Frass! A Hornworm Is Eating My Tomatoes and Peppers!

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If you have never met a hornworm munching on your tomatoes or peppers, then count yourself lucky.

I remember my first time finding a hornworm. I reached into a tomato plant with lush foliage and this green caterpillar, as big as my finger with a horn on its end, stared back at me. I screamed like a little girl rather than the grown woman that I was. The hornworm was killed by my soon-to-be husband. I was very reluctant to pick any more tomatoes for fear that my bare skin might accidentally touch one of these monstrous creatures.

Two Types of Hornworms

There are two kinds of hornworms—tomato hornworms and tobacco hornworms—but both kinds eat the fruit and leaves from tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

Read More: “3 Expert Tomato Growers Share Their Best Tips”

I usually have the tobacco hornworm variety in my Ohio garden, with its seven V-shaped white marks along its body. The tomato hornworm, on the other hand, has six white stripes. A single hornworm will quickly decimate your crop if it goes unnoticed, so I don’t waste much time analyzing white marks once I find a hornworm.

Signs You’ve Got a Hornworm Problem

Hornworm Eating Tomato Leaf

Most of the time I spot the signs of a hornworm before I see the actual caterpillar.

There are two things to look for when you visit your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants:

  • First, are there any missing leaves or fruits that have huge sections eaten out of them? Hornworms love to eat leaves.
  • Second, are there bits of frass (insect droppings) either on the lower leaves or on the ground? Really fresh frass might be green, but will turn dark brown or black as it gets older. (By the way, I love the word “frass.” I think gardeners could start saying “frass” instead of the other synonymous curse words.)

If there is defoliation and frass, then the hornworm isn’t too far away. I look directly above the frass, but if the hornworm has eaten all the leaves on that branch, then it may have moved to the next branch with lots of food to eat. One summer I found defoliation on one of my hot pepper plants, but couldn’t find the hornworm for a couple of days. It had eaten all the leaves off the first plant and crawled over to a second pepper plant before I located it. But more on that story in a bit. It has a happy ending!

Getting Rid of Hornworms

Unfortunately for bug-phobic people like me, handpicking is the best way to get rid of hornworms when you find them in your garden.

I put on my magic shield (a.k.a. my gardening gloves), put shoes on my feet, and grab a hand trowel or small pruning shears. Hornworms have a surprisingly strong grip on that plant and will not let go of it willingly. If the hornworm is near the end of a branch and I won’t lose any fruit by cutting the branch, then I make the sacrifice. Otherwise I bat at it with my trowel and knock it to the ground. From there I either smash it with my foot or the trowel. (Be careful. Hornworm guts are green and gooey and can shoot out of the animal when smashed. Gross.)

Some people say that chickens like to eat hornworms, but I didn’t have any luck when I tried feeding them to my neighbor’s chickens. They loved Japanese beetle grubs, but that’s another topic for another day. The hens looked at me like I was crazy both times I tried to feed them a hornworm. They always knew I had food when I went to visit and gobbled everything down except for the hornworms.

A Happy Ending

Remember the hornworm that I found on my pepper plant? I didn’t handpick that one off the jalapeno.

Why?

Well, it had these little white things that looked like grains of rice along its body. Those are actually cocoons of a very special parasitoid wasp.

Tomato Hornworm Parasitic Wasp

This type of wasp lays her eggs inside the body of the hornworm. The wasp larvae feed on the hornworm and kill it, so I didn’t have to! The wasps are the good guys in this situation. If you see them, leave them alone. Both of my pepper plants bounced back and are producing fruit.

Companion Planting to Discourage Hornworms

As much as I think parasitoid wasps are awesome, I’d rather prevent hornworms from entering my garden in the first place. That’s where companion planting is used.

This year I planted borage near my tomato plants.

Borage

My daughter is a budding gardener (and watching over my shoulder as I type), so I let her plant marigolds near my tomatoes. Both of these flowers help keep the hornworms away.

So why did I have any hornworms in my garden this year if I was using good companion plants? I got overly ambitious and put in a new garden bed after I was “done” planting. The first tomato section was the one with the borage and marigolds. The new area had peppers and tomatoes, but no borage or marigolds. I only had one hornworm in the area with companion plants, but many hornworms in the area without.

Next spring, try companion planting for yourself to see how well it works to keep those hornworms away. If a few hornworms still make it into your garden, maybe you’ll be lucky and find parasitoid wasp cocoons growing right out of their big green bodies.

Good luck and happy gardening!

Do you have any tips for discouraging, preventing, or getting rid of tomato hornworms? We’d love to hear them! Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

(This article was written by Amy S. as a submission in The Grow Network’s Fall 2015 Writing Contest. It was originally published October 1, 2015.)

 

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Awesome Information Resources (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!)

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We’re guessing that, like us, you’re constantly striving to improve your garden and your gardening methods … to make your composting processes a little bit more efficient … to strengthen the microbial activity in your soil a little bit more … to improve your favorite vegetable variety through seed saving and experimentation … and the list goes on!

And while you can achieve those goals by yourself, no one would argue that getting a little help from others makes the process a whole lot smoother, faster, and more fun!

So where do our Community members turn when they’re looking for advice and information on gardening, homesteading, and home medicine (besides The Grow Network, of course!)?

We asked them recently and compiled the following list of recommended resources. (Many thanks to Fibrefarmer, Marcia, Mary Kathryn, Permies949, Scott Sexton, tracyWandling, and all the other TGN Community members who contributed their ideas!)

