Gardening Tips for Bugs and Critters

The inescapable has happened.  The dreaded garden pests–stink-harlequin bugs, squirrels, and rabbits–have invaded my garden and seemingly all at once.

On one hand, stink bugs are prehistoric looking insects.  They are appropriately named because when crushed they give off a foul-smelling odor.  So, crushing these critters is definitely not the way to get rid of them.  Harlequin bugs, a distant cousin, are brightly colored with red, yellow, and black.  Both are damaging to vegetables gardens and particularly to the cabbage family including my broccoli.

Stink Bug

Stink bug, nymph stage, Clifton Park Community Garden, photo by Harold E. McCray

Asia is the origin of stinkbugs, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 1998, in Allentown, PA, says the USDA, is where the first known outbreak of stinkbugs.  Packing crates from Asia are considered the method of transport. The harlequin bugs, however, have been around for some time and their habitat is in the tropical and subtropical areas.  Now, they have a wide range in North America.

To ward off these pests, dusting the infected leaves with a combination of baking soda and self-rising flour, as another gardener suggested, has proved unsuccessful.  I have tried this on my broccoli.  Once moisture gets on the vegetable, however, this mixture hardens.  Also, browning of the florets occurs if you have dusted them carelessly as you can see in my photo.

Dusted Broccoli

Dusted broccoli, Clifton Park Community Garden, photo by Harold E. McCray

The stink-harlequin bugs have few predators.  The stink bugs are their “nymph stage during their population explosion beginning in late June.”  They cannot fly.  The mature bugs fly later in the season.  In their flightless stage is when the stink bugs are most destructive to garden crops as they eat their way to adulthood.

Picking the bugs off vegetable leaves, and dropping them into a cup filled with part alcohol and dish detergent is the best solution. The detergent cuts through the stink-harlequin bugs’ shield, causing them to drown.

Another solution worth mentioning is “soaking a pack of shredded cigarettes,” as Cindy Capitani writes in the New Jersey Daily Record, “in a gallon of warm water overnight.”  Strain the liquid, add two tablespoons of dish washing detergent to the mix, pour liquid into a spray bottle, aim, and spray the bugs to rid your garden of these critters.  Yes, nicotine is a poison to stink bugs.

Stink bug minutes after using “nicotine” spray, Clifton Park Community Garden, photo by Harold E. McCray.

An update:  The United States Department of Agriculture’s scientist Kim Hoelmer has demonstrated promising results with the “Asian wasps that would steal stink bug eggs for their own young Asian wasps.”    Apparently, native bats will eat these critters too, but “more than 50% of American species,” states the Compassionate Action Institute, “are in serious decline or already listed as endangered.”  Perhaps the dwindling  bat population might partly explain the explosion in numbers of  the stink-harlequin bugs.

On the other hand, squirrels and rabbits are old pests to vegetable gardeners.  Suggestions vary from sprinkling crushed cayenne pepper on the leaves of vegetables squirrels and rabbits eat, to placing moth balls around the perimeter of your garden to ward them off. I have followed both suggestions. Consequently, I am unable to say which is the best suggestion. (Ask me again in a month.)

Squirrels, with their cute “fluffy tails,” are urban rodents, and are busy all day. Rabbits are nocturnal as they devour your prized garden items. Each relies on its strong sense of smell, however, to identify predators, but there are few urban predators.  Some cats, and dogs present a threat to them, but many gardeners use others methods to chase away these critters.

Squirrel eating corn in nearby garden

Squirrel eating corn in Clifton Park Community Garden, photo by Harold E. McCray

Researching other suggestions, I have found the master gardener, Jerry Baker   In his book, Bug Off, Baker writes about another solution for squirrels and rabbits. (You will especially find his  “compose tea” mixture enlightening.)
I have prepared a variation on “Safe-and-sound Pesticide,” and “Squirrel beater tonic” listed below:

  1. Add to a cup of water to jalapeño pepper and several red pepper pods to a pot.
  2. Bring pot to a boiled, and then cool for about 10 minutes.
  3. Puree and pour through strainer–a coffee filter is what I used.
  4. Pour liquid into a jar, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, and baking soda.
  5. Shake and pour into a spray bottle, adding water to fill the container.
  6. Go out to your garden with your zapper.

So, now you are ready to combat garden critters with natural repellents.  Here is wishing you good luck in protecting your garden from the inescapable pests: stink-harlequin bugs, squirrels, and rabbits.

About Harold McCray

Artist in the kitchen enjoying my three passions: cooking, photography, and writing.
This entry was posted in Gardening, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to Gardening Tips for Bugs and Critters

  1. I have been meaning to post something like this on my blog and this provided me an idea. All the best.

    • Early June is when the problem with the garden pest began for me. Fellow gardeners have shared their tips, but few of them really worked well. I am intrigued how this research exposed me to the plight of native bats and to the Deleware University study– a friend shared this one with me. Good to read that you plan to tackle pests in the garden. I look forward to reading your blog.

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