Friday, February 24, 2012

Aza-what Now?

Next, in the eagerly anticipated insecticide series:

NAME: AzaGuard

WHAT IT IS: A 3% Azadirachtin solution Insect Growth Regulator (IGR), a substance derived from neem oil from the neem tree which is native to India. Meets National Organic Program requirements.

HOW IT WORKS: Prevents molting ("regulates growth") between larval, pupal, and nymphal stages, as well as repelling insects.

HOW TO USE IT: Apply using a tank pump pressure sprayer as a foliar (leaf) spray or a soil soak to control nematodes. 2 to 3 applications at 7 to 10 day intervals. Use for lots of pests, including: beetles, aphids, armyworms, budworms, cutworms, fungus gnats (I'm pretty sure we have those in one of the greenhouses), houseflies, caterpillars, weevils, whiteflies, root knot nematodes...and more!

DANGER ZONE: Eye, skin, respiratory irritation. Wear safety glasses and other badass PPE. Avoid "uncontrolled releases" of this product. It is also combustible, so no sparking up whilst spritzing. Toxic to birds and aquatic invertebrates. The U.S. EPA blurb on azadirachtin recommends not applying it while honeybees are "actively foraging", and states that it has minimal adverse effects on humans and wildlife...except, of course for the innocent beneficial insects that find themselves in the path of foliar spray action.

SOUNDS LIKE...: They're trying to make it sound like a potent and effective pest control tool instead of Ayurvedic soap.

The Beetle Battle Strategizing Begins

Ah winter. The pace of farming slows down as the days shorten. A multitude of tasks is reduced to cutting, washing, and bagging winter greenhouse greens while jamming out to salsa and reggae music blasting from my otterbox-ed iphone.

Then global warming rears its ugly head as spinach begins growing larger and larger literally before my eyes, two weeks ahead of schedule! I cut, and cut, and cut...and...what is that? APHIDS?! In February? EGAD!

Time to order the biological weaponry (approved for organic production, of course).
I have been assigned to reading the Material Safety Data Sheets for each of the four pest-zapping elixirs that arrived today from Johnny's Selected Seeds. BORING.

So I'm going to break it down for you (mostly for me) so we (I) know what kind of interactions with these substances are safe or harmful, and so we know how they work (via incredibly oversimplified non-complete-sentence explanations).

NAME: Mycotrol O: Emulsifiable Suspension Mycoinsecticide

WHAT IT IS: A fungus. Live spores of Beauveria Bassiana strain GHA

HOW IT WORKS: It infects insects through their cuticle (skin). Spores germinate and eventually dissolve the skin, then fill the whole blasted critter with a fungal mass, pink or brown in color. The discoloration of larvae or pupae will be the indicator of death.

HOW TO USE IT: Apply early at first sign of insect presence via tank sprayer or fancy pants chemigation system. Apply continuously at seven day intervals, increase to 3-5 days if infestation is worse. Can be applied up until day of harvest. May be used on most vegetable and fruit crops for control of (SO MANY) pests, including: grasshoppers, whiteflies, aphids (die green peach aphid bastards! There shall no longer be a ring of your tiny grotesque bodies in the sink after washing spring spinach!), thrips, psyllids, mealybugs, leafhoppers, corn borers, imported cabbage worms, flea beetles, colorado potato beetles, cucumber beetles, white grubs, stink bugs, tarnished plant bugs, and many-a-weevil. BWAHAHA.

DANGER FACTOR: Eye irritation. Do not touch or inhale. Repeated exposure may cause allergic sensitization (whatever that means). Wear a respirator and waterproof gloves. Do not enter area without PPE (personal protective equipment) for four hours after application.

WORDS ON THE LABEL THAT BLOGGER DOESN'T THINK ARE REAL WORDS: Chemigation, emulsifiable, mycoinsecticide, adjuvant, psyllids, etc., etc.

SOUNDS LIKE...: A little troll with a battleaxe comes along and slaughters all the aphids/other evil soft bodied insects.

Stay tuned for more cheminformalightenation.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bad but foolish: the colorado potato beetle

I have fond memories of hand picking potato beetles off of my mother's large potato patch when my sister and I were wee tots. We'd tap them into an old yogurt container already filled with slugs we'd scavenged from elsewhere in the garden. Add a little salt and toss the container around a bit, and presto, beetle- slug pesto. I keep trying to convince my chef-farmer employer that beetle pesto is going to be the new rage in sustainable value-added culinary agriculture. Yep.

