Sunday, September 19, 2010

Milky Spore, How Do I Love Thee??

Act I

If everything had a color instead of a word, japanese beetles would be puce green and black and my garden would resemble a flaming red bull's eye. If the colors were replaced by scent, the beetles would reek of rotten fish and my garden would smell like fresh laundry, chocolate chip cookies, and Thanksgiving dinner. I would smell their evilness or see their  hideous shells before the damage was done.

Instead they sneak quietly into my garden, their irredescent shells cloaked by morning shadows and sleep filled eyes. They devour roses and crawl deep into my rose of sharon blooms, ravaging the flowers with neat, circular bites. They hang from the leaves like jewels in an Ethiope's ear, heavy and full enough to make Shakespeare proud. They sway with the breeze but do not slip, their hunger sated only when their handiwork is done and the leaves resemble lace, the stems supporting a network of open space punctuated by rigid veins. Shock and anger shake the sleep from my eyes and I run for my bucket of bleach water, furiously grabbing the hideous things and flicking them into its depths.

Again and again this scene has played out in my garden, the beetles emerge as the victor, my garden the hapless victim, and I, the flailing fool, complete with hat and gaudy garden shoes.

Act II

I stand in the pesticide row at the local garden store, contemplating my choices. So much death, so little time, and I feel my stomach lurch, my lunch headed due north. I grab a big blue bottle of a systemic insecticide and walk away. Thinking of the damage waiting for me at home, I rationalize my choice, pay, and drive away. I mix, pour, apply. The soil reeks of poison and I avoid the garden, guilty and ashamed. The beetles die, the leaves grow back, but the garden is quiet. The birds avoid the rose of sharon and the butterflies are absent, the milkweed and parsley empty. I have created an oasis but poisoned the water.

Act III

If being completely organic had a color it would be the blue of a can of milky spore and the chalky white of its powder. The puce green and black of the beetles would be splashed with the racing stripes of a butterfly caterpillar. If words were replaced by emotions instead of evoking them, "garden" would feel like pure joy and new life. Long gone is the systemic insecticide poured at the base of my roses and rose of sharon. The role of the fool has been rewritten and my garden bursts with life. Bravo!! Bravo!!!

12 comments:

  1. Hi TS, Such a well written and worthy post talking of the poisons. I tend to let bugs be in my garden unless imminent death of the plant ensues. And that is a rare thing even with J. Beetles. I like your colors of the organic garden much better than that of the beetles. You paint a picture so well with your words.

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  2. Thanks so much!! My neighbor and I both put milky spore in our yards and it has really helped. I find the good bugs greatly outnumber the bad bugs and I, too, let nature take its course. Several years ago I had so many j. beetles they covered my plants. It was a complete infestation. It was so gross!!

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  3. I liked the story, written like a play. I spent a lot of time this year picking beetles off the roses, so I can relate. With the neighbors all using chemicals, the beetles found my roses like a tasty buffet.

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  4. My heart certainly is heavy after reading your post. We just removed a dead Oak from our yard -- it had been gobbled up by an insect. The insect has burrowed into some of the other Oaks, and I can't let it continue to kill these beautiful and protected trees. The preservation of Oaks is really a huge deal here in So Cal, so I must resort to using a chemical treatment to rid the trees of the insect.

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  5. I completely understand, KJ!! I am a native of CA and the last time I was in Nor Cal my aunt was fighting a bug/disease in her oaks, too. She ended up having an arborist just cut them down. It was sad but they were dying from the inside and she didn't want them coming down in a storm. One of my favorite mementos of living in CA is a photograph of dry golden hills spotted with oaks!!

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  6. Gardenwalk, I'd love to know if a rose tastes as good as they smell since the beetles LOVE them!! It's so frustrating to see a beautiful bud only to find that half of it has been eaten!! Ugh!!

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  7. I may be trying milky spore. I've yet to actually see the beetles, but I certainly see holes everywhere. Everything I've read says that most methods of eradicating the adults just causes more harm than good, so I've just let them feast. Glad to hear the milky spore helps!

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  8. Hey Tammy, I am going to have to snap a picture of the "circle of life" going on out in my (organic) veggie garden right now! I had a tenacious tomato hornworm that I could never find in my plants, despite the trail of destruction he left behind... well, I finally found him three days ago, hanging dead from a leaf, covered in the empty egg casings of parasitic wasps! Nature is GROSS but effective!

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  9. I always leave a few hornworms for the wasps!! Gross, but VERY cool!! Any bug that poops/eats that much deserves to become wasp food. They look like they're covered in Qtips when they're covered in wasp larvae eggs. I show pix of hornworms to my students every year when I talk about the effects of pesticides on the water table vs. organic controls. 11 yr olds love anything gross!! :0)

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  10. Hi TS. You may or may not be interested. I'm inviting you to join in a "game". Join in if you wish. Check it out at missysgarden.blogspot.com/2010/09/gardening-game.html

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  11. Hi TS, What an interesting way to write. Glad that you believe in staying organic. I think if more people stay organic, our plants will be healthier. I find my plants get affected when gardeners spray insecticide in large scale. They seek refuge in my garden.

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  12. Thanks, One!! I've noticed the same thing with my garden. The more my neighbors blast their yards with chemicals, the more wildlife flees to my yard. It's more than just a garden, it's a sanctuary. It's a priviledge to be a part of a greater whole. My garden is so much bigger than just me. I am simply the caretaker. :0)

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