Category Archives: Jake the Bug Hunter

Ninja Bug

They creep up to the window
They climb up on the plants
They sit up on a green leaf
They watch the wasps and ants

We like these bright green ninjas
We love the way they work
We see them move so slowly
We watch their long arms jerk

When they’ve caught their target
They sink back down again
And munch the bug they’ve captured
Antennae, legs and skin

They’re really kind of scary
They move so soft and quick
If they were any bigger
I’d smash them with a stick!

In all seriousness, the praying mantis is an amazing insect and extremely useful in the garden. They are silent and efficient hunters and they prey mainly on common garden pests.

Most of the mantids we have found are in and around our rose bushes. There are–or were, a large population of Japanese beetles on these bushes. I think the mantids enjoyed a daily feast.


Operation JBE: Status

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication (JBE)
Date: June 30, 2017

Subject of Study:
Japanese beetles aka Revolting Beasts

Entomoligists:
– Joseph the Bug Hunter (JBH)
– Jacob the Bug Whacker (JBW)
– Issabella the Scout
– Cheyenne the Soldier
– Melissa (Mom)

Report:
Experiment #1: The beetles in the bug house were not as destructive as I thought they would be.
Status: Failed.

Experiment #2: The containers with dead beetles were slightly effective, but by the time we installed them around the perimeter, there were just too many beetles to combat.
Status: Failed.

Experiment #3: We tried a homemade essential oil spray: cedarwood oil with water. We sprayed one row of kiwi and, while there were fewer beetles the next day, there were again too many to combat.
Status: Failed.

Experiment #4: After seeing that they were leaving the chocolate mint completely alone, my niece had the idea of making a “potion” of mint and water. We pulled a bunch of mint and blended it up with water, strained it and loaded up a couple of spray bottles.

The troops were deployed. This time, we sprayed two of the rose bushes, leaving the third as our control.

Again, it worked slightly, but there were just too many to combat.
Status: Failed.

What do we do now? I’m at a loss. Further research will be needed to determine our next steps. Stay tuned.

The Final Experiment

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication (JBE)
Date: July 2, 2017

Subject of Study:
Japanese beetles aka &#%!@?s

Entomoligists:
– Joseph the Bug Hunter (JBH)
– Jacob the Bug Whacker (JBW)
– Melissa (Mom)

The Final Experiment

While I believe that one or all of the natural methods we tried would have worked to manage the onslaught of the beetles, I also believe that, by the time we tried them, it was too late and there were just too many to combat.

So, I am going to try organic Neem Oil in an effort to stop them from completely obliterating what is left of the vineyard, fedge and our young fruit trees in the swales.

We are also going to spread milky spore over the lawn to kill as many grubs as we can in the hope of hatching fewer beetles next year.

The potential problem with both of these methods is the cost.

Beetles are laying their eggs all over the 5 acres we own for the entire 8 weeks they are here. That means that next year Japanese beetle grubs will be waiting to emerge from the soil as a full-grown army of maniacal demons.   

If we wanted to cover the entire property, we would need a ton of milky spore to have a chance against such an enemy. 

Does this mean we won’t try it? Absolutely not. I will try everything withing my power to destroy my insect enemy, but we need to be vigilant and prepared with the other methods we have tried in order to stop–or at least better manage this blight.

They may have defeated us this year, but my team of entomologists will be back to fight the battle anew next year…armed with new knowledge and better weaponry.

Down but not yet out
We learn from all our failures
And come back swinging

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication #2

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication (JBE)
Date: June 26, 2017

Subject of Study:
Japanese beetles aka Revolting Beasts

Entomoligists:
– Joseph the Bug Hunter (JBH)
– Jacob the Bug Whacker (JBW)
– Melissa (Mom)

Report on 1st Experiment:
The beetles in the bug house are not as destructive as we predicted. It is possible that we have disturbed their behavior patterns by taking them out of their natural environment.

But I suspect something more diabolical.

They are up to something. I just know it.

New Observations:
– With high winds in the early afternoon, subjects behaved as they do in early morning and twilight hours. They were hanging on tight to their green victims, but they did not flee when approached.
– They are moving onto the blackberry leaves in force. I find more congregating there everyday.
– There are no Japanese beetles on the blanket of mint growing on the vineyard floor. Is the scent too strong?

They are increasing in number and becoming more destructive by the day. We must figure out how to stop them before it’s too late.

