucket. The main consideration when setting wasp traps is to hang them well away from your outdoor living area. Also, keep pet food indoors whenever possible, keep garbage cans tightly sealed, and keep food covered.
Honeybees are not aggressive but will sting if stepped on or harassed. Don't wear bright colors or perfume when you are gardening. It's always a good idea to wear shoes in the garden. If you encounter a curious honeybee, move away slowly -- no arm flapping or screaming, please, which will agitate the bee. I always give honeybees plenty of respect because I know how hard they work for their living.
Caterpillars, including the impressive tomato hornworm, are vegetarians, which means they eat your plants. I know people who have given up trying to grow petunias and geraniums because of these voracious creatures. Bacillus thuringiensis is the very best way to get rid of caterpillars. One brand is Safer Caterpillar Killer. Please use it with respect and apply only to problem plants that are being consumed. Remember: butterflies begin their lives as caterpillars. Most caterpillars feed in early morning or late afternoon. Adjust your spray schedule to meet the dining requirements of your target audience.
Flies drive me batty! A buzzing fly will get my attention like no other bug in the insect world. For that reason, I don't sweep away spider webs. Spiders eat flies, and therefore they are my allies. I heard a story about a family whose summer home was engulfed with cobwebs. They had the exterminator come and kill all the spiders, only to have the house invaded by swarms of ants. The spiders had been eating the ant population.
Beetles, including Japanese beetles that love to eat your roses, are best controlled in the larval stage. Fall is when they lay their eggs in moist, warm soil. If you find grubs eating the roots of your lawn, apply beneficial nematodes, which attack the grubs and eliminate next year's beetle population.
Every year I get aphids on my fuchsia plant. A simple spray from the hose is my method of control. I figure there is enough fuchsia for the both of us, and if a traveling ladybug should happen by, I'd like her to drop in for dinner!
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