Monday, August 15, 2022
Bugs and More Bugs and Also, Bugs
Well, today's the day, supposedly. The forecast calls for thunderstorms in the afternoon, with the rain chance at 71 percent. Imagine! We might get actual rain!
It's supposed to continue tomorrow and Wednesday, too. Hallelujah.
This is also the day that Dave returns to London. He's in the air now, winging it over the Atlantic, and should get home just before lunch. I told him yesterday it appears he's missed the worst of our second heat wave. The temperatures are getting to "only" 85º F (29º C) today. Even though we're supposed to get rain, I'm going to do some watering this morning to make sure everything looks as good as possible.
I'm staying away from that flipping banana tree on our patio, though, because...
...I think these are what's biting me. You'll see there are two types of critters in this photo. The banana tree has been looking a little yellowed recently, and the reason for that is the tiny pale mites -- which are spider mites. I discovered yesterday that the banana has a rip-roaring infestation, probably because we've had no rain and they haven't been washed from the leaves.
The tiny black bugs are insidious flower bugs -- that's actually the name -- also known as minute pirate bugs. They're there to eat the mites, so that's a good thing. Problem is, THEY ALSO BITE HUMANS! According to Countryfile, "the wounds can be slow to heal and are incredibly itchy."
The bugs that I was picturing in my mind's eye when I described my biters as tiny and black are definitely the flower bugs. I've been bitten by them before in the garden, but never to this degree. Spider mites supposedly don't bite humans, at least not badly, but other types of mites -- like chiggers, which in the UK are known quaintly as "harvest mites" -- definitely do. I suspect that my bites, which you may remember got severe when I brushed past the banana tree to water the plants around the patio, might actually be from a variety of sources. I haven't seen any chiggers, but I don't think there are enough of the flower bugs to blame them alone.
I tried to go buy some anti-itch cream yesterday, but as it was Sunday our pharmacies were closed. Sigh. I took a Benadryl and ran an ice cube up and down my overheated, inflamed arms just before bed. It just seemed like the thing to do, and man, it felt great.
It's ironic that I discovered the mites on the banana yesterday, because I'd spent the whole morning fighting plant pests. I found mealybugs on our Thanksgiving cacti, which live indoors. I took them outside and dabbed all the bugs off with rubbing alcohol, then washed the plants down with water. One that was particularly infested I sprayed with Bayer Bug Free, which is a pesticide although it is said to contain "naturally occurring active ingredients making it ideal for natural gardening." (According to the marketers.)
I only go to Bayer when I'm desperate. While I was at it, I decided to "go nukular" (as George W. Bush might say) on the aphids infesting our lupines. For months now I've been picking them off by hand, knocking them off with water, spraying them with soap, you name it, but they'd become so dense that the plants were almost completely covered. Well, Bayer took care of them.
I hate bug spray and we try very hard never to use it in the garden. But sometimes enough is enough. There shouldn't be any collateral damage on the lupines because they're not flowering, so bees and other bugs won't be coming around now.
I have no idea how we're going to handle the spider mites on the banana. It's way too big to spray with anything, nor would I use bug spray on such a large scale. Maybe today's showers will help wash them off.
Isn't this an exciting blog post? I know you wanted to know all about our garden pests.
Here's a fun little tidbit from the postcards that I blogged a few days ago. This is the back of one of the cards, showing an old postmark, from 1933, urging people to "get the telephone habit." It's kind of ironic that the post office wanted more people to talk on the phone, isn't it? Self-defeating, even. Too bad they couldn't look into the future and see how modern people would be virtually enslaved by their phones. They might have reconsidered their message.
(Top photo: A bee on one of our bluebeards (Caryopteris), which don't seem fazed by our dry weather.)