Wildcrafting, Foraging, and Plant Identification

  • Eat the Weeds (blog and educational resources about foraging and edible wild plants)
  • Plants for a Future (database containing the edible, medicinal, and other uses of more than 7,000 plants)

Gardening, Farming, and Permaculture

  • Acres USA (Marjory says, “Mostly geared towards small farmers, the in-depth articles on a particular crop are great.”)
  • Your local Extension office (Merin says, “The climate and wildlife here (SW Colorado) are so different from those where I used to live (SE Texas) that it has been really helpful to be able to speak to our Extension agent and fellow Master Gardeners in this area to learn how to tackle some of the differences. A lot of them are also a wealth of information on organic and permaculture practices that work in this area….”)
  • MIgardener.com (gardening products and information)
  • North Texas Vegetable Gardeners Facebook group (“I love this group because it’s focused on gardening in my region,” says TGN’s social media manager Ruth Reyes-Loiacan. “It’s nice to have a large community of local people doing the same thing. Currently, the group has 29,000 members!”)
  • Permies (Of this forum for permaculturists and homesteaders, tracyWandling says, “It has a category for just about everything, and a wide variety of contributors of all levels who share their experiences and expertise with readers. It’s a great place to ask questions and interact with others who are doing the same things you are and are always willing to lend a helping hand. Great site.”)
  • PermaEthos (educational and community-building site)
  • Permaculture Apprentice (permaculture-related resources)
  • Permaculture Design Magazinere (contains articles on eco-regeneration, broadscale farming systems, agroforestry, home garden design, and community action)
  • Permaculture Magazine (magazine for permaculture enthusiasts covers all aspects of life)
  • Praxxus55712 YouTube channel (Marcia says she also recommends the YouTube channel WisconsinGarden.)
  • Self-Reliant School (information on growing, cooking, and preserving food)
  • Stacey Murphy/BK Farmyards (offers educational training about backyard farming and real food)
  • Tenth Acre Farm: Permaculture for the Suburbs (information on micro-farming)

Homesteading and Sustainability

  • BackYard Chickens (Merin adds that, with nearly 100,000 members—many of whom are both knowledgeable and willing to share information—the related Backyard Chickens Facebook group is also a great resource for backyard chicken keepers.)
  • Food in Jars Community Facebook group (Wendy Meredith says it offers “great ideas and new recipes on how to can much of what I produce.”)
  • MelissaKNorris.com (information on raising, preserving, and preparing food; home of the Pioneering Today podcast)
  • Mother Earth News Magazine (articles on homesteading and organic gardening, with a focus on self-sufficiency and sustainability)
  • The Prairie Homestead (blog offering homesteading advice)
  • Starry Hilder’s Off-Grid Homestead (blog about off-grid homesteading)
  • The Survival Podcast (online talk show about modern survivalism, sustainability, and alternative energy)

Health and Herbalism

Finally, regardless of the category, remember that your local library likely offers myriad excellent, free resources. “My library is a tremendous source of inspiration,” says TGN Community member Fibrefarmer. “They have the best books for the best price (free), but I have to give them back after a few weeks :(.  But still, it saves money, and they let me borrow the books as many times as I need. If they don’t have the book, they can order a copy or borrow it from another library via interlibrary loan.”

What about you? Is your favorite resource on this list? If not, let us know about it by leaving us a note in the comments!

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The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!

 

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Supercharge Your Garden! 4 Steps to Vibrant Soil Using Compost and Crop Rotation

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Pest management and pathogen control are great reasons to use crop rotation. For me, though, nutrient management is my most important reason.

Our soil was devoid of organic matter when we moved to our homestead. I sheet-mulched, piled my beds with fresh compost, cover-cropped, chopped and dropped, trench-composted, and spread worm castings like I was icing a cake.

In short order, we had incredible yields. I thought I was a gardening genius…

Parsnip - Crop Rotation

The first clue that I’d run up against diminishing returns on compost applications was my parsnips. The tuber-tops peaking from the soil were 5 inches wide. The greens were shrubs. I expected a lifetime supply of parsnips. Then I harvested. My parsnips were only 2-3 inches long and looked like parsnip pancakes.

That’s when I learned about nitrogen overload from compost. I yanked my disappointing parsnips and planted corn. My corn was supposed to grow 6 feet tall and have 1 large ear and 1-2 small ears. I got 3 full-sized ears on 10-foot stalks.

With the magic of crop rotation revealed to me in that experience, I studied it and experimented extensively to create optimal crop rotations. Here’s what I learned.

1. Start with a Soil Test

If you haven’t had a comprehensive, professional soil test recently, get one. You’ll be surprised by how much they can tell you about your soil and gardening practices.

Mineral Content

Soil tests include listings of mineral content. If you have deficiencies, they will include application rates for minerals to bring your soil up to par.

They’ll include the phosphorous and potassium (the PK in NPK) content. If you are a regular compost user, it’s easy to overload soil with phosphorous and potassium. This test can let you know if your compost habits put you at risk for excesses.

Soil pH

Soil tests divulge soil pH. Unless your pH is right for what you plan to grow, you might as well be planting on the moon. Most vegetables like a pH around 6.5.

You may have to add lime to make soil alkaline (e.g. raise the pH). Alternately, you may have to add sulfur to acidify soil (lower the pH). A soil test should include recommendations for this, too.

Organic Matter Content

Tests also tell you how much organic matter is in your soil. Less than 3% and you need to add a ton (or tons) of organic matter to get your soil into shape for growing healthy vegetables.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen level is the one thing a good soil test will not tell you. Or, it should warn you that nitrogen results are unreliable. Nitrogen, in the soil, is inherently volatile.

Nitrogen changes based on what you plant (or your weeds), tilling and harvesting practices, amendments used, weather (e.g., lightning adds nitrogen), and water sources. Heavy rain can leach nitrogen, while acid rain adds it.

This volatility is why nitrogen is one of the most difficult forces to manage in a vegetable garden. It’s also why professional growers tend to use slow-release fertilizers, or multiple applications.

