Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2009
Regional Report

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A grasshopper munches on lamb's-ear.

Continuing With The Bad Bugs

Earwigs, flea beetles, and grasshoppers are the next set of insects that may plague our gardens.

PROBLEM: Earwigs eat decaying vegetation.
SOLUTION: Most earwigs feed on other insects and are thus beneficial. When they become too numerous, however, they occasionally eat plant parts. Although their pincers look ferocious, they can't inflict real damage to people or pets. Trap earwigs by placing rolled, moistened newspaper or cardboard near an infested area; check daily, and destroy when numerous. Earwigs also can be caught in a homemade sugar-and-yeast brew also used for ants.

Flea Beetles
PROBLEM: Many tiny holes in leaves, with more damage in the lower leaves, signal the presence of flea beetles.
SOLUTION: Spray with a garlic/onion infusion. For severe infestations, dust with wood ashes, diatomaceous earth, or rotenone. Rotenone also kills beneficial predators, so use it only for severe infestations. Flea beetle damage seldom occurs once the plants have developed beyond the seedling stage. Potatoes are safe to eat. Black flea beetles stay away from catnip, hyssop, mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and wormwood. Interplant cole crops, lettuce, and tomatoes. Incorporate organic compost. In the fall, deter overwintering and laying of eggs by frequent cultivating of the garden and keeping it free of weeds and trash.

PROBLEM: If grasshoppers jump all around as you pass through the garden, they are probably chewing the foliage on your plants.
SOLUTION: Catch and destroy them by stomping. Protect seedlings by covering them with cheesecloth. In spring and early summer, the young are most vulnerable, and Nosema locustae may be the answer. It is a protozoan that specifically attacks grasshoppers and some species of crickets. Dissolve the spore in water, add it to a bran mixture (grasshoppers' favorite food), and then disperse this over the garden or yard area. As the grasshoppers feed on the nosema-bran mixture, they become infected and slowly die. Surviving grasshoppers retain sufficient infection to reduce or inhibit reproduction. The infection is also transmitted when infected grasshoppers are eaten by healthy ones. In the fall, winter, and early spring, cultivate the soil and destroy cream-to-yellow colored egg clusters that look like grains of rice.

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