Battling Summer Garden Pests Successfully – Without Harsh Chemicals!

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Winning the war against summer garden pests without harsh chemicals. Summer is here. And so are the myriad of insects, animals and pests that love to invade you and your landscape! From Japanese beetles, tomato hornworms, aphids, cabbage worms, slugs, rabbits, and

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Summer Bugs – The Good and the Bad

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Sadly most bugs like it warm. So when the kids are out of school, and everyone has vacation plans, the summer bugs are plentiful. Now, not all of them are bad. In fact some of them are beautiful, and make the noises that everyone associates with summer nights. But some summer bugs are really nasty, and will suck the blood out of you like a vampire!!

Well that was a little dramatic. But it’s true.

When you think of bugs, hundreds of images could pop into your head. But scientists have cataloged and grouped them into different groups. I won’t get too technical (because I am not an expert in this field). But I will break this list up into groups and throw in some big scientific sounding words to appeal to bug people (entomologists). Well to be even more correct I should say “insects” instead of “bugs.” But “summer bugs” just sounds better.

True Bugs (Hemiptera)

True Bugs have a mouth that acts like a straw. Some suck plant sap, while others suck the body fluids of insects. They have four wings, the outer two wings extend only half way down their back.

Summer bugs Magicicada CicadaCicada (Cicadomorpha > Cicadoidea) – If you hear the buzzing sound in the trees on a summer night, there is a good chance that you’re hearing a male cicada trying to attract a female cicada. Summertime is mating season and these bugs are active at night.

The cicada life cycle is pretty interesting. The ones you see this year have actually spent between 2 to 17 YEARS underground. You see after the male finds the right mate, the female will lay her eggs in a tree, cutting a slit into a twig to lay the eggs inside. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs fall to the ground and start digging. The nymph will feed on the root sap of many species of trees–including oak, cypress, willow, ash, and maple–slowly digging and feeding until it reaches sexual maturity, which for most cicadas is between 2 and 5 years. The 17 year cicada mentioned above is the Magicicada variety of eastern North America.

Once it reaches sexual maturity, it will dig its way to the surface. Once there, it climbs a tree and molts (sheds its skin), leaving a alien-looking shell on the tree. Lastly, they fly away in search of a mate and the cycle starts over.

The cicada is mostly harmless. Their only defenses are camouflage and flight. Their natural predators are the cicada killer wasp and the praying mantis.

The cicada is also a common food around the world. Sound gross? Not according to Bon Appetit, NPR, National Geographic, Huffington Post and Cheaper than Dirt.

These are GOOD summer bugs!


Summer bugs brown marmorated stink bugBrown Marmorated Stink Bug (Pentatomidae > Halyomorpha halys) – This particular variety of stink bug was accidentally introduced to the United States in the late 1990s. With no significant natural predators, this summer bug has spread all the way across the country with alarming speed.

The brown marmorated stink bug feeds, beginning in late May or early June, on a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and other plants including peaches, apples, green beans, soybeans, cherries, raspberries, and pears.

The brown marmorated stink bug life cycle from

Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) overwinters as adults in a protective sleeplike state, emerges in the spring, and begins mating in about two weeks. BMSB commonly mates multiple times, and the female may deposit as many as 486 eggs in a lifetime. Development from egg to adult requires approximately 538 degree days, a measure of temperature and time for insect growth, with an additional 148 degree day period before eggs are laid. Its light-green eggs are often laid on the underside of leaves, deposited in masses of approximately 28 eggs.

Like all stink bugs the BMSB emits a pungent odor as a defense mechanism. This keeps birds and lizards away. But if you see this summer bug in your garden, it is certainly one that you want to kill.

These are BAD summer bugs!


Beetles (Coleoptera)

Beetles are the largest group of insects with over 400,000 species, constituting almost 40% of all insects and 25% of all known animal life on Earth. New species are discovered frequently. Beetles can be differentiated from other insects by the hard outer wings on their backs that run the entire length of their body.

Summer bugs LadyBugsLadybugs (Polyphaga > Cucujoidea > Coccinellidae) – In North America we call them ladybugs, but in Britain and other parts of the world they are called ladybirds. Ladybugs are highly prized by gardeners because they eat aphids and other plant-sucking insects that damage crops.

The ladybug life cycle includes the egg stage, the larvae stage, the pupa stage, and the adult ladybug stage. Eggs are laid close to prey so that the ladybug larvae will have an immediate source of food. Ladybugs can live as long as two years, overwintering inside buildings or natural structures.

The main predators of ladybugs are birds, but they are also eaten by frogs, wasps, spiders, and dragonflies.

I remember as I child I sometimes would catch a ladybug and it would “pee” on me. But actually this defense mechanism is the ladybug bleeding from their knees when they feel threatened. The foul-smelling fluid seeps from their leg joints, often leaving yellow stains that look like urine.

These are GOOD summer bugs!


Summer bugs blister beetleBlister Beetle (Polyphaga > Cucujiformia > Tenebrionoidea > Meloidae) – Blister beetles get their names form their defense mechanism use of a blistering agent called cantharidin. Mild blistering occurs if a human handles a blister beetle. Ingesting a beetle can be fatal. This rarely occurs with humans, but happens occasionally with farm animals.

Alfalfa is a favorite food for blister beetles. Sometimes, during the baling process, blister beetles may be crushed or frightened. This results in the release of cantharidin into the hay, and consequently farm animals may eat it from there. Horses are especially susceptible to the cantharidin, and only a few beetles consumed in a single feeding could make the animal very sick.

The main predators of blister beetles are birds and robber flies.

These are BAD summer bugs!


Summer bugs fireflyFirefly (Polyphaga > Elateriformia > Elateroidea > Lampyridae) – The firefly (sometimes called lightning bug) isn’t actually a fly. It’s a beetle with a unique ability to light up at night. Light production is due to a chemical reaction called bioluminescence, usually on a firefly’s lower abdomen.


Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.”

The firefly’s light show is used to attract a mate, and it is an important part of the firefly life cycle. The adult firefly only lives three to four weeks. A few days after mating, a female lays her fertilized eggs on, or just below, the surface of the ground. The eggs hatch three to four weeks later. The larvae may glow too, depending on the species, and are often called glowworms. The firefly larvae will overwinter underground, some species for several years. They emerge in the Spring, and feed on other insects, snails and slugs for a few weeks. Then they pupate for as long as three weeks before they emerge as adults.

The firefly is mostly harmless. They don’t bite, they have no pincers, they don’t attack, they carry no disease, they are not poisonous and they don’t even fly very fast. Children gather them in mason jars with little holes in the top.

Even scientists gather fireflies. The chemicals that the firefly produces to light up are luciferin and luciferase, two rare chemicals that are being used in research on cancer, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and heart disease.

These are GOOD summer bugs!



Hymenoptera is the third-largest order of insects including: sawflies, wasps, bees and ants.

Summer bugs Fire Ants RIFAFire Ants (Formicidae > Myrmicinae > Solenopsidini > Solenopsis invicta) – Fire ants are another accidental import. Often known as the Red Imported Fire Ant or RIFA. They are a native of the tropical area of South America, and were first reported in the US on the Alabama and Florida coast in the 1930s. They have moved across the south very quickly.

Fire ants live in complex colonies where female winged ants called “reproductives” are raised and live until their mating flights, which commonly occur in Spring and Fall. Males die soon after mating, and the fertilized reproductives fly on until finding a suitable nesting site where she sheds her wings and begins digging a chamber in which to start a new colony where she will serve as queen.

A newly mated queen lays about a dozen eggs. When those eggs hatch, seven to ten days later, the larvae are fed by the queen. Later on the fire ant queen, now fed by workers, can lay as many as 800 eggs per day. Larvae develop six to ten days and then pupate. Adults emerge nine to fifteen days later. The average colony contains 100,000 to 500,000 workers and several hundred “reproductives” and can include multiple queens. Queen ants can live seven years or more, while worker ants generally live about five weeks.

Most species of ant bite and then spray acid on the wound. But a fire ant bites simply to get a grip. Once they have ahold of you, they sting from their abdomen and inject a toxic alkaloid venom called Solenopsin–a compound from the class of piperidines. If you are stung by fire ants you will know it quickly. They attack in swarms, racing up your leg when their nests are disturbed. They are aggressive, and determined. Each fire ant can sting several times. To identify fire ant stings, look for groups of swollen red spots that develop a blister on the top. Fire ant’s stings hurt, itch, and last up to a week. Some people have a dangerous allergic reaction to fire ant stings and will need to seek immediate medical help.

Treatment from

Treat mild sting reactions by washing the affected area with soap and water and covering with a bandage. Applying ice can reduce the pain. Topical treatments include over-the-counter steroid creams and antihistamines to reduce pain and itch.

