Sunday, May 16, 2010

First Squash and Cucumber Beetles

Little tiny summer squashes with blossoms attached made it from the field to the farm stand on Saturday afternoon. They ended up selling off to a woman who thoroughly removed the decorative flora from the butt of each squash in disinterest, but made for a pretty sight prior to their kitchen-fate. This looks like a straight-neck squash and we are lucky to have gotten some so early. I think last year the early summer squash took a hit with some frost, despite the use of row covers to protect the plants that are set out early in hopes of a spring harvest like this.

Fascinating to me in the perspective of a grower who is interested in the topic of integrated pest management are the cucumber beetles crawling all over these baby squashes (here is yet another example of your Tierra organic certification-let the pests speak for no spray), relishing one of their favorite garden hosts. This here is the striped variety of cucumber beetle and I do believe they are working on increasing their numbers in this image while dancing around on their favorite plant family. Named for the cucurbit family, cucumber beetles have a preference for squashes, melons, cucumbers and like summer vegetable plants, but can also be found throughout the garden and all season long to some extent. They overwinter just fine in plant debris with our somewhat mild winters, emerging in spring to thrive and multiply.

The spotted beetle is a little harder to see in this particular photo because he is blending in with the stem, but I know you local gardeners have seen it before either in your own garden or maybe mixed in with your Tierra greens upon arriving home. This guy (aka Diabrotica) is all over the place around these parts; munching, sucking and destroying foliage throughout the farm and garden scene. The larval stage will work away at plant roots. A few times a season there will be a flush of reproductive events where they will swarm and demolish cucurbit crops if not covered. This is one of many reasons to compromise and invest in synthetic material row covers to exclude such damages.

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