If you are like me, though, you want to use stuff you can produce at home without spending a fortune. In that case, consider rotation plans that include rotating your food crops, cover crops, and homemade amendments for nutrient management.

Start by making the adjustments determined by your soil test. When you have a good soil-health baseline, start using crop rotation for long-term nutrient management and soil improvement.

2. Rotate Food Crops by Nitrogen Needs

Nitrogen is like candy to plants. They love it. Some plants can eat all the nitrogen they want and grow better. Others eat too much and end up sick. And just like people sometimes do with candy, plants are prone to eat too much nitrogen when it’s available—even when it’s not good for them.

Plants do need some quantity of nitrogen to grow. The right quantity is good for them (I can’t say the same about candy for people). Still, this analogy offers an easy framework for understanding nitrogen and its use in crop rotations.

To manage plant consumption of nitrogen, the first thing you do is load up the nitrogen in your soil. Then start the rotation party!

  1. Start with plants that thrive on nitrogen—a.k.a. heavy feeders.
  2. After the heavy feeders, bring in plants that benefit from moderate nitrogen. These are your medium feeders.
  3. When the nitrogen is nearly depleted, bring in the candy addicts. These plants can’t handle much nitrogen, but they love it so much they’ll suck every speck of it out of your beds. We call these light feeders, but they are really more like the cleanup crew.
  4. Once your bowl is empty, refill it and start the progression again. Grow nitrogen-fixing plants or add nitrogen-heavy amendments like fresh compost. Or do both.

Real Garden Crop Rotation

In a real garden scenario, this would look like adding a whole bunch of compost and fertilizer to your beds. Then, plant corn, followed by cucumbers, and finally turnips. Next, add more fertilizer and/or bring on the beans (or peas, or clover…).

If you spread this cycle over a four-year period, you have also created a rotation schedule that works for pathogen management by using four different families of plants.

Identify Heavy, Medium, and Light Feeders

When I tried to find a good list of plants by feeding type, I found a lot of discrepancies. I recommend you make your own lists based on what you actually plan to grow and on your own experience in your garden.

Whether you like big agribusiness or not, they sure know how to manage nitrogen for optimal production. Checking nitrogen application rates for commercial fertilizers is a great way to identify your feeder type (even if you won’t be using their products).

Here’s the list I used to glean this information. It’s geared for Wisconsin, but the general reference tables have universal utility.

Page 43 starts a table of nitrogen application rates for many common crops. Those rates change based on the amount of organic matter in soil. Compost-rich beds need less nitrogen than tilled dirt because the biological life in the soil continues to make nitrogen if soil is kept moist.

A table on page 30 tells you how much potassium and phosphorous plants need—as well as which plants will remove it from the soil—which conveniently brings us to our next topic!

Cover Crop - Crop Rotation

3. Rotate Cover Crops for Healthy Soil

In addition to rotating food crops, rotating cover crops is important for nutrient management. Different cover crops serve different functions.

Cover Crop to Remove Excess Potassium and Phosphorous

Compost adds humus and fertility to your garden. However, without good crop rotation, compost can overload soil with phosphorous and potassium in the long run. To prevent this, you need to rotate in plants that are effective at extracting those nutrients.

Alfalfa and red clover are exceptional at extracting potassium and good at extracting phosphorous. Hairy vetch and field peas are excellent for removing excess phosphorous. These plants are also potential nitrogen fixers.

For phosphorous and potassium removal, harvest the above-ground greens to feed your greens-eating livestock or add them to your compost pile for later application. Do not use them as chop-and-drop, or they will just end up right back in the soil. Always leave the roots in the ground, though, for nitrogen-fixing benefits.

Cover Crop to Add Nitrogen

Nitrogen fixers are plants that pull nitrogen from the air and store it in nodes on their roots. When the plants die, the nitrogen nodes decompose and release that stored nitrogen into the soil. Nitrogen fixers add more nitrogen when they are killed before they flower. If they set fruit (e.g., peas or beans), they are more like “nitrogen neutral.”

Nitrogen fixers work best when inoculated with a beneficial bacteria that encourages them to store more nitrogen. Planting rates are different for nitrogen fixing than for food production. To kill plants being used as nitrogen fixers, scythe or mow them to the ground. Leave roots in the ground and greens on the beds.

Cover Crop With a Biofumigant

Mustard is a beneficial biofumigant to break up soil pathogens and pest problems. Mustard also scavenges minerals in deeper soil and makes them available to plants that don’t root as deeply.

When using mustard as a biofumigant and mineral source, you need to purchase cover-crop mustard seeds (not edibles). Before the plants flower, cut them to the ground and gently turn them into your soil.

Cover Crop to Preserve Nitrogen

Grasses like wheat and annual rye are used as cover crops because of their ability to protect soil and scavenge nitrogen. While they don’t technically fix nitrogen like legumes, the biological organisms in your soil will quickly decompose those grasses if they are cut while green and allowed to decompose in the beds they were grown in. As the grass decomposes, it releases nitrogen into the soil at the surface, making it more readily available to next-round crops.

Choosing Your Cover Crop

Cover crops work best when selected based on either what you plan to grow next or on what you harvested, to correct for deficiencies. For example, corn is a heavy feeder. It sucks up nitrogen like a vacuum—as in, everything easily in reach.

After corn, wheat would be a good option. Wheat will pull nitrogen from all the areas the corn missed. If chopped and left on the bed, it decomposes and disperses that nitrogen more uniformly for the next planting (e.g., cucumbers).

Alternately, if nitrogen depletion is suspected, Austrian peas or clover used as a nitrogen fixer would work better than wheat. Rather than having a set schedule for cover crop rotation, make decisions based on the needs of your beds. There are fewer pests and pathogens in cooler weather, so strict rotations are not as necessary with winter cover crops.