Bites should go away in about a week. Scratching can cause the bites to become infected, which can prolong healing time.

Predators include spiders, birds and many insects including other ants, dragonflies, earwigs and beetles.

These are BAD summer bugs!


True Flies (Diptera)

True flies are insects that use only a single pair of wings to fly, the hindwings are used for balance during flight. Diptera is a large order containing an estimated 1,000,000 species including horse-flies, crane flies, and hoverflies.

MosquitoMosquito (Nematocera > Culicomorpha > Culicoidea > Culicidae) – The mosquito is a small fly that uses its straw-like mouth to pierce a host’s skin in order to consume blood. Their hosts are mainly vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and even some fish. A very small amount of blood is removed from the victim. The saliva of the mosquito will often cause an irritating rash, which is a nuisance, but the mosquito can also pass extremely harmful infections such as malaria, yellow fever, Chikungunya, West Nile virus, dengue fever, filariasis, Zika virus, and other viruses (Arboviruses). Making the mosquito the deadliest animal in the world.

The mosquito life cycle includes four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult (or imago). Adult females lay their eggs in stagnant water. The egg, larva and pupa stage usually take place in water. Development time, from egg to adult mosquito, is only five to fourteen days depending on the species and the temperature.

There are many natural predators to mosquitos including birds, bats, several insects including the dragonfly, and fish. But because they reproduce so quickly, large scale mosquito control is attempted throughout the world.

Some interesting facts about the impact of mosquitoes from

  • Traps set in the outskirts of the Everglades and barrier islands have recorded nightly catches in POUNDS. One pound of mosquitos = approximately 1,095,440 mosquitos.
  • Canine heartworm is transmitted to dogs by Culex mosquitos
  • Over 25,000 horses died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Western Equine Encephalitis, and West Nile virus (WNV) 2000-2007
  • West Nile Virus has killed more than 300 alligators in zoos since 2000.

Mosquitos find hosts by sight (specifically movement), by detecting infra-red radiation emitted by warm bodies, and by chemical signals (mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide and lactic acid, among other chemicals). Why are some people bitten more than others?

  • Larger people are more attractive to mosquitos because they are bigger targets.
  • Smelly feet are attractive to certain species of mosquitos
  • Mosquitos are attracted to dark clothing moreso than lighter colored clothing.

These are BAD summer bugs!


Robber FlyRobber Fly (Brachycera > Asilomorpha > Asiloidea > Asilidae) – Robber Flies, sometimes called assassin flies, are powerfully built flies. The name comes from their aggressive predatory habits. Robber flies feed on other insects, often waiting in ambush, and will catch their prey in flight.

From Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History:

“aggressive, visual predators that perch on vegetation and rocks to look for insects flying by. Once an assassin fly spots its prey, it follows and attacks it in flight by grabbing the insect with its legs, biting it on its back or side, and injecting it with venomous saliva.”

The saliva kills the insect and liquefies the insides of the victim. From there the robber fly will literally suck out the insides of the insect until it is an empty carcass.

Robber flies are not picky. They have an eclectic appetite. They will dine indiscriminately on beneficial insects and harmful pests with the same enthusiasm.

These are GOOD summer bugs!


Black Fly (Nematocera > Culicomorpha > Chironomoidea > Simuliidae) – The black fly is sometimes called a Blandford fly, buffalo gnat, turkey gnat, or white socks.

During the late Spring and early Summer, large swarms of black flies are active in the north. Some species are not biters but they are pests as they fly around your head and may crawl into the ears, eyes, nose, or mouth. The biting black flies are the real problem. It is actually the female black fly who bites since she requires a blood meal for the development of her eggs.

From the Entomology Department at Purdue University:

The bites of black flies cause different reactions in humans, ranging from a small puncture wound where the original blood meal was taken to a swelling that can be the size of a golf ball. Reactions to black fly bites that collectively are known as “black fly fever” include headache, nausea, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Black fly bites could transfer diseases, including onchocerciasis (river blindness) and mansonellosis in humans, bovine onchocerciasis in cattle and horses, and leucocytozoonosis in wild birds.

The life cycle of the black fly is short, lasting only two to three weeks. The female deposit from 150 to 500 eggs in vegetation, preferably in clear running water, and the eggs hatch in only four to five days. The flies proceed through egg, larval, and pupal stages before becoming adults. There can be anywhere from one to six generations in a year, depending on the temperature and the species of black fly.

These are BAD summer bugs!



Odonata is an order of carnivorous insects, encompassing the dragonflies (Anisoptera) and the damselflies (Zygoptera).

DragonflyDragonfly (Epiprocta > Anisoptera) – The dragonfly is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pair of strong transparent wings, with colored patches and an elongated body. Dragonflies are extremely fast fliers, and are some of the fastest insects in the world.

The Dragonfly eats small insects, including flies, mosquitoes, bees, ants and butterflies.

From Mother Nature News:

Dragonflies are flat out terrifying if you’re a gnat, mosquito or other small bug. They don’t simply chase down their prey. Instead, they snag them from the air with calculated aerial ambushes. Dragonflies can judge the speed and trajectory of a prey target and adjust their flight to intercept prey. They’re so skilled that they have up to a 95 percent success rate when hunting.

Dragonflies have two sets of wings with muscles in the thorax that can work each wing independently. This allows them to change the angle of each wing and practice superior agility in the air. Dragonflies can fly in any direction, including sideways and backward, and can hover in a single spot for a minute or more.

Dragonfly wings behave highly dynamically during flight, flexing and twisting during each beat. They have a cruising speed of 10 mph and can go much faster for short bursts.

Dragonfly life cycle starts when the female lays as many as 1500 eggs, and they take about a week to hatch into aquatic nymphs or naiads which molt between six and fifteen times as they grow. The dragonfly nymph lives beneath the water’s surface. In fact most of the dragon flies life is spent in this stage, eating aquatic life such as mosquito larvae, tadpoles, and small fish. This nymph stage lasts between two months and five years, depending on the species. When the nymph is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it stops feeding and makes its way to the surface. It remains stationary with its head out of the water, while its respiration system adapts to breathing air. Then climbs up a plant, and molts into an adult.

Predators of the dragonfly include birds, spiders, frogs and larger dragonflies. In the dragonfly larvae stage, they are preyed on by fish, frogs, toads, newts and other water invertebrates.

These are GOOD summer bugs!


Arachnid (Arachnida)

Arachnids are eight-legged insects that include spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites, harvestmen, and solifuges.

chiggerChiggers (Acari > Trombidiformes > Parasitengona > Trombidioidea > Trombiculidae) – Chiggers are also known as berry bugs, harvest mites, red bugs, scrub-itch mites, aoutas. But these little insects are actually a mites.

The chigger life cycle includes egg, larva, nymph, and adult. The larval mites are the state that actually feed on the skin cells of animals. Large groups of the larvae will cling to the end of vegetation and wait for a host to brush against it. The group will rush to find exposed skin, which is why you often get more than one chigger bite. After feeding, the larvae will drop off the host and become a nymph. Usually this happens long before the bite location starts to itch.

Contrary to popular belief, chiggers do not burrow into a host’s skin or suck blood. They pierce the skin with their sharp mouthparts and inject a digestive enzyme, disintegrating skin cells for food. Itching usually begins within three to six hours after an initial bite, followed by reddish areas and sometimes clear pustules or bumps. As the skin becomes red and swollen, it may swell over the feeding chigger, making it appear that the chigger has burrowed into the skin.

Chigger bite treatment information from Texas AgriLife Extension Service:

Chigger dermatitis can be extremely irritating and uncomfortable. A hot shower or bath can provide some relief if done early in the itching phase. Once a pustule (bump) has formed, do not scratch it, to avoid opening the bite to possible infection.

Antihistamines such as oral Benadryl®, anti-itch creams (camphor and menthol, calamine or pramoxine), or hydrocortisone ointments give the best relief from the intense itching associated with chigger bites. It’s also a good idea to apply an antiseptic ointment to prevent infection.

These are BAD summer bugs!



Praying mantisPraying Mantis (Tenodera Aridifolia Sinensis) – Praying Mantis have triangular shaped heads, with large eyes, on flexible necks. They have long bodies and some have wings. All Mantis have forelegs that are enlarged and very quick for catching and gripping prey. Their upright posture, while remaining stationary with forearms folded, has led to the common name praying mantis. The praying mantis has nothing to do with praying. Quite the opposite: mantids specialize in preying!

From Galveston County Master Gardener Association, Inc.:

Mother Nature has gifted the mature praying mantis with a number of adaptations that make it a fearsome hunter. Very unusual in the insect world, the mantid’s elongated thorax functions like a neck, enabling the triangular head to turn almost 360 degrees. This feature combined with its two huge compound eyes and three single eyes, give the praying mantis a real advantage in spotting its next dinner. Each foreleg is modified to fold back like a pocket knife, with serrated, spiny edges that end with sharp hooks: all the better to catch and hold a squirmy lunch desperate to get away.

