Mexican Villains

mexica10The kitchen garden is really happening now with harvesting our produce a daily job. It’s also a time to take stock of our successes and failures and keep a vigilant eye out for insects and birds trying to steal from us! This month is a very active month especially for the lady beetle that is busy consuming 50-70 aphids a day. The beetle will probably consume about 5,000 aphids in her lifespan. These beetles are very beneficial for the gardener as they keep our infestation levels down and help to biologically control aphids so we can avoid using chemicals on the food we eat.
The good Lady beetle has 18 spots and is a nice red colour. You have to be quick if you’re going to count the spots but the secret to this is that the wings are identical. You only need to count one side before she takes flight to work out if your lady beetle is a beneficial insect. If you discover the counted spots are 28 or 16 you just may have discovered a vegetarian villain!
Introducing the ‘Mexican bean beetle’, he looks like a lady beetle but not so nice. This little devil is a bit rounder and bigger with a pale orange colour and 16 spots. The Mexican bean beetle is very active at the moment making a mess of our beans, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and zucchini leaves. They suck the life out of the foliage leaving it pale and mottled. Without the green chlorophyll in leaves it’s very difficult to photosynthesis, a process essential for plants to produce energy and food. The Mexican bean beetles favourite food is actually the weed Deadly nightshade. The beetle usually starts on the weed and then moves onto your vegetable garden. Good housekeeping is a good deterrent; control your weeds regularly as a preventative. The organic way to get rid of this pest is good old fashioned labour, hand pick the beetles and place in a bucket of soapy water. Look for the yellow , spiny larvae underneath the leaves and squash them. Make yourself up a quantity of soapy water spray or pyrethrum and garlic spray and regularly spray the leaves if you have noticed them in your garden. Soapy water is a good natural insecticide for sucking and chewing insects. To make the spray it’s as simple as choosing a natural dishwashing liquid and give a big squirt into a watering can or bucket , pour straight on or make up a batch and pour into a spray bottle.

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2 thoughts on “Mexican Villains

  1. Nice advice! I just planted out all my beans and pumpkins so will keep a keen spot-counting eye out for these little monsters!

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