Compost - Crop Rotation

4. Rotate Your Homemade Amendments by Crop Needs

If your main amendments are of the homemade variety, you also want to consider rotating the kinds of amendments you put on your beds along with your crops.

4 Types of Compost and Their Uses

Humus Compost

Humus compost is the stuff made by layering browns and greens at a ratio of 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, making a large pile that heats to at least 130°F, turning it a few times, and then allowing it to age for 2 years. Humus increases the air- and water-holding capacity of soil and allows biological life to thrive. This kind of humus compost doesn’t have a lot of nitrogen.

Fresh Compost

The biological life that makes compost also creates nitrogen through their digestive processes. The longer a pile ages, the more nitrogen and other nutrients leach out by way of rain, air, etc. Fresh compost is made by the same process as humus compost. It’s just been aged less than six months and so has more nitrogen.

Composted Manure

Composted manure—i.e., a pile of manure mixed with fallen feed and bedding materials not necessarily at a rate of 25:1—can radically vary in nitrogen and nutrient content. Store-bought chicken manure has a 3-2-3 rating for NPK. Meanwhile, uncomposted chicken manure could have an NPK rating of 40-60-40, 55-55-47, or other variations.

Personally, I use a mix of chicken and goat manure that’s been aged for 3-6 months as a nitrogen source. I don’t know the exact nitrogen content, but it doesn’t burn my plants and it grows huge corn and cabbage.

Mystery Compost

Mystery compost happens when you throw a bunch of stuff together and wait. The nitrogen content will vary by what’s in the pile and what decomposed it. You could just throw it on your beds fairly fresh and hope you get lucky! Or, you could age it and use it for humus.

With these compost definitions out of the way, on to when to use them for nutrient management crop rotation.

Rotating Compost Applications for Nutrient Management

Here’s what my amendment rotations generally look like:

Year 1: Apply 4 inches of fresh or manure compost.

The risks from E. coli and other bad bacteria are minimized if your compost materials are 6 months old when your food is harvested. If you are growing lettuce, aim for 6-month-old compost to start. If you are growing vegetables like winter squash, aim for 3-month-old compost, because it will be over 6 months old by the time you harvest.

Year 2: Apply 2-4 inches of humus compost

Humus compost will still provide some nitrogen and other nutrients. Mainly though, it will help preserve any leftover nitrogen from the fresh compost in year 1 and replace the organic matter you harvested.

Year 3: Apply 2 inches of mulch to preserve moisture.

By year 3 in this plan, you are organic-matter heavy. You may also have extra potassium and phosphorous. For light feeders, just use mulch to protect your soil and preserve moisture rather than piling on compost.

Mulch is essentially browns with no greens. Straw, leaves, or wood chips work well. Mulch will eventually decompose and add nutrients, but not within the planting period that you apply it.

Year 4: Add nitrogen; remove phosphorous and potassium.

This is when you want to plant your nitrogen-fixing, phosphorous- and potassium-extracting cover crops.

Personally, I like to eat some peas and beans, too. I plant peas and beans to eat in early spring through mid-summer. I cover-crop from late summer through winter. I mulch the plants I grow for me and leave them on the beds. I remove the greens and leave the roots from my cover crops.

Year 5: Soil test and repeat.

Start the cycle again. But first, get another soil test and make adjustments as necessary. That second soil test is like a report card on how you are doing with your crop rotations for nutrient management.

Be Flexible in Your Use of Amendments

Just like with cover-crop rotations, if your beds seem depleted, then you may need to add fresh compost rather than humus compost. You may want to add humus compost rather than mulch if your beds feel dirt heavy and humus short. You may also need to up your game at times and apply worm castings or other stronger amendments. Use the health of your crops as your guide.

Crop-Rotation Conversation—What Do You Think?

To do crop rotation really well, you need to make it specific to your soil, pests, pathogen risks, crops, and amendments. There’s no canned crop-rotation plan that is going to work well for every garden.

Personally, I love the challenge of figuring out effective crop rotations. Gardening could get boring really fast if you weren’t taking your skills to the next level, paying attention to your plants, and improving your processes.

My intent with this series has been to inspire you with some of my crop-rotation concepts. Now, I’d like to hear from you!

What kind of rotations are you thinking of, what are you using now, and what is your intuition telling you? What works? What doesn’t?

(Also, include your growing region and soil type (loam, sand, clay) if possible so others can decide whether your ideas will work for them. I started with clay, but now have what I call clay-loam.)

Please join the conversation on crop rotation and share your comments below!

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Battling Mosquitoes – 3 Great Ways To Protect Your Backyard Naturally

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When it comes to defending your outdoor living space from pests, nothing quite compares to battling mosquitoes. Whether it’s working in the garden, sitting under the pavilion, or enjoying a night around the fire pit, we love to be outdoors.

The post Battling Mosquitoes – 3 Great Ways To Protect Your Backyard Naturally appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Companion Planting Favorites (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!)

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What Are Your Favorite Combinations for Companion Planting?

Recently on the site, we’ve been talking about Three Sisters Gardens. Of course, this classic symbiosis is a great example of companion planting …

… which got us wondering …

… what do you do in YOUR garden?

You let us know in your replies to TGN’s March Question of the Month.

Answers encompassed a range of uses for companion planting—from keeping pests away to extending the season by providing shade.