Praying mantis consume pests such as flies, crickets, moths and mosquitoes, as well as many beneficial insects. Larger species (especially those in tropical areas) will chow down on lizards, small mammals and even hummingbirds. During the day the mantis eats non-stop. Capturing the normal praying mantis to keep as a pet is cruel. You really couldn’t feed it adequately.

The praying mantis life cycle starts in the Fall, with mating. Sometimes, during or after mating, the females will practice sexual cannibalism–eating their mates after copulation. Soon after, the female will lay as many as three hundred eggs. The praying mantis egg is flat and seed shaped. Then the female will coat the eggs in a foaming secretion that hardens to protect them while keeping them moist. When the egg hatches in the Spring, a nymph, which looks like a wingless version of its parents, emerges. Nymphs immediately begin to hunt and eat.

Mantises are preyed on by vertebrates such as frogs, lizards, and birds, and by invertebrates such as spiders and ants

These are GOOD summer bugs!



I was really surprised at how interesting this post was to research and write. Bugs are awesome. They influence the world around them. They create the background music of nature. Each is perfectly adapted to its purpose on Earth. Most summer bugs are a lot of fun to watch. Except the mosquito…. they just need to all die! 🙂

The lady bug and the praying mantis images link to products on Amazon where you can purchase live bugs (or eggs) for your gardens. All other images link to other sites for additional information about that particular bug.

Additional Summer Resources

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The post Summer Bugs – The Good and the Bad appeared first on Surviving Prepper.

5 Beneficial Garden Bugs You Should NEVER Kill

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5 Beneficial Garden Bugs You Should NEVER Kill

Praying mantis. Image source: Wikipedia

As a professional gardener and farmer, one of the questions I field most frequently from people sounds something like this: “I have XYZ in my garden … how can I kill it?”

Usually, this refers to some form of insect. The problem with this approach is that it insinuates that all insects are problematic and should be eradicated. The opposite approach, though, requires gardeners to understand a little more about the complex relationships that occur within nature.

Typically, if you see a specific insect in your garden, it can be indicative of other unobserved conditions. For this reason, I have begun to reach out to new gardeners in the hope of changing the overall mindset to one of working with nature rather than trying to fight against it.

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Following is a short list of some of the more common uninvited garden visitors and why they are your friend — rather than your enemy. Many of these insects are so helpful that it is actually advantageous to encourage them to make a home in your garden by providing additional habitat so that they can breed and reproduce.

5 Beneficial Garden Bugs You Should NEVER Kill

Syrphid flies. Image source: Wikimedia

1. Syrphid flies — These are also known as sweat bees or hover flies. Many people assume that these little flies are equipped with a stinger, since they share some of the same colors and markings as yellow jackets and hornets. However, these harmless little flies are actually nectar- and pollen-feeders during their adult stage. During their larval stage, they are voracious feeders and prefer to eat aphids, scale insects and thrips. One way to encourage Syrphid flies is to keep a continuous nectar source in your garden throughout the entire growing season. Among the best plants for this is sweet alyssum. Alyssum is easy to grow and makes an excellent and attractive choice for flowering baskets and beds.

2. Praying mantis — Sure, mantis can look intimidating, but they are excellent hunters and harmless to humans. Mantis are ambush predators and prefer to eat soft-bodied pests such as caterpillars and grubs. They also will eat cabbage moths if given the chance. The egg sack of the mantis is equally strange looking and can startle people who are not accustomed to their rough papery appearance. To encourage mantis, learn how to identify its egg sack so that during garden clean-up you can set it aside in a safe place.

3. Spiders — Be kind to your eight-legged neighbors while out in your garden. There are many different species of garden-friendly spiders, and all of them are doing their part to defend your plants from harm. Spiders tend to feed on caterpillars, leaf hoppers, aphids, cucumber beetles, thrips and flies. An abundance of spiders in the garden means there’s a lot of prey around. A healthy garden will have a diversity of spiders that includes both orb weavers and ground hunters.

4. Wasps and yellow jackets — Believe it or not, these stinging insects aren’t too interested in humans. The overly large stinger of most nectar-feeding wasps is often used as a method of injecting eggs into a soft-bodied host. As the larvae from these eggs mature, they will devour their host from the inside-out. To encourage beneficial wasps, provide a continuous nectar source throughout the growing season. One of the best nectar sources for beneficial wasps comes from flowers in the allium family. Yellow jackets are meat eaters and are ruthless killers of caterpillars, grubs, flies and moths. Although they can be problematic for humans when present in large numbers, a small population of yellow jackets can be extremely useful in controlling soft-bodied insects within your garden.

5 Beneficial Garden Bugs You Should NEVER Kill

Pirate bug. Image source: Flickr / creative commons

5. Pirate bugs — This is a scenario where nature gets a little bit complicated. There are some cases where large numbers of pirate bugs can be a nuisance to people, even biting them. However, as a beneficial insect, pirate bugs are exceedingly good at hunting thrips, mites, insect eggs, caterpillars and aphids. As a gardener, one must decide if the benefit outweighs the side-effect. Personally, I have only found them to be of benefit. When prey levels are low, pirate bugs will choose to feed on nectar and plant juices instead. These garden allies are very susceptible to pesticide applications which can have deleterious effects on their numbers.

What insects/bugs would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Bug season!

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Duck season! Wabbit season! Does that bring back memories of the old Bugs Bunny and Daffy (along with Elmer Fudd)? I grew up watching that, now I am adding my own responses to it in Elmer’s voice, today I add “Hehehehe, it’s bug season!”

Spring has sprung, except for the last two days of our last(?) cold snap, we have been having warm, even hot days and more importantly, warm nights, which brings out the bugs. Tonight as I sit in my fuzzy PJs and thick robe for probably the last time until next fall, I don’t worry about insects as it’s too cold for them. But rest assured, the bugs are coming.

We had a relatively mild winter, PB really didn’t even have to cut wood, we survived off of what we had leftover from the previous winter, as a result, I suspect the bugs will be prolific this year. Some of the bugs are interesting and fun, others are merely annoying, still others are a pain in more than one way.

I have gotten quite used to the bugs, though I still don’t like them coming inside the SkyCastle unless they are well behaved. Most aren’t, but right now we have a largish spider, a funnel web of some sort that has taken up residence in and around our solar stuff on the inside. She (all spiders are “she” until proven otherwise) has stayed put pretty well, but I noticed her web is getting pretty dusty and filled with moth carcasses, it’s going to have to go, probably sometime tomorrow or the next day we will encourage her to vacate, hopefully without having to dispatch her, I’d much rather have her out on the front porch growing fat on the myriad of moths and other light loving insects that are attracted to our glass door.

With bug season upon us, it’s time to re-evaluate the tightness of the SkyCastle. That means checking windows and doors to make sure they close securely, checking for new and widening cracks in the floors, walls and ceiling, anyplace that has an opening wide enough to push a credit card through is wide enough for spiders, scorpions and centipedes to enter.

I will also be going outside in the evening, just after dark and hunting scorpions. I haven’t had to do it much the last few years so I’ve become lax, it’s time to get out there in the warmer evenings and actively hunt the scorpions. Normally I’m a live and let live kind of gal, but a few years back, we had a rash of scorpions inside the SkyCastle, one got me good on the finger, we were killing one and two each night INSIDE the house, that’s when I declared war on them, or at least the ones within a 10-15 foot diameter around the outside of the SkyCastle.

I use a blacklight LED flashlight to light them up like a cheap kid’s glow in the dark toy. They light up a bright green and don’t seem to know they are lit up. Using a regular white flashlight, the scorpions are well camouflaged, in fact if I have one in a good spot, I’ll go back and forth between the blacklight and the regular flashlight and they practically vanish from sight under the white light.

As far as the annoying bugs go, it’s mostly the moths and other creatures that are attracted to the light coming through the front door, which is actually a window that slides open and closed. We don’t have a curtain, so the bugs that are attracted to the light have nothing to stop them except for the glass itself. I end up going nuts while I’m cooking and the big and small moths are playing kamikaze dive-bombers right into the pot or pan of food I’m cooking. Then when I’m using my laptop or tablet in the dark and it’s the only light, those same insects (the ones who haven’t died in my stir fry) are buzzing around my screen. I wouldn’t mind if they just landed there and stayed still, but no, they have to land, fly around, land, fly around and so on…

For tonight, I can sit here, un-assaulted by the insects in the cold room, not minding the cold toes, knowing this will not last, it is a last respite.

What about you? What insects do you deal with where you live?