Experiment #2:
In further studying natural methods of disposing of the revolting beasts, we have decided to strategically place containers of drowned beetles around the perimeter of the most attacked areas of the homestead.

Other beetle battlers have reported success with this method. Apparently, the smell of rotting beetle bodies deters others from coming into the area of destruction.

Results pending. (I’ll believe it when I see it.)

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication #1

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication (JBE)
Date: June 23, 2017

Entomoligists:
– Joseph
– Jacob
– Melissa

Subject of Study:
Japanese beetles aka Revolting Beasts

Appearance:
– Six legs
– Oval in shape, 1/3-1/2 inches
– Metallic green with coppery brown leaf covers
– Five patches of white hair on each side of the abdomen and 1 patch on the lower abdomen

Life cycle and Known Facts:
– Egg, grub, and adult stages.
– From early June to late July they emerge from the soil as pupa, become fully grown adults and begin their attack.
– They have an 8 week lifecycle during which they are laying eggs every day.
– The females live for a couple of weeks feeding on trees, shrubs and roses in the morning.
– They hide during mid-day and return to the desecrated plants in the afternoon.
– At this time, they carry out their true objective: they lay more eggs.
– They leave their scent on the leaves they eat as if to tell their cronies “this is a good spot”.

Observations:
– The beetles seem to be sleeping during twilight and the early morning hours.
– Cool rainy weather makes them lazy and depressed.
– In extreme winds, they have a tighter grip on the leaves they are desecrating.
– They are beginning to go after the early fruit as well as the bright green leaves.
– They love roses and are VERY fond of hardy kiwi and grape leaves.
– They are starting to attack blackberry, seaberry, aronia, cherry, blueberry and raspberry leaves.
– They seem to enjoy healthy plants as they are leaving the unhealthy ones alone.

Experiment #1:
– I caught four of the fiends and put them in my son’s bug house for observation.
– In this first experiment, we will make note of how long it takes 4 beetles to devour a leaf.

Results pending.

Trampoline Lessons

Joe found a beetle today while we were woodchipping the garden.

It was huge.

It was shiny.

It was making a weird noise…a cross between a hiss and a squeak.

Joe and Jake both thought it was cool.

I thought it was creepy and wanted to feed it to the chicks.

“I wonder what it eats,” said Joe as he put it in his bug house.

“We found it in the wood pile so let’s put some wood in,” said Jake.

I watched them work together, putting wood chips, grass and dirt in.

“What kind of beetle do you think it is?” I asked them.

They didn’t have any guesses, so Joe and I went inside to get a few bug books. The boys both wanted to “do research” on the trampoline so we climbed on with the books and the bug house and started looking for a match.

The beetle was hard to see, so of course Joe needed to take it out.

I tried nonchalantly scoot away when it crawled its way toward me making its weird hiss/squeak.

We looked through all of the insect books and came to the conclusion that Joe had found a female stag beetle.

“Are you sure it’s a stag beetle?” I asked Joe.

“Yep. See, it has the same spikeys on its legs.”

He turned it upside down and touched its back leg causing another hiss/squeak fit.

I tried to get the crazy sound on video, but it would not cooperate so I found a YouTube video of a stag beetle making the same sound.

The boys played with it for a little while longer while I watched on.

When they got bored with it, they put it back in the bug house and put the bug house on the picnic table.

I gathered up the books and told them I was going to go inside and fix dinner.

“Ok, could you take the bughouse in with you? I want to keep an eye on the beetle.”

Gulp.

Bugs in the garden
Learning on the trampoline
Beetles in the house

The Bug House

Every day Joe finds a caterpillar or worm to add to the bug house.

The tiny space is almost at full capacity and soon, we will have to build on an addition to make more room.

“I have to put them in here because they won’t survive the winter.”

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But, don’t they? Don’t they find some way to survive the Winter, at least as eggs or larvae, to be born again in the Spring?

Of course they do! But…how?

We were both curious, so we googled it and looked it up in our bug books.

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And guess what? Bugs don’t just survive the winter as eggs or larvae.

Some, like the Monarch butterfly, migrate to avoid the cold.

Others, like the ladybug, hibernate. They stack themselves up on logs and under rocks, sharing heat and creating a buffer against the wind. How cool is that!?

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Grasshoppers bury their eggs under the soil to protect them from the cold.

Still others, like Japanese beetles and water insects, survive winter as grubs or larvae, under the surface of the ground or underwater.