Here’s how your fellow TGN Community members put companion planting to work for them:

  • Frances Graham has found that interplanting herb barbara (Barbarea vulgaris) with brassicas helps keep whiteflies under control.
  • Scott Sexton uses a number of planting combinations to his advantage: “I like strawberries with blueberries. I also like comfrey with my fruit trees. It helps shade out the grass. I’m planning on trying a muscadine cultivar growing up my fruit trees. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it will work. They’d be growing up trees in nature. I’ve had some unintentional overlap between my passion flowers and sunchokes. The passion vines climb up the sunchoke stalks, and they both die back in the winter. So far, they both seem to be okay with the situation.”
  • Tasha Greer uses a clever trick to provide a microclimate for her arugula in warm weather: “Since I am a total arugula addict and really want to eat it year-round, I discovered a trick for germinating arugula outdoors, even in mid-summer. I interplant my arugula with buckwheat. The buckwheat comes up quickly, providing some shade and a bit of a microclimate for the arugula. I don’t know if this will work in extreme heat, but it has worked for me in 80-90ºFtemperatures as long as I keep my buckwheat/arugula patch well-watered.

Read More: “Growing Arugula: The Rocket in Your Salad Bowl and Garden (With Recipe)”

  • Marjory Wildcraft offers this tip for keeping lettuce from bolting so quickly when the weather warms up: “Lightly shading lettuce plants can provide enough of a temperature drop to keep them from bolting, sometimes up to 3-5 weeks. Shade can be from a shade cloth or a row cover on a low tunnel, or by companion planting tall, wide-leafed plants such as some types of pumpkin.”

Read More: “Growing Lettuce From Seed”

  • Riesah likes growing strawberries and asparagus in the same bed, and Kathy does the same with tomatoes, peppers, and lettuces.
  • Carolyn says she gets better crops of both basil and tomatoes when she plants them together. “Although,” she says, “marigolds with about anything is good, too.”
  • Willow likes marigolds, too, and says she places them in her bed borders or rows about every 3 feet. “They work for the broadest spectrum of insects in all stages.” She also interplants mint and chives among her crops, and says she’s found that “plants that taste good together, grow well together.” For example, squash grows well with dill and garlic.
  • Sdmherblady interplants marigolds with bush beans, and also grows carrots and onions together. “I had read they are great companions,” she says. “They repel each other’s biggest insect pests.  I had my doubts, as they are both root crops and I thought they would compete for specific nutrients. But planting them in an alternating grid pattern worked fantastic. Both crops produced very well, made large healthy roots, and there were NO pests to be seen throughout the entire bed.”

What about you? What crops do you plant together, and why? Let us know in the comments!

 

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The Top 10 Foods to NOT Store!

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Based on my own personal experiences and mistakes, I do not recommend storing these foods in large quantities, long-term. Let me know what you think of my list and what other foods you would add. Foods to not store, long-term 1.  Any canned vegetable or fruit that you do not like This may seem obvious, […]

Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 1: Pest Control and Pathogen Prevention

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I am betting that you’re already familiar with the idea of crop rotation. You may have seen large swaths of farm fields covered with corn one year and soybeans the next. That is crop rotation as its most basic level.

Corn is a nitrogen hog and soybeans are a nitrogen fixer. By planting them back-to-back, you help regulate the nitrogen levels in soil, while producing two important food staples.

More sophisticated monoculture rotations include corn, soybeans, wheat, a different nitrogen fixer (other legumes). Some even include using the fields to grow grasses and graze horses or cattle for several years before planting again. This practice of incorporating animal grazing is still fairly common in my region.

Though we often associate crop rotation with industrial farming, the idea of rotating fields is an ancient practice. The early rendition is often referred to as “food, feed, fallow” and has been traced back to ancient Rome.

Essentially, in the first year farmers would grow crops for humans. The second year they would grow grains and graze animals. The third year, they’d let the field rest so the manure age. Then the cycle would start again.

Farmers – and more recently gardeners — have been experimenting with crop rotations to varying degrees since those ancient times. In this three part blog series, I am going to go over some of the main reasons why crop rotation is important and how you can do your crop experimentation at home.

Making your own crop rotation plan based on what you are growing and how you are growing it will get you much better results than following  pre-fab rotational plans made by others who may not have the same challenges as you. That’s because we all have different pest pressure, different pathogen risks, and different ways of amending and tending our gardens.

So, let’s dig into the details of how to create your own crop rotation plan at home.

Why Use Crop Rotation?

There are three primary reasons why people use crop rotation. These include pest prevention, pathogen control, and nutrient management. Let’s get started by examining pest control.

Pest Control – Rotate Your Planting Times

One of the most common reasons to rotate crops is for pest control. If you were growing a large field of pesticide-free cabbage in the same location, year after year, I bet you’ll end up with a severe cabbage moth problem.

A single cabbage moth can lay 2500 eggs in a season. Even if you are diligent at picking off eggs, let’s say you miss some and ten female cabbage moths make it to maturity and begin to reproduce. Each of them also lays 2500 eggs and has 10 females (and a few males) make it to reproduction. This goes on for a few seasons.

Even with just a minuscule number of survivors, from 1 moth, you jump to 10 moths, from 10 moths to 100, from 100 moths to 1000 in just four seasons. Instead of picking off 2500 eggs, you now have to pick off 2,500,000 eggs! In a field full of cabbage, finding all those eggs is impossible and so the problem grows.

Luckily, it’s easy to break this cycle. Since cabbage moth larva feed pretty exclusively on brassicas or cole crops, take away their food supply and the cabbage moths will have no place to lay their eggs. Without suitable host plants for their eggs, the moths will fly off and look for a better place to lay. Viola, pest problem solved!

Why Field Crop Rotation Practices Will not Help the Home Gardener

For the home garden, though, crop rotation for pest management has to be a bit more strategic than just changing planting locations from year to year. Here’s why.

Let’s say you have a 20 x 20 foot garden. Even if you plant cabbage at the top of your garden one year, and the bottom of your garden the next, cabbage moths still only have to fly 20-40 feet to lay their eggs on a host plant. My garden is 100 x 60 feet and cabbage moths fly over the entire area and then go visit my flower patches an acre away. Trust me, 20-40 feet of difference in planting location isn’t going discourage cabbage moths.