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5 Fall Chores You Can Do NOW To Avoid Bugs In Next Year’s Garden

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5 Fall Chores You Can Do NOW To Avoid Bugs In Next Year's Garden

Image source: Wikipedia

As the season comes to a close for many gardeners in North America, you may be thinking of some much-deserved “time off” from your garden. After all, you’ve spent the last few months caring for plants and probably battling a few garden pests.

But before you pack in your gardening for this year, why not get a jump on battling next year’s pests? That’s right, there are a few things that you can do right now, in the fall, to help you avoid some of next year’s pest problems.

Let’s look at the end-of-season tasks that can help make next year’s gardening season a whole lot smoother.

1. Give your garden a final weeding.

If you’re like many gardeners, wedding is probably your least favorite task, but removing weeds one last time is going to give you a leg up on battling pests come spring. That’s because a weedy garden can allow many of this year’s pests to survive the winter, giving them a ready supply of food and shelter.

Pulling weeds now has the added advantage of making your spring gardening tasks a lot less daunting, too. After all, come spring you’ll be excited about planting, and the less time that you have to spend weeding, the better.

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Why not pull them now instead and start the new season with a few less bugs?

2. Get rid of dead plants and debris.

Just as pests enjoy hiding out in weeds, they also can thrive in dead and diseased plant material and other garden debris. The last thing you want to do is leave a bug buffet out for your garden foes all winter!

Clean up your garden before winter, being sure to remove any annual plants or any crops that are diseased or dead.

Be sure that these diseased plants don’t find their way into your compost, either, unless you are absolutely sure that your compost will heat up (between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal). Otherwise, you could end up inadvertently re-introducing pests to your garden after you’ve worked so hard to remove them.

If you’re at all unsure whether your compost pile will heat up enough to kill these pests, then throw out diseased plant material.

3. Till your soil.

5 Fall Garden Chores You Should Do NOW To Avoid Bugs Next Year

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Removing weeds and old plants alone does not ensure you’ve gotten rid of the bugs. In fact, some of the worst offenders like to burrow in the ground and remain there over winter only to emerge when the weather warms again – ready to destroy a freshly planted garden. Don’t give them that chance.

To deal with these nasty critters, get out your rototiller one more time this season and give your garden a good, deep tilling. This will help to push those pests deeper underground. Other pests will be pulled up to the surface, where it will become too cold for them to survive.

Tilling your garden once more at the end of the season also has the added benefit of introducing more organic matter into the soil.

4. Amend your garden if necessary.

The healthier your soil is, the healthier your plants will be. And the healthier your plants are, the less vulnerable they will be to pesky garden insects. If it’s been a while since you’ve done a soil test, take the end of the season as an opportunity to do so.

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Adjust your soil’s pH with any amendments as necessary. Planting a cover crop in the fall and then turning it under in the spring is a great way to add more nitrogen to the soil.

5. Start planning your spring garden.

Planning next year’s garden is about more than deciding what variety of tomato you’d like to try next year. It’s also about reviewing any pest problems that you had the previous season and strategizing how to avoid them in the coming season.

Part of your strategy should be crop rotation. If a particular crop encountered pest problems one year, it should be moved to a different location in the next year.

Another part of the strategy involves how you choose your varieties of vegetables. Depending on what problems you experienced, research some varieties of plants that are resistant to those problems. Or research what types of companion plants can help to minimize the problem.

So before you hang up your gardening gloves this season, take the time to prepare for spring and give yourself the advantage over pests next year.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:  

Every Year, Gardeners Make This Stupid Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

15 Insects You Can Use To Cure Wounds And Diseases

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15 Insects You Can Use To Cure Wounds And Diseases This may be the coolest information you read today… 15 Insects You Can Use To Cure Wounds And Diseases If you’re ever stuck in a remote jungle, bleeding profusely, coughing uncontrollably, with a severe case of syphilis, these insects may save your life. Weird to think that …

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5 Herbs That Mosquitoes Absolutely, Positively Despise

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5 Herbs That Mosquitoes Absolutely, Positively Despise

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Summer is here, and that brings one unfortunate type of creature: bugs.

Mosquitoes and fleas, and other bugs and insects, can become a real annoyance and ruin anyone’s outdoor fun. But there is an all-natural way to fight back against these pests: with herbs!

The five herbs below, and their essential oils, can help repel those annoying bugs throughout summer.

1. Basil. Basil is not only a delicious herb but is also great for repelling bugs. Flies and mosquitoes hate basil. Use it to repel bugs by planting it, making a spray with it, or rubbing the leaves directly on yourself.

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When plating the basil, put it near areas where you most want to keep those pesky insects away from you. A simple spray could be made by steeping the leaves in water for a couple of hours. Then, take just the basil-water and mix it with a small amount of apple cider vinegar and spray it on yourself.

2. Mint. Its intoxicating and overwhelming smell is what keeps mosquitoes away. Mint can be made into a spray by mixing its essential oil (a few drops of peppermint oil) with vinegar or water. The plant itself also can be utilized as a repellent by rubbing the leaves on your skin directly, or by placing the plant wherever you hang out most often.

5 Herbs That Mosquitoes Absolutely, Positively Despise

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3. Lavender. One of the best-smelling and beautiful plants is lavender, and it has one of the most beneficial attributes to be used in the summer months. Lavender is perfect at repelling moths, fleas, flies and mosquitoes! This is the one herb that can do it all. Yet it is beneficial to not only you but also your garden. Hang it in your house and even by the doorways to keep the flies away. It can also be made into a spray like the other herbs.

4. Lemon thyme. When using this herb it is important to bruise the leaves before rubbing it on the skin. The only way the aroma is released is by smashing it or bruising it to release the oils. Then it can be applied to the skin. Among bugs and insects, lemon thyme is best used to repel mosquitoes.

5. Lemon balm. Lemon balm is an amazing plant that not only repels “bad” bugs but also attracts good ones. It repels annoying insects like mosquitoes, gnats or flies and attracts insects like butterflies and bees. This allows for your garden to be cared for by the beneficial bugs and protected from the pesky bugs. This herb can be crushed and applied to the skin or put on a patio or deck, or even planted in the garden, so as to protect you when you work.

In nature, there is a balance of good and bad. Nature gives us those annoying bugs, but nature also provides us plants to repel them when needed. Now that you have discovered what herbs to use, you can keep those exasperating insects away and actually enjoy your evenings outside, bug-free.

What herbs would you add to this list? Share them in the section below:  

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8 Organic Ways To Keep Your Garden Bug-Free (No. 4 Kills Them Quick — But Is Safe For Humans!)

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If you’re determined to grow a healthy garden without benefit of pesticides, you’re definitely on the right track. Conventional pesticides kill both good and bad bugs, leaving no natural controls that keep pests in check. As a result, pests are replaced with even tougher, chemical-resistant super-pests, with no beneficial insects left behind to maintain control.

Try not to panic if your plants are bothered by an occasional nibble, as “sharing” the garden is part of growing organically. Keep your plants properly watered. Ensure the soil is healthy and rich in organic materials. Keep in mind that healthy plants are always more pest-resistant than plants that are stressed.

If you find that your garden is overrun with pests in spite of good gardening practices, then consider natural alternatives such as these.

1. Beneficial insects. Such as lacewings, ladybugs, ground beetles, pirate bugs, parasitic wasps, praying mantis and hover-flies. Beneficial insects have preferred targets, so a healthy diversity of helpful bugs will help control a variety of pests, such as aphids, thrips, scale, mites and whiteflies.

2. Beneficial plants. Many blooming plants attract beneficial insects. For example, try alyssum, cosmos, Shasta daisy, yarrow, calendula and coreopsis, as well as herbs like dill, fennel, lemon balm, parsley and coriander. On the other hand, some plants, most notably marigolds, may help deter harmful pests.

3. Handpicking. Although it isn’t anybody’s favorite job, picking pests by hand is a highly effective natural pest control technique made easier with a good pair of gardening gloves. Most pickable insects, including caterpillars, slugs and tomato hornworms, are most active at dusk.

4. Diatomaceous earth. This powdery substance is made of the skeletal remains of tiny marine creatures known as diatoms. The abrasive dust abrades the outer covering of soft-bodied pests like potato beetles, squash bugs, slugs, snails, aphids, whiteflies and others, causing the pest to dry out and die. Although diatomaceous earth is safe, wear a dust mask because the dust can irritate your lungs.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Insect Killer!

5. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) – A naturally occurring bacteria, Bt is non-toxic to humans, pets, birds and wildlife. However, when it is eaten by pests, the toxin dissolves in the gut and causes death in three to five days. Bt, available as spray or dust, is best applied in late afternoon and must be reapplied after rainfall or irrigation. The substance also can be mixed with insecticidal soap (see below), which improves coverage.

