I have a new challenge to face in the outside garden. These bugs were present in the garden last year, but I was unaware of any problems with the produce being created by them. It turns out that they did cause some damage, but I didn’t know it.
They are leaf-footed bugs,
and apparently what they do is suck the juices from things like tomatoes. This causes the flesh in the area where they were feeding to become whitish, dry, and kind of flavorless. I had thought, when I encountered tomatoes that were like that during the previous two summers, that this was being caused by nematodes, so I wasn’t on the lookout for an insect cause.
When I have seen these bugs in previous seasons, I kind of enjoyed them, especially the young bugs, which I think are kind of cute –
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This year I discovered what they actually do in the garden because all of the bigger tomatoes, like the romas and the healthkicks, that I planted in the spring are finished bearing, and the fall tomato plants are still too small to have tomatoes on them. The only tomatoes that are bearing right now are the Napa grapes. These are very small, grape size tomatoes. They’re very sweet and quite delicious. They’re prolific bearers, and their vines grow very long. We love them. Apparently, the Napas behave differently than larger tomatoes when the leaf-footed bugs feed on them. They develop a very sticky coating and they also get a dark grainy coating. Then they start to rot long before they’re fully mature. At first I thought it was the heat that was causing this to happen, but I noticed that there was a pretty robust population of these bugs that I had been enjoying, so I started thinking that maybe the two things were connected.
I Googled “tomato pests”, and found a picture of my bugs. I’m willing to share some of my tomatoes with these bugs, but they seem to be causing all of the Napa grapes to become unusable for me and my husband. Machaelle Wright says that her garden is a research garden first and a source of food second. She still gets plenty of produce, but the research comes first. So she does nothing when other garden life makes its presence known in this kind of way. My garden definitely has an energy related purpose, but the produce is a pretty big priority in our garden. So I needed to do something if I want to have any tomatoes until the larger tomatoes are bearing.
The first thing I tried was to spray the plants and the new tomatoes with the garlic/hot pepper/soap/Superthrive mixture. The bugs would fly away for a little while after the plants were sprayed, but the next day, there they would be again, feeding on the tomatoes. One of the methods that people say they use for these bugs is to hand pick them from the plants and then drop them in soapy water to kill them. I’m really struggling with that idea. It really doesn’t feel good to me.
I decided to at least catch them, and figure out what to do with them later. So right now I have an empty gallon water jug in my kitchen with about ten leaf-footed bugs in it and a handful of Napa grape tomatoes for them to feed on. I had a chat with some of the garden intelligences about this situation a couple of days ago, and I was told that I would probably have to kill these particular bugs, and then do something different next year. But I just wasn’t happy with that.
This evening I had another little talk with nature. I asked the overlighting spirit of the garden about the bug situation. I was told that these bugs express themselves with exhuberance, and that they always will do this. They will always maintain an exhuberant and robust presence in a garden that has things in it that they like. So my solution in future years is to provide them with things they like that I won’t mind if they totally dominate. There are several kinds of plants that will attract the leaf-footed bugs that I can plant in other parts of the yard, where the bugs can live and be happy.
The word I’m getting from nature though is that I’m going to have to dispatch these particular friends currently living in the empty water jug. I’m not happy about that.
Many years ago when I was in the early days of my journey with co-creative living, I found my sincerity about this way of being and of doing things being tested from time to time. There was a mouse that decided to take up residence in my house, making quite a nuisance of its little self. It wouldn’t be ignored, either. It kept getting more and more bold. It started getting on the counters, and then jumping up into the cabinets and leaving it’s little droppings on the plates in them (even when the doors were closed – I have no idea how it did this). I couldn’t understand this, because there was no food in those cabinets. I had a little talk with the mouse deva and told it that it wasn’t working for the mouse to live in the house, and to please tell it to go live in a more appropriate place.
This helped for a little while, but then the mouse got even bolder, and I would see it scurrying around the edges of the kitchen floor. I had another little talk with the mouse deva, and again it worked for a little while, and then got worse. I got desperate and I told my mouse deva friend that I was going to have to do something. So I somehow managed to catch this mouse, and another one also. Apparently my mouse friend had a buddy. I put both of them out in the corn field behind the house, telling them that this was where they belonged. I apologized to them for doing it, but told them that it really needed to be done. It was the middle of the winter.
The next day I found two frozen little mice in a bucket that was inside of my enclosed back porch. I might not have taken it as a message had there been only one mouse. Or even if there had been three mice. But there was no way I was going to see this as a coincidence. It was a message, and I felt really bad.
So I talked with the mouse deva again, and said that I really needed the mice to go live somewhere other than in my house, that it was causing me a lot of problems for them to be living there, but that I wasn’t going to cause any mice that I encountered any harm.
Not too long after that, I found a mouse scurrying along the edge of the kitchen floor, staying close to the wall. It looked pretty nervous and seemed to not want to be noticed. This happened a few times, and then the littler feller started getting bolder. It would go a little more slowly around the edge of the kitchen, and then it got even bolder and darted quickly across the middle of the floor. The final test came when it decided to take a leisurely stroll across the kitchen floor like it hadn’t a care in the world. I half expected it to sit up on its little haunches and wave at me.
I didn’t do anything. I just told the mouse and the mouse deva that I wasn’t going to do anything to harm it, and that I was asking it to please find somewhere else to live that wouldn’t cause me any problems.
That was apparently the final exam, because I never saw that mouse again. About every six months or so (about a generation for a mouse), I would hear a bit of scurrying in one of the walls, but when that happened, I would just have another little talk with the mouse deva, and it would go away. Apparently each new generation needed to have it explained, but once it was explained to them, they would leave and not come back.