How to Use Crop Rotation Strategies for Pest Control in a Small Garden

For crop rotation to be effective in a small garden, you need to think beyond rotating rows and instead think about rotating the timing of your planting to break up the reproductive cycles and prevent infestations.

To do this, you need to know the life cycle for the pest you are trying to control.

As an example, the cabbage moth typically has two generations of offspring each year. The first starts in mid-spring and the second in late summer. If you are planting cabbage in both spring and fall, you are literally offering cabbage moths the perfect conditions to increase their numbers from year to year.

Strategy 1: Shift your Planting Season

A good rotation strategy for controlling cabbage moths and still getting an annual cabbage crop would be to plant in spring one year and fall the next year. By doing this, you cut off the larva food supply during two reproductive cycles back-to-back. Cabbage moths either get the clue and move on or they fail to reproduce successfully. Either way, you win!

Strategy 2: Start Early or Late using Larger Transplants

If you must plant cabbage in both spring and fall, then starting earlier or later can help. Mature plants can withstand more insect damage than smaller plants. By transplanting larger plants into prepared soil before the cabbage moths begin laying, you can increase your yeilds by giving plants a head start over moths.

The challenge with this strategy  is that cabbage doesn’t always transplant well after it gets bigger. Growth may be stunted plants may suffer shock.

Using paper pots that will quickly decompose in the soil can help limit root damage.

Growing transplants in extremely loose planting medium can also make it easier to relocate plants without causing root damage. Note, loose soil medium often requires more watering and nutrient management than heavier mixes.

Strategy 3: Use Observation and Experience to Create Pest Prevention Rotations That Work

Here’s another example to help you figure out how to use the idea of crop rotation for pest control in your garden.

Our first year here, we planted potatoes in an area that had once been covered with crabgrass. We tilled up the soil, amended with compost, and started planting.

Unfortunately, I barely got any potatoes because we ended up with an infestation of wire worms. Those orange mealy-worm-looking guys love living in the roots of grass. It’s like the wire worm equivalent of a nice little house in the suburbs.

Well, when I swapped their suburban grass roots for potatoes, it was like I took those root eaters to Vegas and told them to have a great time on my tab. They went crazy, decimated my potatoes, and exploded their population in the process. Wire worms gone wild in my potato patch…Yikes!

That experience taught me something though. Don’t plant potatoes after grasses if you have wire worms! Since corn, sorghum, and wheat are grasses, I don’t plant potatoes after those plants for at least two years as a habit now.

Strategy 4: Keep Adapting Your Rotation Plan for New Pests

Good crop rotation for pest management is not just a “set and forget it” kind of activity. It’s something you’ll need to update as new pests make their way into your landscape.

Last year I saw my first blister beetle. Actually, I saw hundreds of them. They were demolishing the leaves of my potato plants. This brand new pest had sailed in and started devouring plants that I’d been growing diligently for over three months.

Well, I wasn’t going to have that! So, I got a bowl of water and started knocking them into it.

My chickens love eating all sorts of beetles. I was about to take those pesky pests to my chickens, when some inkling of intuition told me to identify them first. I covered the bowl and hit the computer.

First site I found started with something like “lethal to livestock”. They call them “blister beetles” because they cause blisters if you squish them by hand. The same substance that causes blisters in humans can kill a chicken with the smallest taste and even take out cattle with large infestations.

More research revealed that pigweed is a host plant for these bugs. I wasn’t growing pigweed, but I was growing Elephant Nose amaranth – pigweed’s city cousin – right next to my potatoes.

I went back to the garden, checked my amaranth plants and discovered even more blister beetles. They were covered with them. Except the blister beetles weren’t eating the amaranth – they were just living there and going across to the neighbors for dinner (e.g. my potatoes). I had found their secret hideout!

Well, down came the amaranth, and out went the blister beetles. I had to pick some more off my potato plants since they apparently hadn’t gotten the memo that I’d destroyed their habitat. However, they didn’t return once I removed the amaranth from my garden.

I had been using amaranth as an exotic edible to sell at the farmers market and as a trap plant for flea beetles since they like it a lot more than my other leafy greens. However, those blister beetles are such bad news that amaranth is now rotated out (of the garden) for good.

Steps For Making Your Own Pest Prevention Crop Rotational Schedule

As you can see, using crop rotation for pest control in a small garden is not just about moving plants to new locations. It is about managing pests by knowing their reproductive cycles, their food and habitat preferences, and using that understanding to plan useful rotations.

I Know it can be a bit tricky to figure it out at first. Try these tips to help plan your strategy.

  1. Start by identifying your most persistent pests.
  2. Study up on how the multiply, what they eat, and where they live.
  3. Use that knowledge to time your planting to interrupt reproductive cycles, limit the pests’ food supplies, and offer less hospitable habitat. Aim to break up at least one reproductive cycle to keep your populations in check. You may need longer interruptions for serious infestations.
  4. If your strategies effectively reduce pest populations, then incorporate them into your planting calendar and crop rotation plan.
  5. Repeat as necessary!

Other Examples of Pest Prevention Crop Rotations

Here are a couple other rotations I have figured out based on our pest pressure that might help you create your own rotations.

1. Squash Bugs

Squash bugs only have one reproductive cycle per year. However they are so good at hiding and flying large distances that it has proven impossible to control them with short interruptions.

Instead, we only grow plants in the curcurbit family for two years, then we take a year off.

We still hand-pick and kill squash beetles. We also  choose varieties like Seminole Pumpkin and a Virginia strain of Waltham Butternut Sqaush that seem less bothered by these pests than other squashes.

During our off year, I arrange to have others grow us squash and cucumbers in exchange for something we are growing. Or I buy from local farmers I trust.