8 Organic Ways To Keep Your Garden Bug-Free (No. 4 Kills Them Quick -- But Is Safe For Humans!)

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6. Insecticidal soap – A spray made of natural soap (not dish soap or hand soap), insecticidal soap spray isn’t toxic to people or animals, but deadly to soft-bodied pests like aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies and spider mites. It is relatively safe, but because it kills on contact, it shouldn’t be applied when beneficial insects are present on the plant. Insecticidal soap spray works fast and is safe to use on vegetables up to harvest time. Don’t spray in the heat of the day or when the sun is directly on the plant.

7. Homemade sprays – The jury is out on homemade pest control sprays; some gardeners swear by them, while others claim they are a waste of time. If you’re inundated with pests, it won’t hurt to give them a try, and they might just work.

  • Garlic spray – Blend 10-12 garlic cloves in a quart of water, and then let the smelly mixture sit for at least a full day. Strain the solution through cheesecloth and add a cup of vegetable oil. For even more punch, add a tablespoon of cayenne pepper or chili powder, then let the mixture sit for another 24 hours. The spray, which is highly concentrated, should be mixed at a rate of ½ cup to 1 gallon of water.
  • Insecticidal soap spray – Mix 1 ½ tablespoon of natural soap (such as castile or oil soap) with a quart of water and a few drops of cooking oil, which helps the spray stick to foliage. You also can add a teaspoon of garlic or a garlic bulb, and/or a small amount of cayenne pepper. Some gardeners like to add one or two drops of citrus essential oil.
  • Red pepper spray – This simple spray consists of a tablespoon of chili powder or cayenne pepper and six drops of natural soap in a gallon of water. Mix well and apply weekly, or as needed.

8. Horticultural oil – A type of highly refined oil, horticultural oil plugs the pores so that insects can’t breathe. They soon suffocate. Although the oil dissipates quickly and little residue is left behind, horticultural oil shouldn’t be applied on very hot or cold days, or on drought-stressed plants. Horticultural oil is effective against a variety of pests, including spider mites, aphids, leaf hoppers and whiteflies, among others.

What all-natural pest-control recipes would you add? Share your gardening tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

Uninvited guests

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They are back,  the uninvited guests who arrive as soon as the weather turns warm enough. I’m talking about bugs,  insects and arachnids.  In the last few weeks we are killing 2 and 3 kissing bugs each night,  fortunately they aren’t making it inside the SkyCastle,  but it’s not for lack of trying on their part.

They arrive after dark,  when you are asleep,  they are over an I checked long,  crawl up to your face and suck your blood. Think of a giant mosquito with a beetle body…

They carry and spread Chagas,  a parasite that causes a chronic disease that slowly eats holes in your heart and lungs,  eventually leading to death.

I’m amazed at the lack of knowledge about these insert to,  especially here in west Texas,  I tell my neighbors about them and they seem oblivious,  I suppose it’s mainly because these are nocturnal creatures that are rarely if ever seen during the day.

The other creatures that invade in warmer weather are the ants, spiders, wasps, flies, mosquitoes, fleas and ticks…  It’s just a matter of knowing when to expect them and how to make it inhospitable for them.

What creepy crawlies do you deal with and what do you do about it?

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4 Miraculous Warm-Weather Uses For Cintronella Oil

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4 Miraculous Warm-Weather Uses For Cintronella OilEvery year, at the beginning of spring, I find myself searching through my essential oil stash for citronella essential oil. It has so many natural and practical uses during the warm seasons that I could not imagine going without it. I use citronella essential oil for everything from spring cleaning, to candle making, to homemade bug repellent, to combating exhaustion.

The soft and sweet lemony, grassy scent of citronella essential oil creates the ambiance of the outdoors and for me, brings thoughts of spring picnics, fresh cut grass, and relaxing summer nights. Because of this, citronella essential oil in the use of aromatherapy is perfect for the relief of stress and tension caused by busy days when you cannot seem to find the time to get outdoors.

Citronella grows naturally by the sea and is native to Sri Lanka, Java and the Seychelles, where the locals extract the essential oil from the freshly dried tropical grass. Traditionally, citronella leaves were used as a poultice for fever, pain and to speed healing. Today, it is mostly used as an antiseptical and germicidal cleaning agent, a natural deodorizer and a natural insect repellant.

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To help you get started with the many uses of citronella essential oil, I have added some of my favorite ideas, tips and recipes. Some recipes include other essential oils to help aid with the effectiveness of the blend.

1. How to create your own all-natural insect repellant

Are you opposed to using harmful, unnatural chemicals such as Deet, which is found in mass produced spray repellents like OFF? Then try this:

  • 25 drops citronella essential oil.
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil.
  • 15 drops tea tree essential oil.
  • 4 tablespoons of sweet almond carrier oil, or add to two fluid ounces purified water in a spray bottle (shake well before each use).

Massage on, or spray the mixture onto exposed areas of the skin and clothing before heading outdoors. Take the insect repellant with you on hiking trips or outdoor events, and reapply as needed.

2. How to create your own all-natural-insect repelling homemade candles

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Many of the commercially sold citronella scented candles just do not work. The reason is that a store-bought candle labeled “citronella scented” might be scented synthetically, having none of the natural citronella essential oil necessary to repel insects. To ensure the inclusion of all-natural, effective ingredients, it is best to make your own citronella essential oil-based candles.

What you will need:

  • Glass jars. Be creative, as there are many shapes and sizes from which to choose.
  • Wax wicks.
  • Bees wax or soy wax.
  • A melting pot — either a double boiler or a mixing pot atop another pot.
  • Citronella essential oil.
  • Natural dye or crayons for added color.
  • Scissors to cut down wicks.

Begin by measuring out and melting down your wax. I would recommend melting the wax in a double boiler or a mixing pot nestled atop a pot of boiling water.

Stir in the citronella essential oil. I use roughly five drops per cup of melted wax. You can add more drops for a highly scented candle, or fewer drops for a lightly scented candle.

Stir in a colored crayon or two, or add natural dye, to add color.

While melting the wax and adding the essential oil and coloring, you should slightly warm the jar either in your oven or the microwave. Doing so will prevent cracking while pouring the hot wax into the jar. Also, this helps to ensure that the wax will cool evenly.

Place the wick into the jar. You can attach the top of the wick to a pencil and balance the pencil across the mouth of the jar to help keep the wick centered.

Slowly pour the melted wax into the jar.

Let the wax completely cool.

Cut the wick down.

Light the candle and enjoy.

3. How to create your own all-natural-antibacterial household cleaner and deodorizer.

Instead of using store-bought, chemical harsh cleaners, citronella essential oil can be used to create an all-natural, effective household cleaner. Using a chemical-free cleaner ensures the safety of the entire family and is environmentally friendly.

Mix equal parts purified water and white vinegar to a spray bottle. Add citronella essential oil for the desired potency according to the size of the bottle.

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Spray and wipe down eating surfaces to cleanse and to kill bacteria and germs.

Use as a bathroom cleaner, too.

Spray in any areas that need deodorizing, such as garbage cans.

Citronella essential oil cleaning spray also helps to ward off bugs, so you can safely spray this blend around doorways, baseboards, onto screens and window sills.

4. Use of citronella essential oil for aromatherapy.

Use a humidifier, air diffuser or oil burner to add the molecules and scent of citronella oil to the air inside your home.

The inhalation of citronella essential oil can ease the mind by helping to calm anxiety and mental overload. The scent also helps to support the spirit and can help with exhaustion.

Of course, using this method of aromatherapy also will ward off unwanted insects, as they hate the scent of citronella.

Citronella essential oil can also be combined with other essential oils of your choosing to create wonderful scents for your homemade candles, cleaning sprays and for aromatherapy purposes. I enjoy adding neroli and other citrus-based scents to my blends. Sweet orange, bergamot, peppermint, patchouli, spearmint, sandalwood and myrtle essential oils all blend well with citronella essential oil. Try adding your favorite essential oils to citronella essential oil to create your own personalized scents.

How do you use cintronella essential oil? Share your ideas and tips in the section below:

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Hunting in the evening

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I went hunting tonight, my quarry is small and hard to find, unless you have the right equipment. I only bagged one this evening, it was a bit too cool for them to be very active, a young one was in my path and I stomped it to smithereens.

My quarry tonight was the not so humble scorpion. This is a creature that has plagued us since our first summer out here in the desert. I tend to be a live and let live kind of gal, but when they come into my house, fall on me (and my dogs) and sting, that’s when I declare war.

We don’t have the really painful (and deadly) ones, just the small brown ones, they do pack a punch though, I found out the hard way.

I know all the wild creatures out here have their place, but I’d rather they stay outside. We had our first scorpion of the season inside the SkyCastle just a few weeks ago, it was crawling across the ceiling and dropped right on Zoe’s nose, (one of my dogs), fortunately it didn’t sting her and she didn’t mess with it after she shook it off. And equally fortunately, we saw it happen and was able to put it out of its misery before it caused us any misery.

