Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bugs part 2

As well as the death-defyingly cute bugs attacking my pumpkins, there are also some artistic insects trying to invade my house.  We first encountered them this time last year, but it took a while before we figured out what was going on.

I first noticed that there was a strange smear of what looked like mud or clay on a curtain in the bedroom, and I was puzzled as to how I had managed to get a footprint up so high.  I concluded that I must have done it when I was hanging them, and simply not noticed, so I just cleaned it up and forgot all about it.

I then noticed that we had a lot of funny-looking bees in the house that seemed to be coming out of the curtains.  They were all black, but with pale grey stripes and looked nothing like any other bee or wasp I had ever seen.  I followed one back to where it had emerged and pulled the fold in the curtain apart, to be greeted by what looked like a little clay pot made by a child, hanging from my curtain.   Turns out I had Mason Wasps.

These little creatures have a fascinating life cycle, in that the female builds a clay nest made of little cells, into which she deposits a paralysed orb-web spider.  She then lays an egg in the cell with the spider, so the baby wasp has a nice fresh meal to wake up to.  The Mummy wasp also makes a distinct whirring sound when she is building the nest, like a little cement mixer processing the compound for her spider-prison.  I know the sound well now, and can stop the wasps before they get established.

When you have not noticed that the Mason Wasp has been busy whirring away, you close your curtains at the end of the day and get bombarded by stupefied arachnids.  Even for someone not afraid of insects or creepy crawlies, it can be a somewhat harrowing experience.   I dare say the spiders aren’t too impressed either.

There was another new invader in my veg patch the other day.  I had noticed that the rhubarb was looking a little chewed, but I thought it was just random damage as rhubarb leaves are toxic, and used as insecticides in organic farming, so I was fairly sure nothing ate them.  How wrong I was.

Tareka noticed the damage had worsened overnight, and promptly went digging in the mulch to find the culprit.  He was greeted by something like the caterpillar out of "Bug's Life".  It was so fat it looked like it was a CGI and I half expected it to start talking

Turns out it was a cutworm larvae, and it had been eating our rhubarb leaves as it’s rock-hard and will chew through plate metal if it’s hungry enough.
Now I must admit that although I did do a degree in Applied Ecology, and attempt to recycle, make compost and knit my own yoghurt, I am not averse to the sprinkling of Blue Slug Death to prevent slimy critters eating my home-grown falafel, so when Tareka got the manic look in his eye that can only signify the use of Farming Equipment, I graciously stepped aside.

Tareka and I both worked in agricultural R&D for a while, so we are both pretty clued up on the use of pesticides, but while I dreaded the idea of donning the Tyvek suit and breathing apparatus, Tareka seems to relish it, so it has become his job in our little horticultural plan to spray the Evil Chemicals of Doom and destroy the Harbingers of Leaf Wilt.  He had some chemical in the shed (properly stored well out of reach of everyone, in a locked box), and duly measured, mixed and prepared.

 He then went out and sprayed the buggers til they drowned.He

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