Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gardening Tip: Dealing with Leaf Footed Bugs

I hate them. HATE. I hate how they destroy my beautiful tomatoes. I hate how they look. I hate how they smell. Who do i hate?

Image Copyright © 2006 sashajade

  They are nasty animals that like to suck the life out of our lovely plants. Their nasty proboscis nose/tongue/mouth part stabs into lovely fruits like lemons, tomatoes, peppers, legumes and sucks out the good stuff. What i'm left with is red tomatoes covered in dimply green/dry spots- sometimes completely dried out on the inside. It is both lame and not tasty.  This is another reason that i pick my tomatoes right at blush - get them inside in the safety of the house! Once you've learned to identify the culprit - do all you can to destroy them, or else they will try and destroy you! 
(Note: i don't spray for bugs. Occasionally i use Neem for squash borers and DE for slugs etc. These guys make me WANT to resort to spray - but it really doesn't work that great anyway. And who wants to have to WASH their tomatoes before you eat them? not me.)

This is what they look like as babies:

Copyright © 2007 Doug Smith
 Copyright © 2006 The Longs
Copyright © 2007 absolutneef 
They are most easily identified as being clusters of tiny red nasties. Assassin bugs look a bit similar and are good guys - so don't kill them. Their babies are more solitary - so it's the cluster of red bug that's the good giveaway on who to kill. The long egg chain is also a good giveaway. Assassin bug eggs are more like clusters:

Copyright © 2010 Rich Kelly

There are several kinds of assassin bugs - lots of kinds actually. Here's one of the guys from my garden:

Learn to identify the bugs in your garden: it's super fun, and it's important to know who are the good guys and who are the bad. All bugs, of course, have their place in the ecosystem - but one of the other reasons i hate the leaf footers - nobody likes to eat them! They're just too nasty! They're like the Klingons or Borg of the bug world (woops, just outed myself as a Trekky) Chickens won't eat them. The turtle won't eat them. Wild birds don't even seem to go for 'em. So, you ask - how do i combat these nasties without spray?

A. Vacuum cleaner
B. Cup of soapy water

These are my tried and true methods. A: I used to have an old vacuum cleaner, the canister type with a long hose. We'd plug it into the extension cord, my hubby would hold it and i would direct the hose. Yes, my neighbors think i'm crazy. A shop vac would work great for this.  B: Cup of water works great, but you have to catch the bugs. Luckily, they usually drop down when disturbed so if you can get the cup of soapy (just enough soap to break the tension of the water surface) water underneath the bug you can tap it from the top and it will fall in and drown. Mwa hahahaha. Problem with this method is that they can also just fly away. Vastly irritating. That and you end up with gross smelling cups of dead bugs all over the garden, well i do at least - perhaps i should learn the joys of TIDYING up after myself?
Hope these tips help fellow frustrated gardeners. What pest is the bane of your existence?

Images courtesy of Bugguide.

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