With the warmer weather comes the bugs, and we live in a very buggy place, it’s one of the things I like about winter, no bugs to speak of. But as soon as the weather warms up, especially at night, out they come. I even saw a couple of Junebugs, a whole month early, of course there are a plethora of moths and other flying & crawling critters that seek any crack or opening to come inside.

I knew that scorpions light up (fluoresce) under blacklight (UV light), they glow like a cheap kids toy, the great part is they don’t seem to know they are glowing and don’t try to get away, that gives me a few extra seconds to take aim with my boot. My light of choice is a 51 LED UV flashlight, it doesn’t seem to put out much visible light, which is a good thing, it puts out just enough visible light to be able to see where I’m walking, and when it hits a scorpion, the light that comes back is sooooo bright!

I haven’t actively hunted the scorpions in the past couple of years like I did the first year I started, I put a pretty good dent in their population that first summer. I don’t want to kill all of them, just the ones that are within striking distance of the SkyCastle. I suspect I’ll be doing much more hunting this year.

What is your nemesis in the warmer months?

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4 Ways To Attract Beneficial Birds To Your Homestead

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4 Ways To Attract Beneficial Birds To Your Homestead

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Birds are spectacular creatures — full of grace and elegance, truly creatures of beauty that God placed on the earth for our enjoyment and to showcase His magnificence.

Ever since I was a small child, I have loved to watch birds as they battle against the wind, climbing almost out of sight and return moments later to snatch some seed from a feeder or rest upon an outstretched tree branch to sing a song of joy.

Birds just seem happy — unencumbered and unbothered by changes in temperature, light or season. They make me and millions of other people happy as they put on shows of color and poise in our gardens or along our windowsills.

Besides their tremendous entertainment value, birds do serve a number of purposes, which makes attracting them to your yard that much more important. Birds provide:

Pest control. A great number of birds enjoy dining on insects such as aphids, spiders, mosquitoes and other bugs that we don’t really want hanging about our yard. Attracting birds will keep these insect populations under control.

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Pollination. Birds such as hummingbirds, orioles and others sip the nectar from flowers and play an important role in pollination. Without pollination we would not have thriving gardens.

Weed control. Some birds such as sparrows, finches and towhees can be very helpful when it comes to controlling unwanted plants in your landscape.

Education. Besides entertainment, watching birds in your backyard gives an upfront chance to study local wildlife. This is a wonderful experience for the whole family and makes for a very worthwhile nature study.

4 Ways To Attract Beneficial Birds To Your Homestead

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Conservation. As more and more habitats are being disrupted from development and human intrusion, birds, like other animals, need places to land. This is equally important for local birds as well as those that are migrating.

So, for whatever reason you see fit, here are some ways that you can attract more of these amazing creatures to your yard:

1. Food. In order to attract a wide variety of wild birds to your yard, it is imperative that you offer a diverse buffet of seeds, suet, nectar and other fitting treats. To know which type of food to offer, it is first important to learn about which kind of birds are in your area and which birds might stop during their migratory flight. A variety of feeders are also important — platforms, suet feeders, hanging feeders, etc. – in order to attract a wide variety of birds to your yard. Confused about foods? Then check out this North American bird feeding chart.

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2. Water. Many people may offer a variety of food but forget about water. Water is essential for birds just like it is for humans. Birds prefer moving water, but just about any water source often works. Install a moving water feature or even a bird bath, and watch the birds flock to your yard. Be sure to keep your water source clean and in good repair for best results

3. Shelter. Birds need a place to get away from predators and foul weather and a spot to birth and care for their young. Plant native bushes and trees, and put up birdhouses and nesting boxes according to the type of birds in your area.

4. Habitat. It is imperative that you create a welcoming habitat for birds if you desire to attract a variety to your yard. This will include trees, shrubs, grasses and plants. Native plantings are always best. Do research on what types of plants are native to your location before planting. The more you can mimic what is found in the wild, the more the birds will feel at home.

Have fun with your bird visitors!

What is your advice for attracting birds? Share it in the section below:

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If Your Garden Was A Disease-Filled Dud Last Year, Here’s What You May Have Done Wrong

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If Your Garden Was A Disease-Filled Dud Last Year, Here's What You May Have Done Wrong

Everyone loves variety, and this is true even in vegetable gardening. In fact, variety in your garden could be the secret to a more bountiful harvest this year.

One way of adding variety is by rotating your crops. Most gardeners will swear by crop rotation, and there are many benefits to it.

Rotating your crops is a method of changing the location of vegetables and other plants from one season to the next.

Why Rotate Your Crops?

There are several very good reasons to rotate your crops in a traditional vegetable garden:

1. Prevents disease. By rotating your crops, you will be limiting the buildup of any disease in the soil, preventing issues lasting from one year’s growing season to the next. For example, say you had issues with blight in your tomatoes last year. This year, you’ll want to move them to a different location in the garden. You then will plant a different crop that is not susceptible to that particular disease in the location where your tomatoes were last year.

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2. Controls pests and insects. Infestations of insects are less likely to occur when using a rotation practice, because the favorite plants of the pests are continually being moved to a different spot. Rotation keeps pests and insects moving so there will not be a build-up of bothersome bugs or other issues.

3. Keeps nutrients in the soil. Each vegetable crop takes and gives different nutrients. This rotating will keep the soil from getting depleted of certain vitamins and nutrients. There are plants such as beans and peas that can actually improve or enrich the soil; make sure you have a few of them included in the garden.

If Your Garden Was A Disease-Filled Dud Last Year, Here's What You May Have Done Wrong4. Prevents soil erosion. The different plants create soil structure. Productivity will go down after a season or two if there is no rotation. Rotation also reduces the need for heavy pesticides. Look for plants that naturally repel insects and pests and put them into the rotation plan.

Here’s How to Do it

Rotating in a small garden can prove to be a challenge due to space, but it can be done successfully.

Learn which vegetables grow well together and which are susceptible to the same diseases. Plant those together to limit any exposure or spread of disease.

Have a rotation plan. Mark which plants go in which section so you can keep track of where certain vegetables have already been — and where they should go next season. Having a plan will also help you choose the variety and amount of vegetables you will need.

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Some use a simple method called “the four-step system.” It is a handy and uncomplicated guideline to assist beginners, or any gardener, who are new to rotating garden crops. You simply divide your garden into four sections:

  • The first group should be a selection of leafy vegetables. This group includes lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach.
  • The second group mostly includes several types of vegetables, many of them on vines. These are tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, peppers, squash and eggplant. Note: Do not plant tomatoes after potatoes as they are both prone to blight; if you leave infected potatoes in the ground over the winter, they can spread the disease to the tomato plants.
  • In the third group, you will should find the yummy root vegetables. These vegetables are carrots, turnips, radishes, beets and onions.
  • The fourth and final group of the four-step system includes crops that will enrich the soil with nutrients as well as create produce. Cover crops fit well into this section. Clover and alfalfa are just two good examples of cover crops with a purpose. Beans, peanuts and peas also fit into this fourth section. Beans have few pest issues and are very good to the soil.

You can make your garden rotation plan as detailed, or as simple, as you wish. There are countless ways to divide your garden, but in the end it needs to be a garden that works for you and your lifestyle.

Continue to dig up and turn under plant material that is no longer growing. This will provide the soil with even more nutrients. Even during rotation, you can still mulch and fertilize your vegetable garden when needed.

Well, now that you have more knowledge of garden crop rotation and its benefits, as well as a simple plan to start, you are well on your way to having a productive growing season. Now it’s time to grow!

What advice would you add on crop rotation? Share your tips in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

Time-Tested Essential Oils That Insects Simply Hate

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The Essential Oils That Insects Simply Hate

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Insect bites can put a damper on even the most beautiful spring and summer night. Unfortunately, so can the intense aroma and harmful effects of insect repellants. Thankfully, there are essential oils that repel insects, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors again.

Essential oils can provide a safe and natural way to repel everything from mosquitos to dust mites. Some oils are also known to be effective insecticides so that you can kill bugs before they become a problem.

Depending on your needs, oils can be combined to make your own bug spray, offering you a safe and natural alternative to DEET and other chemical-based insect repellants.

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The following is a list of essential oil ingredients to create insect repellant spray:

1. Basil. This zesty oil is great for controlling mosquito and dust mites. Several studies have found that basil effectively repels mosquitos and even exhibits mosquito larvicidal activity. [1] This makes basil oil an especially good option for those living near swamps, ponds and other areas with a high mosquito population.

