New Bugs, Yet Again

Potato leafhopper (Empoasca fabae).

"Garden Insects of North America" by Whitney Cranshaw is a wonderful resource.

Potato leafhoppers, however, are not wonderful. In addition to potato, of course, hosts include "a wide variety of plants, particularly legumes." Hence why I find the few ones I've seen only on my beans (although in this picture, the pest is on a pepper plant I just acquired from Bull Run). As they feed, they apparently inject toxic saliva into the plant (no one seems to know what the toxin is, but an old journal article seems to suggest that damage to the plant isn't just by mechanical means [in other words, biting]--they just haven't been able to isolate the toxin, or I can't find what it is), causing tissue death (discolouration of leaves and potential plant death), although not as bad (or visible) on beans as it is on potato--leaf curling is the common symptom in beans. Primarily on the east coast, they live year-round in the South, happily munching on beans, alfalfa, potatoes, what-have-you, and in May or June, they suddenly migrate north. Apparently the cold kills them up here (up there? I get confused about where I am--I'm stuck in the middle). Their migration habit would explain why I hadn't seen them earlier; only in the past two or three weeks have I noticed the green flying things. They're very hard to see on leaves, being green and all. And eggs are laid, like, in the stem (icky!).

There don't seem to be too many. For now. I sometimes see some on the outside of my screen, so clearly the few could have come in through that. So if I, I dunno, add another layer of screening to it, I can mechanically inhibit bug entry. "Garden Insects of North America," of course, doesn't say how to get rid of leafhoppers. Google isn't much help either, unless I want to use chemicals that warn "don't feed this to livestock after spraying" or "don't enter field for 24 hours after application." It's, uh, hard for me not to enter my "field" for a full 24 hours, and this piece of livestock needs some good feedin'.

They're quick little buggers, but we'll see what a frequent soapy solution does to 'em. It has taken some time, but I'm also not all icked out about crushing aphids, leafhoppers, or fungus gnats with my fingers. No, not squeamish at all.

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4 Responses to New Bugs, Yet Again

  1. I wonder how on earth those bugs get into your apartment in the first place?

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  2. This is really a well laid out website. I love how your posts tie in with the food and drink theme so well. You seem to really love your site. I myself love to read up on recipes along side helping others in health. Keep up the great work here and please visit by my blog sometime. The url is http://healthy-nutrition-facts.blogspot.com

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  3. Amelia, I know where the aphids came from: the Cherokee tomatoes. The spider mites probably came from the plants from that lady's backyard--or, at least, that's when they arrived, and they're gone now. The potato leafhoppers seem to be able to get in through the screen. And the fungus gnats come with the soil--that's why people sterilize, but me? Nope! Not me, of course. Gah. If I can buy some extra screen material and double-screen, to allow in air but make it harder for bugs, that'll make me happy. If I can get down to just having fungus gnats, that'll make me happy.

    If I harvest something, that'll make me very happy!

    Dr. Davon, thanks for the love! I'll be sure to check out your blog. Have you been following the whole "cocaine in red bull" thing? I'm curious about those studies...

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  4. Bugs. Gross. I'm not squeamish about squishing them either, but my problem is that I can't seen them. I see the stinking holes they make in my precious plants, but I don't know how to get rid of them. Are you really doing all of this inside, not on a patio!?

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