Thursday, July 07, 2005

War On Two Fronts

OK. We discussed the thistles. A lot.

Progress is actually being made on that front. A few have flowered, but only 1-2 have started to go to seed before I have gotten to them and I have pretty much eradicated the ones in the close-in back (between the house and the swing set) and eastern side of the house to just past the liquid propane tank. (I TOLD you we were rural.) I have started on the front yard and am having slow success.

Little did I know that I was to be hit in my soft underbelly by an unknown assassin. Do the insect pests not know that if they just leave me alone, I will let them live? Guess not. Guess that's why the "pest" moniker.

So, here I am, peacefully deadheading the front garden, (which has been a bit neglected in favor of the vegetable garden) waiting for Sara to wake up, when I notice that the large clump of asters by the front door are, well, turning black and dying. Actually only 1/2 of the clump is noticeably afflicted.

As I have been doing the gardening thing for more than a season, I do what is second nature and stick my rather prominent nose into things.

Well. I see.

There are enormous numbers of bugs on the dead plant leaves and lesser numbers on the not-yet-brown-and-curled 1/2 of the plant. I think I have found the culprit. The problem is that I have no fucking idea what the scurge is.

OK, time for Dr Google, PhD in botany. An hour later, with plant books strewn about the terminal, I still have no idea what this creature is.

So, submit a picture, asshole.

Well, I would, if I had taken one before seeing red and decapitating the whole damn plant, in a probably vain attempt to save both it and its sisters, the other 2 enormous clumps of asters a few feet away, that line parts of the front walk and provide much of the fall flowers of my front bed. You see, I first hacked them off at the toenails, knowing that asters are hardy things and often spring back from the soles, if necessary. As they bloom in the late summer/early fall, "Who knows?" says the eternal hope in the core of my dark and pessimistic soul. Then I succumbed to the Dark Side and sprayed toxic poisons all the hell over the stubble. THREE TIMES. (Yes, yes, well water. Drinking this crap. God knows what will happen to us as a result. Here's hoping we mutate in favor of perpetual expression of wavy blond hair and flawless, easily tanned skin.)

I have no idea if the foaming wasp spray I coated the scene with will cripple, kill, or merely mutate the bastard invaders into some angry and vengeful 40 foot human eating army. Once again, If you don't hear from me in a week, I would hole up, hoard food stuffs and bottled water and cover your windows with plastic wrap and duct tape. Or is that what you're supposed to do if Saddam launches his chemical weapons? No, wait, there were no chemical weapons. (Wait, did she just make a political comment? She who is more politically timid that the wee mousies? The one who just wants to be liked? Yeah, bite me. I have found a worse enemy. Plus, you knew I was a libbie if you read the sidebar.)

So, what the hell are these things? They are about 2 mm (1/10 inch) long, move faster than scales, don't look like any aphids I could find, mottled greys, something wingish? protruding from the mid-bodies that didn't seem to afford them any advantage in escape (eg: no flying away, but much scuttling), THOUSANDS of them, as opposed to, say cabbage caterpillars, which I have been smooshing with gusto. They actually look like a cross between an aphid and a scale. With a shark-like dorsal fin.

We trek to Madison in 2 days. I put the bookstore on the itinerary. If Borders can't help me, I will have to bite the bullet and, well, think of something else. Maybe our local gardening extension, which there must be.

Any thoughts?

I am now afraid to step out the front door. No matter what I find, it can't be good, unless it's a 40 foot crater and a dumptruck full of irradiated top soil pulling into the drive.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo, First-born:

You have discovered the elusive "pest" bug. Kill on sight taking no prisoners. Anything from the grocery store that promises instant death to all air-breathing things. The more impossible-to-read words the better--mono- di-, tri- are all my favorites.

For a drinking well-friendly experience, try capturing the flower-head and pests in a paper sack, then filling it with deadly vapors and after a period incinerate in the fire pit. This negates the need of identification unless you are really into nomenclature. Be a bit careful of an explosion of the vapors, but just pretend it is the 4th of July, or install a bit of fuse and run like the wind.

The Ole RF-er

12:10 AM  
Blogger Teri said...