After our yar break, we still have a few squash beetles that have  managed to stick around or found us again. However, their numbers are low and controlling them is easier! This strategy seems to prevent squash borers too.

2. Mexican Bean Beetle

I thought I’d struck gold when I first saw these yellow lady bug looking insects moving in to my garden. Who wouldn’t want thousands of beneficial lady beetles to come eat your aphids and other pests?

Except, these lady beetles were the one kind that is not beneficial to your garden. These were Mexican Bean Beetles. Within days they had consumed by bean leaves and desiccated my vines.

I tried to pick them off.  Since I had planted the three sisters (beans, squash, and corn), I couldn’t find them all and their population exploded (as described for cabbage moths above).

Well, then I noticed that they had left a few plants mostly unscathed. Those were the plants running along my fence, planted on their own, mostly for aesthetic purpose, that I’d been watering regularly because they were closer to my water barrel.

The next year I planted a bunch of beans in a plot by themselves. I neglected them – no watering, no weeding. Those sad little plants still managed to grow and even produce, but they were clearly quite stressed.

When the bean beetles emerged, they went straight for my sad little bean patch. I waited until they had laid their eggs and saw a few larva crawling on the plants. Then I yanked those plants and burned them!

After that I planted my real beans in a different location. I treated my new plants like royalty to ensure good health.  I still had a few bean beetles show up on my well-cared for real beans.  Since I planted those beans on flat trellises rather than as a companion planting, I picked survivors off with ease.

This strategy worked well because bean beetles do most of their laying in June in my area. This still left me plenty of time to plant and grow beans late in the season.

Since I am planting beans later when our temperatures are warmer, I choose varieties that germinate in warmer temperatures and can take the heat. Cowpeas always germinate in high heat, but there are other varieties that work well like scarlet runner beans.

Final Words on Crop Rotation for Pest Control

This might seem like a lot of information to take in.  But I have literally just shared my entire crop rotation plan for controlling pests in my garden.

  1. I use seasonal cabbage rotations to control cabbage moths.
  2. I rotated amaranth out of the vegetable garden permanently.
  3. I take a year off after two years of growing curcurbits.
  4. I grow a trap plant for Mexican Bean beetles and plant my my real bean crop after the mating season for this troublesome pest has passed.

I have a few more pests that visit my garden like Harlequin bugs, aphids, and tomato hornworms. Luckily, their populations are so small, that hand picking is sufficient to keep them in check.

You won’t need to use crop rotation practices for every pest you have, just those that interfere with your production (or that might be dangerous to livestock, like blister beetles). However, there are two other big reasons why good crop rotation is important. And we’ll get to those – pathogen control and nutrition management – in our next two posts.

What kind of insect pests are you dealing with in your garden? Do you use crop rotation to help manage them already? What works? Or has this post sparked some new ideas you might try this year? Please share your challenges, ideas, and successes using the comment area below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

The post Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 1: Pest Control and Pathogen Prevention appeared first on The Grow Network.

Your Questions, Answered!

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Okay, so I’m not going to lie—I had a blast a couple of nights ago at TGN’s Ask Me Anything! podcast. This is the first time we’ve used this format (think homesteading meets Car Talk), and it really went well.

David the Good and I answered questions on no-till gardening solutions for heavy clay soils, what to look for in a permaculture design course, how to deal with underground hornets’ nests, what exactly you should and shouldn’t add to your compost pile (are all those rules really necessary?!) … the list goes on and on!

Being able to connect with David and me like this every month is a perk of our Honors Lab subscription, but there were so many good questions (and … dare I say it … so many good answers!!! 😉 ) that I thought you might enjoy reading the transcript!

Read the Ask Me Anything! Podcast Transcript Here

(Oh, and if you want to join the Honors Lab and get it on the fun next month, you can subscribe here. It’s just $9.95 a month … and you get so, so much more than just an invitation to each month’s Ask Me Anything! podcast!)

 

The post Your Questions, Answered! appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Laws of Nature: A Touchstone for Gardening

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As a rule, when we grow plants, we follow some known practices. The practices may be based on our own experience, on the wisdom of our parents and grandparents, or on scientific research. Whatever the source, it is useful to examine the practices through the lens of the Laws of Nature, sometimes referred to as ecological principles.

The Laws of Nature are broad and substantive statements for how nature functions.

So the question becomes, “Are our plant-growing practices in harmony with or in conflict with the Laws of Nature?”

What other criteria would we use for how we treat our lands, the soils, and all ecosystems, if not the Laws of Nature?

I think of this as a pyramid, with practices on the top, undergirded by Laws of Nature criteria. Then, the practices and Laws are undergirded by our personal land-use ethics.

9 Laws of Nature

Below, I’ve listed nine Laws of Nature.

This list is not fully inclusive; some may seem to be more pertinent than others; and someone else may choose to describe them in a different manner. Nevertheless, they are all statements that hold true, with rare exceptions.

In my garden, if a practice violates a Law of Nature, I look for a substitute practice that is in harmony with the Law.

This broad topic has deep implications and is worthy of further study. The more we understand and apply these Laws, the more we can grow healthier crops, become healthier ourselves, and more fully appreciate the magnificence of nature.

Calvin Bey - Harmony Gardens

#1: Everything in Nature Is Connected

It’s like a huge spider web. Every spot on the web is connected to the whole web. All the factors effecting growth and development—from the minerals in the air to the plant’s physiological processes to the soil microbes to hundreds of additional factors—are all part of the whole.

The implications of this concept are significant.

For example, apply too much nitrogen and the plants get a pretty green color, but at the same time produce an excessive amount of simple carbohydrates, which are ideal foods for the ever-present aphids.

