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" 85┬║ F (29┬║ 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.)


jenny_o said...

My take on the telephone thing is that it's not really the *telephone* (made to allow us to communicate verbally with each other when we can't be together) that's the problem, it's the @#$! computer in the telephone that's bad and so, so addictive . . . said the person who just discovered TikTok (specifically: comedians, Irish dancing, and the idiosyncrasies of the French, Spanish, and English languages) ...

The only thing worse than itchy bug bites is itchy bug bites in hot weather. I hope you can get some medication for them once the pharmacies open. Sending sympathy!

Moving with Mitchell said...

Chiggers are apparently a nightmare in South Dakota gardens. Blech. Hope you get the pests under control... and the itching.

Rachel Phillips said...

The Post Office was also the Telephone company at that time, one and the same so not competing against one another. It split up sometime much later, maybe in the 1960s. I would have to look it up to know the date.

Frances said...

You have most likely blighted any hope of rain by talking about it!!
I was going to suggest a hair dryer pointed at itchy bites ( it stops the itch for hours!), but then I thought.....Steve....hairdryer...probably not!
Enjoy the rain if it comes....I shall be dancing on the patio if it happens.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Why not wear a "coverall" suit with a hood when gardening? This will ensure that you are never bitten. You know the kind I mean - as worn by detectives at murder scenes.

Once London's BT Tower was called The Post Office Tower because the mail system and telecommunications came under the same umbrella.

River said...

I'm glad you discovered what was biting you.
it's a great idea to water before the rain, it will help open the surface of the soil so it can more readily soak up the rain.
We have been having a lot of rain here in Adelaide, it's only halfway through August and we have had more rain than we got in the whole of July, and it isn't stopping anytime soon. Very unusual for us.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I was bad so Steve sent me to "Spam" jail.

David said...

More information about bugs than I ever thought I needed to know! LOL By the way, how are you going with your new electric toothbrush. Any updates?

Boud said...

Not too surprising about the PO encouraging phone use, since they ran the phone system. It was another branch of the PO, so using it would be good for their business as well as take the strain off the mail delivery.

I'm glad you figured out the itch source. Yes, I expect the dryness with no rain to wash away bugs was great for them, not so good for the plants and the collateral damage gardeners.

Welcome home Dave!

Bob said...

Perhaps whoever created that postmark knew what was coming with phones and the addiction they are for some people.

Pixie said...

I was bitten by midges once, in Newfoundland, so painful and itchy. I loath bug bites. One of the advantages of living this far north, less horrible bugs that bite:)

Ms. Moon said...

I think that with global climate change, the usual balance of insects and plants is bound to be disturbed.
I sure hope you get that rain!
I imagine Dave is safely home now.

Ellen D. said...

I hope you get the rains you need and it washes your itchy bugs away. I remember my Mom covering us with that pink calamine lotion when we were children and the mosquitoes got us! :)

The Bug said...

As a Bug I would like to personally apologize for the itchy bites. Ha!

ellen abbott said...

I used to get chigger bites all the time out here until the last two winters spent weeks in the 20s. Can't you use the hose to spray the mites off the banana leaves? I use insecticidal soap when I have to. I had white fly on my roses and camellia I think from the heat and drought.

NewRobin13 said...

I'm surprised you have so many bugs there. The heat has probably encouraged them, and I'm glad there's some rain headed your way. That should really help with the buggy problems.
Dave should be home by now. Ah, life back to normal.

Red said...

Mealy bugs are some of the worst. They are very hard to get rid of.

Kelly said...

I also remember Jimmy Carter saying "nukular" which disturbed me considering his Naval service and dealings with the nuclear submarine program.

When I mentioned my itch solution yesterday, I had forgotten about chiggers (aka redbugs)! Works well on them, too. I know YP is being funny, but I did picture a bee suit (minus the hood, of course). Might be worth wearing long sleeves to do yard work, if you can tolerate the heat. Hopefully you'll get a break today with some rain. (71% is pretty specific!) Olga has the right idea.

Sharon said...

That postmark made me chuckle. You are so right about today's telephone situation.
That is a lot of bugs to deal with. I don't blame you for taking drastic measures.

Jeanie said...

I love the postmark! That's delightful. I'm sorry you are being so terribly eaten alive by the bugs. The ice cube is a great idea. Do you ever freeze a waterbottle to use? Works like a charm (nice on the feet, too!). Three cheers for your upcoming rain. I hope all goes well with Dave's flight.

Allison said...

When I lived in Georgia we had gnats that flew in the ears and bit, and walked up and down on my glasses. I hated that. There were many chiggers, Mom would dig them out with a needle. Good times......

Margaret said...

Oh, that sounds miserable! I didn't realize how many biting bugs there are. Now I'm scared to go anywhere near plants! I don't think we have chiggers here. I may be wrong. Perhaps I've just never encountered any?

Steve Reed said...

Jenny-O: You're absolutely right. A lot of people NEVER talk on their phones. I almost never do!

Mitchell: I think they're a nightmare all over the USA. They certainly are in the South. I remember being told never to play in Spanish moss because it was full of chiggers. (No idea whether that's really true.)

Rachel: Oh, good point! I should have realized that postal and telephone services were often integrated in earlier days. It was the same when I lived in Morocco and we'd go to the PTT to mail letters or make calls.

Frances: Ha! Yeah, I don't have a hair dryer. (Nor does Dave, surprisingly.) I wonder why that works?!

YP: Oh yeah, I've often heard the BT Tower referred to as the Post Office Tower. (Even though that's the old name.) It's too hot to be in the garden in anything other than a t-shirt!

River: That IS unusual. I don't think of Australia as a rainy country at all. (Though of course I know there are rainy areas, like Tasmania or Darwin.)

YP: I didn't send you there, but I did let you out!

David: Yeah, sorry about that. I'm managing with the electric toothbrush. I still don't love it.

Boud: Well, we're apparently about to have some heavy downpours, so those bugs better watch out!

Bob: ESP? Nostradamus?

Pixie: Normally we don't have much of a bug problem at all, but I think the lack of rain has allowed them to go crazy.

Ms Moon: Definitely. I also think flowering cycles are shorter this year causing some bugs to vanish prematurely. It upsets the balance.

Ellen D: I wish I had some calamine lotion!


Ellen: Yeah, that's exactly what I did. I was a little worried about just washing them off because I was afraid they'd move to other plants! But they'd probably do that anyway.

Robin: Yeah, it's been a very weird year for bugs. Normally I'm on their side, but not when they attack me.

Red: I had them on our jade plant and I think I successfully got rid of them with regular applications of rubbing alcohol.

Kelly: I think "nukular" really is just a southern pronunciation. It's too hot for long sleeves!

Sharon: The aphid situation really was out of hand. I told Dave I might be done with lupines after these die. I just can't deal with the aphids.

Jeanie: I've never tried a frozen water bottle but I can see how that would help!

Allison: Yeah, chiggers are all over the South. We never dug them out -- just let the bites heal on their own.

Margaret: Ha! Well, we're having a very unusual year. There normally aren't THIS many biters in our garden.

River said...

Mealy bugs don't like open air with breezes, so put any infested plant out in the open, with shade if necessary and they will soon disappear.