|Squash Bug Nymphs|
In the garden (unlike the jungle) the herbivores are your enemies and the carnivores are your friends.
The cute little inch worm caterpillar, inching along the leaf , will devastate your garden but the wasp, who you so desperately wanted to die, is actually in the garden to eat that inch worm. The wasp is a friend to the garden. Spiders building webs among the rows of peas are welcome. While the lovely white butterfly frolicking from cabbage plant to broccoli plant is laying eggs which will hatch into hungry caterpillars.
This year I tended the garden with vigor. I spent evenings picking caterpillars and eggs off cabbage and broccoli leaves. The red wasps and I learned to avoid each other directly. We were after the same insect and there were plenty for both of us. But alas, I hardly got a single cabbage from the patch.
Now I am checking the under side of zucchini leaves for squash bug eggs and squishing every squash bug I see. It is brutal. My hands are stained green and brown with insect blood. The stench of dead and crushed exoskeletons haunts me. I do not enjoy it. But it must be done if I want to feed my family. Distance helps the process. I have begun using an organic spray. I mix three tablespoons of dish soap into a gallon of water. I put the water in a spray bottle and attack the plants. The dish soap and water solution kills aphids and squash bugs. But what else does it kill? The spray is to be used sparingly, with caution. (To learn more about this natural insecticide visit my blog A Simply Natural Home.)
I picked the first tomato of the season a few days ago. I pick tomatoes as they begin to turn yellow and pink. I find that if I wait until they are red, something will have already taken the first bite. I let the tomato ripen in the fruit basket on the kitchen table. Today I picked it up to find a small hole in the top of the tomato. I looked down inside and saw a green caterpillar, eating away. I showed my son the tomato and my husband took some pictures (I will add them later). We passed the tomato back and forth as the caterpillar poked his head out and then retreated back inside to eat some more. My three year old was delighted by this game of peek-a-boo. I opened the tomato carefully and examined the home that caterpillar had made inside the fruit I had grown.
My husband took the caterpillar out of the tomato and laid it on the table. The tiny creature looked afraid, alone, and helpless, stranded on a vast empty table.
Somehow, in this context, I could not kill him. I claimed the good parts of the tomato. I cut off the spots that were half eaten and threw the pieces as well as the caterpillar into the compost. I dumped the compost in the pile. The caterpillar might survive, he might not. My husband exclaimed, "Kill the thief!" And I had to agree, he was a thief, but just a hungry one trying to eat what he believe were simply the free fruits of the earth. He did not know it was MY garden. So I could not bring myself to kill him. Not after seeing him so helpless on my table. Not after he played peek-a-boo with my son. I just kept thinking of the lovely butterfly the caterpillar would become if I let him live.
|Young Praying Mantis|