Name: Colorado potato beetle

Occupation: Chowing down on french-fry fodder, among other plants mainly in the nigh
tshade family (eggplant, tomatoes...oddly). They lay easy to spot clusters of orange eggs on the underside of leaves, which hatch within 4 to 10 days into disgusting reddish larvae which balloon into massive(respectively), juicy jelly-bean-like feeding machines. Like many beetles, the larvae do as much or more damage than the adults. The beetles may produce several generations per season.

Management: Scouting for eggs and smushing them is an excellent preventative measure...and it's heaps o' fun too! My co-worker and I established a points system for scoring our beetle-larvae-egg fatalities. Egg clusters are worth 3 points, larvae are worth 2, adult beetles are 1 point, and mating pairs are worth 4. Diane is totally in the lead because she found a huge mass of newly hatched larvae, and I got distracted for a few minutes trying to identify a possible BMSB.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterial insecticide that is effective for CPB control, it is nontoxic to humans and does not affect beneficial insects. Adult beetles can be knocked to the ground off of plants and subsequently smashed by hand or between two rocks. The adult beetles are fantastically dumb, as they "play dead" when startled, making it quite easy to capture/kill them.

Color they turn your fingers when you squish them: Decidedly orange; eggs, larvae and adults alike.

Good beetle or bad beetle: Bad, but conveniently stupid.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guest pest: BMSB

No, it isn't a jam band or a bowel disorder, it's the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. This smelly, crunchy devil is causing quite the stir and stench among farmers, homeowners, and agricultural agencies.

Quite seriously, though, the BMSB has the potential to be a tremendous nuisance to farmers and gardeners. So far it has been identified in 30+ states.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
(photo courtesy of

Eating...everything...particularly vegetable crops such as corn and beans and orchard fruits. The nymphs or young bugs feed shallowly on leaves and such, while the adults may burrow deep to feed into fruits such as apples or grapes. During winter months, they can invade homes in search of shelter.

Management: Floating row covers are the best defense against this scary chomper which is immune to many pesticides. Hand picking bugs into a container of soapy solution is effective for controlling the bugs on a small scale. Some websites recommend sucking 'em up with a vacuum...then what? I find that knocking bad bugs and beetles to the ground and crunching them between two rocks is also a good way to guarantee mortality...just be sure to hold your nose.

Color they turn your fingers when squished:
Hmm...not sure about the color, but pretty sure you don't want lingering stink bug stench (which has been likened to antifreeze) on your fingers.

Good bug or bad bug: So bad I can't sleep at night thinking about how bad they are. HOWEVER there are some stink bugs that are beneficial predators. When in doubt, capture the thing and bring it to your local bug nerd or agricultural agency.

Identifying the BMSB can be a bit tricky, here is an great site with extended information and photos. Fortunately, I have not encountered any on the farm, but I am keeping my eyes and nose open.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cucumber beetles can't swim

The jerk is clinging to a flea beetle-bitten leaf of arugula for his dear life. Alas, he cannot swim.

I am looking forward to listening to Charlie Nardozzi's program on VPR this evening/tomorrow morning!

Check it out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nuke the cuke beetles

Name: Striped cucumber beetle

Occupation: Feeding on the flowers, leaves and fruit of curcurbits (cucumbers, melons, summer squash).
These are tiny, active beetles with voracious appetites for tender precious summer produce. Beyond their insatiable appetites for ruining our dinner, these dirty insect vermin spread a nasty disease called bacterial wilt.

Prevention/Management: For organic or conscientious growers, Pyganic is a somewhat effective insecticide I have mentioned before. The farmer I work for swears by this "knock down" spray (meaning it kills the buggers on contact). It is derived from chrysanthemums and is non-toxic to humans. However, as is th
e case with many pesticides, insects may become resistant to the effects of the spray over time.

Pictured are the very carefully tended and trellised greenhouse cucumbers on the farm. Keeping plants off the ground helps prevent disease and makes it easier to squish the beetles.

Color they turn your fingers when you squish them:
Yellowish, when they are full of eggs. One of the more enjoyable beetles to smash because of their small size and colorful entrails. Also, spotted cucumber beetle larvae can damage plant roots, which adds to the satisfaction of taking their lives.

Good beetle or bad beetle: What do you think?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chew on my nutsedge rose chafer

The rose chafer is a bold beetle and nutsedge an even bolder invasive weed that resembles grass. If only we could train the chafer to nibble the nutsedge...

Name: Rose chafer

Occupation: This beetle is a general feeder, which means it will eat most anything. However, it has a preference for grapes, fruit blossoms, and roses, hence its disarmingly lovely name (the first part of it anyway).

Prevention: To be researched

Finger squishing color:
It's not very juicy, so just kind of brownish

Good beetle or bad beetle:
Bad bad very bad