My bug book is packed away in the attic, mostly to make room for endless (endless!) Dr. Suess and Eric Carle books, but my guess is that you have Aster Leafhoppers. Since they're on your Asters and all. Check here

Is that close? The damn things come in all kinds of colors, and they are kinda cute, as long as they're not eating your asters...

12:16 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Dad- Well, given the WELL, I am really hesitant to use something really harsh. Sadly, these things were coating the poor plant, so just spot removing them will not work, either. The leaves of asters go down to the ground as do the bugs.

Teri- Thanks for the link, but, alas, they are not hoppers. (We do have some rather cool turquoise with red stripes hoppers that I just noticed yesterday, coincidentally.) These guys are flatter, crawl, and about 1/3 the size.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous stacy moe said...

I think you may be spot-on with the chemical weapons from Saddam. Clearly, between terrifying us all by being photographed in his tighty-whiteys, and eating Doritos, he has been able from even his jail cell to launch a chemical attack on unsuspecting American gardeners. Sadly, the epicenter may be Wisconsin.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Mojavi said...

well if you seriously end up barricading yourself in the house send out an SOS and the blogging friends will come to your rescue, bug spray and m-16's in tow :)

2:59 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Wild guess: Some kind of weevil? I only say this because hollyhock weevils are the pest du jour in my garden.

I don't know if there's such a thing as aster weevils.

Anyway, I hope you got rid of them. I don't see how they could have survived your multipronged attack.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

um, well, good luck with figuring out what they are! Let us know when you find out? I'm pretty curious.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Stace- Aaauuuggghhhh! I had blocked the image of the tighty-whities. Noooooooo!

Mojavi- Suddenly, I don't feel so alone. Certainly having someone as a blog friend with military experience is a bonus. (Takes a few minutes to picture the rescue scene, complete with large caliber automatic weapons, flame throwers, and really big tanks. Heh. Heh.)

Rozanne- Googled hollyhock and assorted other weevils. Ew. Nope. Many condolences, though. I love hollyhocks. What are you doing, aside from cursing and gnashing your teeth?

Teri and everyone who has any interest in this totally self absorbed hunt: So far, this is the closest looking thing I've been able to find:
It is a picture of one of the types of scales. (I lost 4 beautiful ficus to a different kind of scale a few years ago.) My scourges are striped grey but tiny and flattish. Mine just move if prodded, something that scales aren't supposed to do, and are very slightly bumpier on top, near the head, but still flat rather than, well, beetle-y, hopper-y, or other more typically buggy things. If I figure this out, you will surely hear from me.

4:29 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

I do not know how you can make gardening so fascinating. It amazes me. By the way, skin, crawling. Thanks. It was like a horror movie for plants. Ew.

Anyway, good luck with this. Let me know if I have to invest in giant sized cans of Raid. Oh, speaking of Raid, they now have one that is plant based (don't ask me, I watch the commericals, I don't understand them) and maybe safer for your well.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

That dorsal fin thing, it doesn't sound like a scale, but I'm no entomologist. (yeah, I am totally into this bug thing. I collected bugs when I was a kid, had the mounting pins and a glass-front case and chloroform to kill the live ones I caught and dad encouraged this behavior. my mom thought bugs belonged outside.) So yeah, I am interested.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Dana- Oh, but gardening IS fascinating: The life and death struggle, birth, disease, evil and good, murder, suspense, adultry, orgies (you should see what my squash vines are up to). Also one of the three classic plots that they had you break down each piece of literature into: Man vs man, man vs machine and man vs nature! (Personally, I always thought that was a bunch of horse shit. But horse shit in the garden, what wonderful stuff!)

Teri- So you are my go-to bug person. While I would support one of my kids in such an interest, secretly, I'd feel like your mom.

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A well-friendly bug killer is my friend, the propane torch. Get the kind plumbers use at your local hardware store. Refillable cylinder about the size of a thermos, valve head with various flame shaping attachements, and a sparky striker to start the fire without singeing your fingers. Efficient killer of bugs with NO chemical residue! Caution! Keep away from dry grasses so as not to burn down the neighborhood. ;<)


1:35 AM  

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