Answer: Sounds like you aren't the only ones enjoying the asparagus after three years of waiting! Your culprit sounds like the Asparagus beetle. The roles are reversed, though - the black things are the eggs and the larvae are orange. It's hard to apply insecticides to control the beetles because they fly away quickly.
This fall, remove all the dead ferns and mulch from the patch, and apply fresh compost and mulch. This should remove /disturb most of the pupae. In spring, cover your patch with a summer-weight floating row cover (available from Gardener's Supply Co., http://www.gardeners.com; ph# 800/863-1700) as spears begin to emerge, and leave it in place til the end of harvest. This will prevent the beetles from laying eggs. Hope this helps!
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