2. Clove. A 2005 study of essential oils as mosquito repellants found that clove provided the longest duration of repellency against the three types of mosquitos used in the study.[2]

3. Eucalyptus. You get a lot of bang for your buck when using eucalyptus oil as an insecticide. It’s been found effective on a wide variety of insects, most notably its effect on sandflies.[3]

4. Garlic. For years, garlic has been used to control common pests found in gardens and has now been found to be an effective way to keep mosquitos at bay.

5. Geranium. A 2003 study found this pleasant smelling oil to be highly effective in killing larval, pupal and adult development of mosquitos. [4] This means that it’s not only great for preventing mosquito bites, but it can also kill mosquitos through all stages of life. A must-have for your backyard or cottage!

Time-Tested Essential Oils That Insects Simply Hate

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6. Lemon. Of all the essential oils that repel insects, lemon is by far one of the best-known natural insecticides and repellants. A 2012 study found that it offers an effective and natural alternative to conventional chemical insect control.[5]

7. Peppermint. This minty-fresh oil is used as a natural insecticide against many types of bugs. Studies have found methanol-based oils to be effective insecticides. [6]A 2011 study also found it to be an especially effective larvicide and mosquito repellant.[7]

8. Tea tree oil. This natural anti-parasitic is a great option for people and pets because of its ability to stop the growth of fleas, ticks and lice. Tea tree oil is also an effective remedy for soothing the itch and discomfort of mosquito bites.

New “Survival Herb Bank” Gives You Access to God’s Amazing Medicine Chest

Thyme. Thyme has been found to be very effective in repelling two of the peskiest insects around: mosquitos and houseflies.[8]

Each of the ingredients above can be mixed with a water and vinegar base to create a natural insect repellent spray. For the most effective insect repellent spray, use the following:

Natural Insect Repellent Spray 

  • Basil oil: 15 drops
  • Lemon oil: 10 drops
  • Tea tree oil: 10 drops
  • Peppermint oil: 6 drops
  • Geranium oil: 6 drops
  • Distilled water: 2 ounces
  • Vinegar: 2 ounces (preferably white vinegar, but apple cider works as well!)

Blend all the ingredients and put into a spray bottle. Shake well before using. Note: This is an aromatic blend meant to be diffused into the air around you. Do not use for topical or internal use.

Having these essential oils that repel insects on hand can help you keep your home and garden free of pests without the use of chemicals.

What would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below: 

[1] Perumalsamy H, Kim JY, Kim JR, Hwang KN, Ahn YJ. (2014). Toxicity of basil oil constituents and related compounds and the efficacy of spray formulations to Dermatophagoides farinae (Acari: Pyroglyphidae). J Med Entomol. 650-657.

[2] Trongtokit Y., Rongsriyam Y., Komalamisra N., Apiwathnasorn C. Comparative repellency of 38 essential oils against mosquito bites. Phytotherapy Research. 2005;19(4):303–309. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1637.

[3] Maciel, M.V., Morais, S.M., Bevilaqua, C.M., Silva, R.A., Barros, R.S., et al. (2010). Chemical composition of Eucalyptus spp. essential oils and their insecticidal effects on Lutzomyia longipalpis. Vet Parasitol, 167(1):1-7. Epub 2009 Oct 9.

[4] Jeyabalan, D., Arul, N. and Thangamathi, P. (2003). Studies on effects of Pelargonium citrosa leaf extracts on malarial vector, Anopheles stephensi Liston. Bioresource Technology 89:185-189.

[5] Khani,A; Basavand,F; Rakhshani, E. (2012):Chemical composition and insecticide activity of Lemon verbena essential oil J Crop Prot, 1 (4) (2012), pp. 313–320

[6] Ansari M.A., Vasudevan P., Tandon M., Razdan R.K. 2000. Larvicidal and mosquito repellent action of pepper- mint (Mentha piperita) oil. Bioresource Technol 71:267-271.

[7] Kumar, S., Wahab, N., & Warikoo, R. (2011). Bioefficacy of Mentha piperitaessential oil against dengue fever mosquito Aedes aegypti L. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine1(2), 85–88.

[8] Park B.S., Choi W.S., Kim J.H., Kim K.H., Lee S.E. 2005. Monoterpenes from thyme (Thymus vulgaris) as potential mosquito repellents. J Am Mosq Control Assoc-Mar;21(1):80-3.

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

Amazing: Insects Solving World Hunger

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The total of human population at the beginning of 2016 is roughly around 7.6 billion. And if it’s one thing that’s characteristic for us, is the speed in which we’re depleting our resources; not only are we fast, but we’re constant as well. There’s plenty of us already, and in the near future, there are many things we’ll need to learn to do without. The world reserve of petrol won’t last more than 20, maybe 30 years before its completely depleted. But even more important, it’s finding an alternative for when the food runs out. You can live without petrol and other commodities, but you can’t live without food. The best solution at hand is to throw aside culinary “traditions”, toughen up and accept the fact that the insects solving world hunger. They are the best source of food for dark days! Whether you’re the survivor for a massive World War, scouting the remains of a destroyed society or you’ve been stranded in a hostile environment, you’ll still be surrounded by insects. Most insects are good for eating, just don’t go for the poisonous and venomous ones. It’s their high concentration of protein (can go even up to 75% protein), but also saturated fats (the good kind of fats), minerals and fibers that put them at the top of the list; about 70% of the world’s population is living of insects already, so how long until the rest of us join in? Even the UN launched and official recommendation which encourages insect consumption. Not only is insect consumption healthy, but insect farms would be far less costly and pretentious than any other type of animal. If I’ve got your attention, let’s see some of the best insects across North America that you can get your hands on if SHTF, or if you simply want to experiment.

ANTS (the Formicidae family)

There are plenty of ants to choose from. They’re widely spread and within reach all the time. Just take a bit of patience to scout around the place and you’ll find some sooner or later. Most of the ants you’ll come across are harmless. But if you come across red ants, means you stumbled across some fire ants. They’re bite is really painful, so be as cautious as possible. If we’re talking about an extreme survival case, you can simply reach in the anthill and grab the ants or even better, use a container. I’m sure that if you’ve been starving for a while, you won’t mind their vinegary taste or the fact that you ingurgitate some soil. But if you have the time, boiling is the way to go.


TERMINTES (the Termitoidae family)

Termites are colonial insects, just like ants, they can often be found in large number at ones and their diet consists mainly in eating wood (xylofagous diet). In many places around the world, they live in regular fortresses; termite mounds that are run by all sorts insects devised in social ranks: workers, soldiers, scouts and the queen. However, the mound type structures are no longer found in North America; only fossils are left. Finding termites is really easy, just look for any signs of decaying wood, tree stumps and most of all, damp dead wood.




The caterpillar is not a genus of insect, but rather a transitional form for all sorts of butterflies and moths. Before reaching adult state, moths and butterflies are found in caterpillar form. They don’t have wings, are rather slow by nature (which means they’re easy to catch) and are full of all sorts of nutrients and beneficial substances: vitamin B, calcium, sodium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron. Whether they’re hairy or not, they’re still a fully nutritious food source. Some reports I have come across suggest that some of the caterpillars you might come across are potentially toxic, but I have found nothing conclusive in this regard. But just to play it safe, I strongly advise you to stay away from the brightly colored ones. In nature, bright colors mean imminent danger.


CRICKETS / GRASSHOPPERS / LOCUSTS (the Orthoptera order)

The insects in this order are some of the most popular amongst people. And with good reason too. They’re everywhere, easy to catch and sometimes swarm in large numbers; they can be devastating to crops, so if you add humans to they’re natural predatory lists, means less damage they’ll be able to produce. Start eating them, before they’ll eat what you worked so hard for. Besides, they are very nutritious; they have a good overall taste, which is similar to peanuts. Frying them accentuates the flavor, and because they’re packed with protein, you can also dry them up and grind them into a fine powder, which you can store in a cool and dry environment.



Be warned, procuring insects is not as easy as it seems. You really need to know what you’ll be going against. If it’s small and it’s crawling, it’s good to eat. BUT if you see bright colors, stay away. Bright colors mean that the insect is probably poisonous or venomous, so move on and keep looking. You also must be aware of you “hunting ground”. You should gathering insects from urban areas or large crop fields, as these are very likely to have been sprayed with all sorts of insecticides, which can be very toxic.


By Alec Deacon



The post Amazing: Insects Solving World Hunger appeared first on My Family Survival Plan.

Keep Your Pollinators Warm this Winter with an Insect Hotel

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“InsectHouseMonaco” by Gareth E Kegg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Looking for a cool gardening project to occupy your idle time this winter? Look no further.

