Archives for category: Beneficials

I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start. I’m getting a little overwhelmed. Spraining the ankle on New Year’s Day didn’t help me get off to the roaring start I’d planned.

I took a cup of tea out to the garden at noon to evaluate and meditate. It’s amazing what happens when you just stop. And observe. I wasn’t sitting for more than a couple of minutes when neighbor C.L. grabbed his cane and rambled over. As he chatted a bit, I spotted a wandering Monarch caterpillar four feet away on the driveway. When they wander away from the milkweed plant, if they are full-size (fifth instar), that means they are looking for a good spot for their chrysalis. I like to keep track of them, so I will know when the butterflies emerge. I moved this one back to the lone milkweed plant 12 feet away, and it got interested in eating again.

I’ve lost a few cats, and the cold and wind has been brutal for them. I’ve had no luck relocating them inside, or outside, to what I consider a good spot for a chrysalis. They have a mind of their own. This one died while shedding its skin to form its chrysalis. I had just watered the carrot barrels right beside it, and it is wet. I hope I did not kill it.

Dead Monarch Caterpilla

Dead Monarch Caterpillar Shedding Skin for Becoming Chrysalis

Today it is 63 degrees. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be 73, and 75 degrees on the weekend. It has been in the 50’s during the day and dipping in the low 40’s at night. With wind. This makes a tough go for Monarch caterpillars. I have chrysalises that are not mature after almost two months!

I sat back down and mused about how fast some veggies grow, while others take much longer. Most of my winter garden was planted early to mid-November. Radishes and lettuce and one barrel of baby finger carrots are mature, while it will be another month or two for kale, cauliflower and cabbage, a couple of weeks more for Swiss Chard.

Little Finger Carrots

Baby Little Finger Organic Carrots

Green Kale

Winter Bor Green Kale

Green Cabbage Seedling

Copenhagen Market Green Organic Cabbage

I could harvest beet tops right now while they are tender, but I’m more interested in the beet root, which will be awhile. It’s so hard to say with the wild fluctuations in weather.

Beet Greens

Beet Tops

I could make a big salad right now of spinach, arugula and red deer tongue lettuce. But, that would clean me out. I have about two big salads worth of greens out there.

Spinach Grown in a Pot

Spinach Leaves

Deer Tongue Lettuce Leaves

Red Deer Tongue Lettuce

So, Monday, I planted more lettuce, this time, organic Romaine. That’s a small row of snap peas behind it.

Freshly Planted Garden Row

Row of Freshly Planted Romaine Lettuce

Nasturtiums have self-seeded through my beds, so I pull them out when they start getting in the way. I opened the driveway gate to drop a few in the green bin, and spotted this tiny, metallic blue beetle on the gate key pad. It looks like a drop of metallic blue paint, no more than 1/8 of an inch across. But, this one had a problem, and was opening the wings over and over to get them all folded back under the blue helmet. A little piece was sticking out. It scurried across a leaf and my hand. Since I’m a beginning gardener, everything is new to me (I had seen one last year), so I assumed it was common. After I shot video and took a few shots, I relocated it to a rose leaf.

Tiny blue beetle with broken wing.

Ladybird Beetle, Halmus chalybeus, family Coccinellidae

I sat back down and drank from my cup. Postponing the inevitable return to my office to work. I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start. So, I sipped a bit longer. Then, I came inside, and sent the beetle photo to Dr. James Hogue, Professor & Manager of Biological Collections at Cal State Northridge, in charge of their 60,000 insect specimen collection. He immediately responded:

“It looks like this is a ladybird beetle called Halmus chalybeus, family Coccinellidae. It was introduced from Australia over 100 years ago for bio-control of scale insects. I had not seen this beetle before, nor do we have any in our collection. If you run across one again, it would be a good catch that I would like for our schools collection.

The hard blue things are its first pair of wings that, in beetles, are modified as covers for the more delicate hind wings that are used for flying. These covers are called elytra.”

WHAT??? IT WAS IN MY HAND!! And I let it go. I ran back outside and searched, but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. It was in my hand!! I’m kicking myself. I really missed my calling. I should have been an entomologist, instead of an actress!

