Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The bugs are back in town!

There are good bugs and there are bad bugs.

We like good bugs so much we've built a hotel for them. Another masterpiece from the whittler's work bench. No pets allowed, but bugs welcomed! A range of accommodation is available - if you like a round room we can offer smooth walled pipes, hogweed stems for those who prefer rougher spikier decor, or for something more rustic try a log hole, but if your taste runs to modern but functional, try a brick. Booking facilities for this latest accommodation offering will soon be available n our website. Book early to avoid disappointment.

A good night's sleep is guaranteed, but with neighbours of the inquisitive poultry variety there's a high risk of being breakfast the next morning rather than having breakfast.

Meanwhile, in the bad bug camp, the baddest bad bug in the entire bad bug kingdom is back with a vengeance. This menace is invisible at first, lulling you into a false sense of security while its nibbles remain miniscule. You watch, you wait, you take pleasure in seeing your fruit bushes go from flower to budding fruit. All seems well. Then BAM! Overnight each caterpillar-like sawfly larva has grown in size ten-fold, its nibbles now clearly visible munchings on a vast scale, clusters of voracious little beasties devour every single precious leaf on your gooseberry bushes and every scrap of green on your redcurrant bushes.

Three years on the trot we've suffered the injustice of the sawfly larva attack and seen our fruit bushes stripped of all foliage. One year we tried companion planting with flowers said to deter these larvae, but by the time the seeds germinated I'd forgotten they'd been sown at all and suspecting an infestation of previously unidentified weeds, promptly plucked out every single seedling. First failure. Another year we tried replacing the top 2 inches of soil (the winter home of larvae to be) with a layer of fresh mulch, with no visible reduction in subsequent larvae hatchings. Second failure. Daily sprays of Soil Association approved "Bug Clear" didn't appear to clear a single bug. Third failure. And before you ask, no the chickens aren't interested. Fourth failure. Finally, in a last ditch attempt to save our four year old gooseberry plants, we dug them up last winter and relocated them at the other end of the field. How foolish of me to think I could fool the all seeing, all sniffing, sawfly with such a simple trick. Fifth failure. Now its back to the good old fashioned chemical-free but rarely effective pest control technique of spraying with warm soapy water. 

I'm determined not to be defeated. This is now one woman's fight to save her dreams of gooseberry fool and summer fruit pavlova. Every day I pull on my Marigold gloves, get down on hands and knees, inspect each plant leaf by leaf, and shake, flick and squidge the little b*****s to death. Small ones turn to slime. Big ones pop. Stuff the bad karma, I'm on a mission. I look down from above to find the larvae peeping out from underneath. I rummage in the middle to catch the larvae inching their way up the central stem. I look up from below to spot the larvae silhouetted against the sky. As a parting shot I stomp on the bodies of larvae strewn around the base of each bush just in case anything still has sufficient wriggle power to make it back to the mother ship.

... during ...
... after.
Hour upon hour passes in this way, and I have a "dot to dot" pattern of midge bites up my arms and around my face and neck to show for it, but I fear all is in vain as when I return the next day a million more have hatched and the bushes have become more and more skeletal. So long gooseberry jam, farewell redcurrant jelly.