Insect hotels are a great winter project, and they pay big dividends by increasing the likelihood that your garden will be graced by lots of pollinators and beneficial insects next season and for years to come. They also have lots of fringe benefits…

You get to provide a nice, safe, and cozy home for solitary bees and their insect buddies. We hear a lot about honey bees, but there are over 4,000 species of wild, native bees in North America alone. A well-designed hotel is a safe haven for some of your local bees, and it can help them to thrive in your area. In addition to bees, you can build rooms for ladybugs, millipedes, wasps, beetles, spiders… the more the merrier.

With a hotel in or near your garden, you can increase the biodiversity of your garden; and we all know by now that diversity is a key component of healthy soil and healthy ecosystems.

Perhaps the nicest feature of insect hotels is that they provide a great outlet for upcycling materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Got an old wooden pallet laying around? Some surplus bricks? A pile of rocks that you’ve gathered from the lawn and garden? Some old fence posts? This is a great way to tidy up your spare bits and pieces, and put them to good use.

Insect Hotel Tips and Pointers

• Put your hotel in a sunny spot. It’s good if you can face it to the south for full exposure – warmth is important for overwintering bugs, and it’s essential for developing larvae. Nobody likes a freezing room – so err on the side of caution and arrange your hotel in the sunniest spot available.

• Bugs need water, just like you do. Incorporate a water source into your hotel, or keep one nearby. A plant saucer, a small cache pot, or anything else that will hold a little water should work just fine.

• Be mindful not to expose your guests to toxic chemicals. Use untreated, natural materials as much as possible. Untreated wood will warp, twist, and break down faster. But if you want to provide a safe home, it’s better to avoid chemicals and just accept that you’ll need to replace some pieces or rebuild altogether every few years or so.

• Be creative! Bamboo and drilled wood are the standards, but there are probably a hundred different materials right outside your door that would work great. In addition to scrap building materials, look for natural elements like pine cones and needles, fallen limbs and twigs, tree bark, straw, etc. If you have trees with thick, waxy leaves that don’t break down well in the compost – like magnolias, live oaks, ligustrums, or hollies – those might make good stuffing for any empty spaces.

I compiled a few videos that show different design ideas. As you’ll see, you can feel free to let your imagination roam, and the sky’s the limit. I think it would be fun to regroup in the spring and see all the different designs everyone has dreamed up. Maybe we can come up with a prize for the best design…

Insect Hotel Videos

A Good Overview, with Instructions for 2 Simple Hotels

This video shows a whole slew of different design ideas, and that’s the part I really liked. The second half of the video walks you through step-by-step instructions to build a two small hanging hotels that look something like bird houses. Nice and neat…

Posh Style for Your Discerning Bugs

These hotels are the highest in modern insect style. For those of you who keep an immaculate landscape, these are something you can do without messing up your view. This style of hotel probably won’t draw any unwanted attention from your H.O.A. or nosy neighbors.

Back when I did lots of landscape design, one of the most common requests I got was for creative screens to block the view of utility boxes, air conditioners, pool pumps, and exposed pipes. I think that a clean looking insect hotel like this one could make a great screen. If you situated this right in front of your utility box, and planted the area with a small, tidy pollinator garden – you could turn that ugly box into a win-win for you and your neighborhood insects.

The Insect Economy Inn

If you’re less concerned with style, but more interested in practical economy – this is for you. Reused materials and quick assembly make this bug hotel all about functionality. I think this style of design would actually draw more insects than some of the fancier designs I’ve seen. I’m not too sure about the planting on top… I might have done that a little differently.

A Rustic Bug Cabin

I really like this one. Reclaimed materials and solid construction, for a natural rustic look. I love how these folks were so creative and used many different materials to make homes for lots of different insects. And other than screws and cinder blocks, they probably didn’t need to spend a dime.

Start looking around at the materials you have available – you might find that you already have everything you need to build a nice insect hotel. Hopefully, this will give you a way to do a productive garden project or two while you wait out the winter.

If we have a lot of interest, we might organize a [Grow] Network Insect Hotel Contest and arrange some prizes for the best designs. Let us know if you’re interested using the comments below!


Eating crickets

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Like virtually all of you, I grew up in a culture where bugs were gross and I would never consider eating them. However, as I’ve traveled the world I’ve come across a few cultures where bugs are considered food. It turns out bugs are nutritious and as safe to eat as any other food source (keep in mind how much attention we pay all down our food chain making sure our food is safe and remains uncontaminated). Being curious by nature, an adventurous eater, and wanting to be prepared for who knows what, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to eat various bugs. I’ve had ants, ant eggs, bees, water beetles, june bugs, crickets, cricket larvae, some sort of beetle I don’t know what it was, unknown (to me) grubs from a river, silkworms, and forest cockroaches. I’ve really enjoyed some of the ant recipes, but my favorite of all are always crickets.

bats and insects

From l to r: bats, forest cockroaches, silkworms.

Recently I found myself in Cambodia and was able to observe how they caught crickets. The crickets were caught out in their fields, then sold in restaurants, marketplaces, and roadside stands. Apparently, crickets are attracted to light; and judging from what the Khmer people were using, they are particularly attracted to violet or reddish fluorescent lighting. The farmers would attach such a light above a sheet of plastic hung vertically low over a basin of water. At night the crickets, drawn to the light, would unexpectedly hit the sheet of plastic and fall into the water. There, they would drown or become otherwise incapacitated. In the morning, the farmers would go out to their cricket traps and collect several pounds of nutritional and delicious insects.

A cricket trap in Cambodia.

A cricket trap in Cambodia.

I recommend frying your crickets and seasoning them with garlic, onions, soy sauce, etc. I’d avoid eating insects I suspected might be contaminated with pesticides; as with other foods, a safe source is ideal. When you don’t know if an insect is edible or not, keep in mind that brightly colored, spiny, or hairy bugs are often poisonous. No meal of insects has yet made me sick.

Crickets roasted with pig fat served with prawn crackers. From a restaurant in Hanoi.

Crickets roasted with pig fat served with prawn crackers. From a restaurant in Hanoi.

If you would like to try some insects for yourself now before you find yourself in dire straights, I recommend you look for a supplier of quality insects and grubs intended for pets such as birds and reptiles.

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Tastes Like Lemon: The Time I Ate Ants (& more about eating insects)

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Another great one by Chaya Foedus:

This is the most self-deprecating thing I have ever posted online.   But you know what they say: If you can laugh at yourself, you will never cease to be amused. My interest in this topic started with one of only a handful of regrets I have obtained through life. I’m just not prone to regrets,…

Continue reading

The post Tastes Like Lemon: The Time I Ate Ants (& more about eating insects) appeared first on Pantry Paratus.

Garden Pests Part Two – The Insect Variety

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Garden Pests Part TwoInsects can be hard to get rid of, especially if your garden is organic, as you don’t want to use common chemical pesticides to kill them off. Some insects are small and hard to see, making it even tougher to remove them from your vegetables. Thankfully there are ways of getting rid of these pests without having to resort to methods that will harm your vegetables as well as the insects munching or living on them.

Aphids – Aphids don’t just go after one type of plant – they go after many different kinds, turning their leaves yellow by sucking out the sap. Instead of spraying your plants with a chemical pesticide, there are several other methods of getting rid of them. You can spray them with a mild soap spray (a few drops of liquid soap in a gallon of water) or use row covers and yellow sticky traps to catch the aphids before they get to your plants.

Weevils – You know that weevils have invaded your garden when you see holes punched in your plants’ leaves. They can also remove all of the foliage from your plants. Weevils will go after many different plants, not just specific ones, which makes them even more of a nuisance. In order to keep weevils away, make sure that your garden is as clean and free of debris as possible. Weevils like a messy environment, so by not giving them one, they’ll steer clear.

Slugs – Slugs are unpleasant creatures that will eat the foliage and fruits right off of your plants. While they are big and slow enough to be removed from your plants by hand, that can quickly become an annoyance. You are better off setting up a few anti-slug measures, like arranging a border around your garden and lining it with ashes, sand or lime to keep the slugs at bay.

Leaf miners – Leaf miners will stunt your plants’ growth by tunneling inside of the leaves and eating whichever parts they find appealing. Unfortunately, they like many different types of plants, so they can be tricky to avoid. However, by setting up row covers and removing the infected leaves, you can rid your garden of these insects.

Cutworms – Cutworms will kill your plants if you don’t get to them first. They can be hard to detect, as they attack your plant’s stem from the soil line and begin to eat their way through it. By keeping your garden clean and weed-free, not to mention being very careful when you transplant your seedlings, you can keep cutworms out of your garden.

Hornworms – Hornworms prefer to snack on your tomato, eggplant, pepper and potato plants. They go after the leaves and fruit of each plant, destroying your crops before they have a chance to fully ripen. If you don’t have any of these plants in your garden, then you won’t have to worry about these insects. But if you do, you can get rid of them by sprinkling dried hot pepper on your plants or removing the insects by hand.

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 Pic by Martin LaBar