Tag Archives: organic pest management

How To Kill Mexican Bean Beetles

I used to ask myself, “What’s a Mexican Bean Beetle?” Now, every summer, I ask myself, “Of all the bugs in all the world, why does the Mexican Bean Beetle have to find my garden?”

Mexican bean beetle life cycle

Photo reproduced w/permission of Purdue University

As with any pest, it pays to know your enemy. I call this picture, “The Circle of Life” and am grateful to Purdue University Entomology Department and Dr. Christian Krupke, Principal Investigator, for letting me use it.

If you have been invaded, these are all the forms the enemy takes while ravaging your crops. Since it’s mid-July in Pennsylvania, I know the invasion of my back yard, all organic garden has begun.

Of all the pests I do battle with, the Mexican Bean Beetle is the worst of the worst when it comes to green beans.  One day there is nothing there.  The next day there are some holes in a few leaves on a couple of plants.

Flip up the leaves and if you see pudgy yellow larvae with lots of legs and one big old mouth chewing away, you’ve been invaded. Grab a bucket, sit down, methodically flip up every single leaf on every single plant and crush the yellow menace. Then get up and do it again, tomorrow and the next day or you will lose your bean crop.

Mexican Bean Beetles are members of the lady beetle family.  But they aren’t the Lady Beetle relatives you want in your garden.  Small, copper or khaki colored, these beetles are about 6 mm (1/4 inch) long and 5 mm (1/5 inch) wide.

Pesky bean beetle

Tiny & destructive (Photo credit: Michael Bok)

Some have 8 small black spots on each wing, resembling large lady beetles. Some are brown with barely discernible stripes. No matter what they look like, they’re really wholesale destruction machines.  And they come in force.

How do they find your garden and your bean plants so quickly?

Chances are they never left when the winter came; they simply tucked in to the ground in leaf litter and other sheltered areas in fence rows of your garden plot and waited out the freezing temperatures and the snow.

Adults begin emerging from these protected areas when beans begin sprouting and continue to emerge for up to two months. The adults feed for approximately two weeks before depositing their eggs on the underside of leaves.  And when I say feed, I mean ravage.

Nasty beetles eating everything.

Mexican Bean Beetles will literally eat the life out of my bean plants, if I let them.

Yellow eggs 1 mm (1/20 inch) in length are laid in groups of 40-60 on the lower leaf surfaces.  Females may deposit an egg-mass every two to three days. Eggs hatch in 5-24 days.  Immature larvae are yellow and are covered with large spines.  Larvae feed for two to five weeks before pupation.

You have 3 chances to kill these beetles off – crush the eggs, crush the larvae and crush the mature beetles.  The first two are the easiest but you can catch and kill the beetles too.  You just have to be persistent.  I like to think of it as my summer time exercise program, bend, search, crush, start again.

If you can make it through July and early August, when the greatest amount of injury occurs and the adults begin to disappear, you might save some of your bean harvest.

So, every spring I take a chance and plant some beans.  They grow fast.  They set tons of beans.  If I plant them properly, train them right (if they’re pole beans) and aggressively crush all variations of the Mexican Bean Beetle, I can harvest and enjoy green beans all summer long.

 

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Controlling Japanese Beetles Naturally

I am at war with Japanese beetles, the offspring of last year’s huge and devastating population. This year, I think I’m going to win!

Surround stops Japanese Beetles.

Japanese Beetles hate Surround!

Why? My secret weapon? I am using Surround.

Surround is 95% kaolin clay (5% inert) which is mixed with water and sprayed on plants.

This year, all the blackberries and the blueberries in my yard are wearing coats made

Blueberries covered by Surround.

Beetle free blueberries coated by Surround.

of Surround which I sprayed at the first sign of Japanese Beetles in my back yard.

When I say “first sign” I mean it. Apparently, the beetles release a pheromone when they find good food. Any beetles in the vicinity fly in and start feasting.

Surround doesn’t harm any other insects. But Surround does make berries and leaves taste really bad to the beetles! The proof is on the plants and in the bucket.  This year I have only gotten about 45 beetles, total.

Very few Japanese Beetles in 2016 thanks to Surround

Surround meant fewer than 45 Japanese Beetles in a week!

Last year, I plucked morning and evening, got thousands of Japanese beetles in my bucket and I still lost all the blackberries, beans and apples. The only difference this year is Surround!

Surround also keeps my 10 most hated bugs, including Colorado Potato Beetles, Cucumber and Squash beetles, off of plants so, yes, every squash and cucumber plant in my garden is also sporting a beautiful coat of kaolin clay.

FYI the beetles I have found were on the only 2 plants I didn’t spray with Surround — a Pussy Willow and Borage, which I planted for the bees.

Borage without Surround equals Japanese Beetles.

Borage is one plant I didn’t spray!

Based on my current state, which is only one week into beetle season, I may win the war this year.

If I do, I give all the credit to Surround. If you’re being “bugged,” consider giving it a try.

2015 -Year for Garden Bugs & Pests

The annual invasion of all the bugs you wish you never saw is starting early this year.  Looks like 2015 may be a hard year on the garden, the veggies and…me!

I started coming to this conclusion when the ticks started walking through the door, well, being carried through the door. We have 4 dogs – never meant to have 4 but rescued 2 so now we have 2 Westies, a Jack Russell terrier and a

Dogs enjoying a break

Rescued Jack Russell and Mini Schnauzer sharing a chair.

Westie pups in the back yard.

Our Westies doing the stick dance when they were puppies.

Mini Schnauzer.  About 3 weeks ago, they all turned in to “tick magnets.”

Between them, they have brought in a total of 13 ticks, so far!

Hubby and I don’t have flea collars on so we are the preferred hosts!  How do we handle them?

  1. We check ourselves frequently – hairline, back of neck, back of knees.
  2. We pluck them off before they bite & burrow and toss them in hot, soapy water or, oddly enough, soy sauce.
  3. We also “burn” them literally but be careful if you do.

We don’t flush them down the toilet – they sometimes come back up.  And we don’t smash them or cut them in half; they carry bacteria and you could spread them if you are not careful.

Keeping your tick population down isn’t easy but Mike McGrath has some tips.

Ticks were my first sign that this would be a year of bugs.  Then, yesterday morning, I found a wire worm — actually what’s known as a “bug-eyed” click beetle – on my back patio.

Bug-Eyed Click Beetle

This beetle is not dangerous to people or pets but it likes plants and plant nectar.

I literally haven’t seen one of these little dudes in 22 years.  They like to snack on plant juice….and what better place to find it than in my backyard in my organic garden!

This afternoon, I had my first “close encounter” of 2015 with a Bald-faced Hornet.

Now, I don’t mind these hornets hanging about because they do pollinate but I need a bit of time to get used to the idea that they are back in the neighborhood.

Bald-faced hornet

Bald-faced hornets are not the easiest of neighbors.

Although they’re not really hornets (from the yellow jacket family), they sure bite like hornets and they are as aggressive.  And they are usually not in my backyard quite this early .

The hornets and I have an agreement, though.  I go out early to pick blackberries and blueberries and they don’t bite me!

So why are these bugs showing up here, now?

I’m not sure but these harbingers appear to be telling me that despite the desperately cold winter, the bugs are “incoming,”  now!

I’m girding up my loins…right now and dusting off the rocks and other totally organic weapons of mass destruction in preparation for doing organic battle with bugs!