Thanks for stopping by! What bugs are you finding in your garden? – Kaye

I was doing my nightly reading of “Golden Gate Gardener” last night trying to find out what was wrong with my lemon tree. Though I have more than a dozen green lemons developing, the leaves don’t look so good. I decided to take a closer look, and this is one of the things I found. On the undersides of a few leaves, I saw cottony puffs and an ant madly racing around. Upon closer inspection, they appear to be aphids that the ant has spun webs around. Aphids are food for ants, but I didn’t want to take a chance this ant couldn’t eat them all. I gave the leaves a quick wash, and removed infected leaves.

While I was out with my camera, I moved to the parkway, as I had also been reading about cucurbit pests. And this is what I found. Kind of a mold on the backs of leaves of the Japanese cucumber. I just harvested two good ones two days ago, but the leaves all look pretty bad.

There are a host of issues here.

Something is eating the leaves, like a cucumber beetle, though I’ve never seen one, or, the small birds eat holes in the leaves like they do on my sunflowers.

At this point, I saw tiny beetles on the backs of leaves running around. I first thought they might be a pest, but thought they might be a tiny version of a lady beetle, which eats the mold, so I left them alone. It took blowing the photos up on the computer before I was sure they were beneficial lady beetles.

Here’s one in a larvae stage. They are only about 1/16 of an inch long.

This disease eats right through the leaves from the back to the front, I think.

This lady beetle was racing around on the back of a leaf covered in this waxy mold-like stuff. I hope it eats it all!

This, I’m convinced, in some kind of leaf miner. I read they have several stages as they burrow through the leaf, getting larger and larger. That’s pretty evident if you look at the beginning of the line and the end of it. It would appear that it has metamorphosed and emerged from the leaf at the fat end.

Moving on to my Japanese melon right beside the cucumber, I’m hoping these dents do not mean this emerging melon is infected with some bug!

The leaves don’t seem infected, but they are lacy from something eating on them. I think it’s the birds, as I saw what I think is bird poop. My patty pan squash is but three feet away, and once again, the powdery mildew is back!

There are white spots on front and back. Time to spray with my milk solution again. Two beautiful squash are growing, so it doesn’t seem to be slowing growth, yet.

Thank God for the pollinators. There was a bee clinging to this leaf in the breeze, and when it would settle, the bee would groom itself. You can see its back covered in pollen. There are a few big blooms on the patty pan squash, so, I guess it was about to dive back into the bloom.

I guess it was a good thing I didn’t know about cucurbit diseases and pests before I started. After researching diseases and pests online for a couple of hours, I felt a little queasy. For sure, I learned that cucurbits with certain diseases must be removed from the garden, and not planted in the same spot the following year. The book said you have to plant them at least a quarter mile away, haha! My front garden is tiny, so I’m not sure if I will be able to plant cucurbits next year. We shall see. Gardening is an adventure! Thanks for stopping by! – Kaye

When my watermelon patch (about 6’x6″ with seven plants of baby watermelon) started showing fruit, I could count at least 50 little green balls emerging.  Now, it seems like things are amiss.

Several are misshapen. (I only have about ten round ones. I ate the first, and it was pretty good.)

Or shriveling up before they develop. There were four potential melons on this vine that dried up.

Could be inconsistent watering (I am rather stingy with water in water-strapped L.A.), or possibly a bug, though, I haven’t seen any.

Speaking of bugs, this metallic blue dome looked like a drop of liquid blue paint, till I got down beside it and could see legs. About half the size of a regular ladybug, it’s evidently a lady beetle as well. That’s my fingertip for scale.

I went to check the tag on my blueberries to see how long they produce (since I’m not getting any) and opened the tag to find this cabbage worm. It was already nestled in webbing in the folded card. I didn’t realize I was focusing on the back end.  Soon, it started moving from the other end. Sorry to disturb! You’ll see this worm in action in a future episode of “Late Bloomer.”

As I was capturing the cabbage worm, this critter ran up to see what was going on. I saw a photo like this on internet, but, it wasn’t identified. Know what it is? It was about a half inch long. It got away before I could squish it.

Some good news. Loads of tomatoes on the way.

Hundreds of cherry tomatoes, on my one plant.

Thanks for reading! – Kaye

I spotted this on a sunflower leaf about 8PM last night, and didn’t realize what I was looking at. I believe this is the back end.

John Dunstan’s “Total Metamorphosis” video makes it quite clear that this is one stage of a ladybug transformation. This little creature was racing along beside the one above, which wasn’t moving.

If I’d realized they were beneficials, I would have not deposited the leaf with the emerging ladybug in the recycling bin! 😦 Thanks for reading! – Kaye

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