So this winter, the bug hunters will be active. We will look for ladybug towers and search for beehives. And in the Spring we’ll be digging up those Japanese beetle grubs and feeding them to the chickens.

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Milkweeds

Milkweeds.

Monarch butterflies love them.

Milkweed bugs eat them.

We have an abundance of them.

One would think that we’d have an abundance of monarch butterflies too…but I’ve only seen a few of the beauties this year.

When I found a small colony of black and red beetles all over my milkweeds I thought I’d discovered the reason for the lack of monarchs on the homestead.

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I was angry.

How dare they?

But…rather than drowning them in dishwater, an act normally saved for Japanese Beetles and squash bugs…I decided to figure out what they were, why they were there and whether they were harmful.

No jumping to conclusions for this permaculture gal.

Observe before destroying interacting.

Little yellow eggs were on the plants. The underside of a leaf, the side of a pod, the stem. Pretty much everywhere they could attach.

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The bugs were all over the plants, which meant the boys were in bug heaven.

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After reading a few bug blogs, I didn’t really find much about these beetles.

They are “true” bugs.

They feed on milkweed.

Adults can fly.

They are relatively safe from predators due to the poisonous sap in the milkweed–their main meal.

This sap is also food for the monarch caterpillar.

If these milkweed bugs are everywhere and are eating all the sap from the milkweeds, the monarchs will go to someone else’s garden.

A garden where milkweed bugs aren’t a problem.

And that is a problem.

They may be pretty
They may be small
But I’ll not have them
I’ll banish them all

Bloggy McBlogs-alot

Blog post number 603.

In just under 3 years, I’ve written 603 posts on gardening, homesteading, cooking, chickens, bug hunters, mice, writing, homeschooling and a pinch of everything in life.

I’m still learning.

Learning how to write a blog post that will appeal to multiple audiences.

Learning how to take the criticism–both constructive (which really helps me get better) and destructive (which really doesn’t help me. At all.).

Learning how to grow as a writer…as a homesteader…as a human.

I’m having fun.

I’m feeling a sense of accomplishment…a sense of pride at my stick-to-it attitude.

I’m writing!

I had traveled so far away from my original dream. The dream I’ve had since I was a kid. The dream to write.

But, my journey through life has given me fodder for the stories I share.

I’ve wandered back to writing.

I’ve walked back to my dream.

I’m telling my story one post at a time.

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Joe the Bug Hunter: Beetle Battles

Joe stood staring at the remains of his mom’s 3-year-old apple tree. The leaves, if you could call them that, had been stripped of all but the stems. They were little more than an outline, a brown ghost leaf.

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The hardy kiwi had suffered a similar fate, and almost every berry bush in the hedge had been brutally attacked.

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“They’re back,”  Joe said to his little brother Jake.

“What’s back?”

Joe pulled a small black beetle from one of the damaged leaves. He held it between his thumb and forefinger for an instant and then squished it with a savage smirk.

Japanese beetles. They’re back.”

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Last year, Joe had convinced his mom to plant a few borage bushes. He’d read that the beetles fed on the dusky leaves and purple flowers rather than other food producing plants.

It worked.

The beetle damage to all other plants was minimal and the borage seemed to hold its own against the constant assault.

That was last year.

Apparently, this year’s crop found kiwi and apple leaves more to their taste.

“What are we going to do Joe?”

Joe walked into the house with a determined look in his eyes.

First, he filled a small bucket with warm, soapy water.

Then, he pulled out two sets of tweezers and two red plastic tubes.

“Follow my lead,” he said handing a set of tweezers and a plastic tube Jake.

They hit the kitchen garden first.

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“First, use the tweezers to knock the beetles off into the plastic tube.”

“Wait, wasn’t this what our M&Ms came in?” Jake asked looking closely at the tube.

“Focus Jake!”

“Sorry. Ok, then what?”

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“Once the tube is full, dump the beetles into this bucket of soapy water.”

“Can they swim?”

Joe looked long and hard at his brother before answering.

“No. They can’t swim.”

Jake gulped.

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The boys spent the better part of the afternoon quietly drowning beetles. As the sun set, Joe decided it was time to stop for the day.

Hot and thirsty, Jake started toward the house.

“Hold on. We aren’t quite done yet.”

Jake walked back to where his brother stood holding the bucket of drowned beetles.

“Now what?”

Joe smiled and headed for the chicken coop.

“The girls are getting a treat tonight!”