Tag Archives: insects
Halloween Special: Mummies in your Garden

Halloween Special: Mummies in your Garden

Posted 31 October 2010 | By | Categories: Food, Gardening, Pest control, Plants, Vegetables | Comments Off on Halloween Special: Mummies in your Garden

Vivid tales of parasitic wasps eating mummified aphids from the inside out are but a part of this thought-provoking talk on plant protection using insects and the mass production of benevolent bugs.

A real horror story is that more than 90% of fruits and vegetables examined in NZFSA’s Food Residue Surveillance programme have pesticide residues. This method of natural pest control shown by Shimon Steinberg above could be a part of New Zealand’s strategy to reduce pesticide residues in our produce and soil.

Very Hungry Caterpillars

Very Hungry Caterpillars

Posted 24 March 2010 | By | Categories: Animals, Books, Gardening, Growing Food, Vegetables | Comments

very hungry caterpillars

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric CarleThis week marks the anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, one of my favorite books as a child. But one glance at the protagonist’s varied diet (food diary lovingly compiled by the Shrinking Sisters) reveals that it is not Pieris rapae rapae (aka cabbage white butterfly, small white butterfly or just white butterfly), Seagarden’s frequent diner.

These soft green consumers grow up and become white butterflies, who then lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. The caterpillars hatch and begin to feast on a menu of organic tatsoi, kale, bok choy, broccoli and brussels sprouts, i.e. the brassicaceae — in the case of the tatsoi (below), until it’s entirely devoured.

In the organic garden, the main options for stopping this cycle are physical (removing the caterpillars and eggs), chemical (garlic spray as a preventative), and biological (Bacillus thuringiensis aka BT, dipel and thuricide which is a bacterial stomach poison for all caterpillars).

I regularly apply garlic spray, which I suspect the caterpillars enjoy as a tasty marinade, and my strategic companion plantings of hyssop, nasturtium, calendula and cosmos have been interpreted as gifts of affectionate bouquets. A box of BT (in the form of Organic NO Caterpillars) sits on the shelf, but after buying it I found I really don’t have a strong desire to poison the little beings. I guess I value biodiversity more than a perfect crop. (See Dan Barber’s inspiring TED talk featuring systems-thinking measurements of success, such as the the health of the predators and water purified through the farming process.)

I handpick them in the mornings. And sometimes in the evenings. They rotate their fuzzy faces towards mine and channel Mary Oliver, mouthing “Don’t bother me.
I’ve just been born.”
Once I’ve gathered a handful or so, I fling them gently over the fence, into the puka (or beyond). I won’t be replanting tatsoi. How do you deal with very hungry caterpillars?