Chemicals and other toxins that reduce soil microorganisms have impacts on soil mineralization and soil digestion processes, which all affect quality and quantity of production. For example, if your soil has a shortage of available calcium, a tomato plant is not likely to set fruit.

Laws of Nature - Mile-High Corn - Calvin Bey

#2: Plants Are Designed to be Healthy

Like humans and other living organisms, plants have an immune system that makes them resistant to insects and diseases that are native to their environment. Plants become weak and sick when they become stressed because of environmental factors, inadequate nutrition, and/or exposure to toxins.

Chemical pesticides and fertilizers create plant and soil conditions that are not conducive to the desirable bacteria and fungi in the soil. The soil microbiome is part of the plant’s defense mechanism.

#3: Insects and Disease Are the Appropriate Response to the Existing Conditions

Insect problems and disease are the result of plant weakness, not the cause of plant weakness. When we improve the conditions, we improve plant resistance. Diseases are nature’s demolition crew and insects are nature’s garbage collectors. Both are appropriate when plants are stressed. Unhealthy plants actually send signals to the insects so they can perform their meaningful designed role.

#4: Mineral Nutrition Supports Plant Immunity

When plant growth is supported with proper mineral nutrition, plants will create higher-order compounds—for example, plant secondary metabolites like essential oils. This and other enzyme developments can lead to optimum levels of health and immunity.

The thousands of enzymes needed in metabolic processes each require a mineral “enzyme cofactor” to function. Without the mineral cofactors, enzyme pathways collapse and plants accumulate soluble compounds in plant sap, leading to pest infestations as plant health begins to fall apart.

#5: Microbial Metabolites Are More Efficient Than Simple Ions as a Source of Nutrition

The ultimate level of plant nutrition and immunity exists when plants can absorb the majority of their nutritional requirements as microbial metabolites. In this model, the soil microbial community serves as the plant’s digestive system. A complex community of soil microorganisms digest and break down organic residues and plant root exudates. In this digestive process, minerals are extracted from the soil mineral matrix and released in a bioavailable form that plants absorb and utilize very efficiently.

Laws of Nature - Strawberry Harvest - Calvin Bey

#6: When Fruit Quality Improves, Yields Increase

When management emphasis is placed on plant nutrition to improve quality, the immunity of the crop increases, creating higher yields, longer produce shelf-life, improved flavor, and reduced dependence on pesticides.

This fundamentally different approach to plant nutrition can lead to yield increases ranging from 10–30 percent. Yield increases come in not only bushels per acre, but also in higher test weights, increased protein production, and increased nutrition per acre.

#7: Healthy Plants Create Healthy Soil—an Investment in Their Own Future

It is commonly understood that healthy soils create healthy plants. The reverse is also true.

Healthy plants create healthy soils.

Healthy plants with high levels of energy can, at times, send as much as 70 percent of their total photosynthates (manifested as sugars, amino acids, and other compounds) into the roots, and then out through the roots and into the soil. Those root exudates are the fuel that feed the soil microbial community and lead to the rapid formation of organic matter.

This process, called carbon induction, is the fastest and most efficient way to sequester carbon and build soil organic matter.

It is an advantage to the plants to invest in soil building. Root exudates rapidly build humic substances. Humic compounds last in the soils for many years. In the end, the entire process ends up rapidly building soil health. It’s another win-win for nature.

#8: Genetic Variability in Plants Serves as a Buffering System

Plant variability allows for selective fitting of plant genetics to specific qualitative differences in the environment. It’s like an insurance plan, with the goal of increased probability of improved plant survival and growth. There are positive synergistic effects, above and below ground, that result from creating diversity through the mixing of species.

#9: Weeds Are a Barometer of Soil Health

We know that different crops have different soil, mineral, and soil biology requirements. So, too, with weeds. When compared to healthy domesticated crops, weeds are usually pioneering (first to enter) species that thrive in soils with imbalanced microbial and nutritional profiles. As soil health improves, crops will improve and weeds will lose their vigor. The weeds are no longer needed to correct the soil imbalances.

Laws of Nature - Harvest Basket - Calvin Bey

Take-Home Lessons

To sum up how nature functions in nine Laws certainly does not do justice to the topic nor does it show the magnificence of nature. Still, despite the inadequacies, the nine Laws are sufficient to provide guidance as to which gardening practices fit the Laws of Nature model.

The following list of gardening practices, which I use in my natural/organic garden in Northwest Arkansas, respect the Laws of Nature. Furthermore, the practices fit my personal land-ethics values.

I do these things to eat healthy food, to teach others, and especially for the children and future generations.

I hope you will consider joining in the transformation.

  1. Use no or at least minimum tillage. Never use a roto-tiller. Besides destroying the natural soil structure, roto-tillers will seriously damage the beneficial fungi in all kinds of soil situations.
  2. Keep the soil covered with a vegetable crop, cover crop, or some type of organic mulch at all times. This practice will promote soil microbial life.
  3. Keep something growing on the beds for as long as possible throughout the year. Where you can, grow crops specifically for deep-root penetration and/or high carbon production.
  4. Wherever possible, encourage diversity of species. Use companion planting where you can.
  5. Use organic fertilizers, compost (sparingly), bio-pesticides (if needed), filtered or structured water, foliar fertilizer sprays, natural biologicals for organic matter decomposition, and natural amendments (like paramagnetic rock) for plant fortification.
  6. Among all things, “communicate” with your garden through positive intentions. Remember: “Thoughts become actions. Choose the good ones.”

Thanks to John Kempf of Advancing Eco-Agriculture (www.advancingecoag) for some of the ideas included in this article.

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Insect Populations Plummet 75 Percent; ‘Cascading Effects’ On Food Chain

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Insect Populations Plummet 75 Percent; ‘Cascading Effects’ On Food Chain

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More than 75 percent of the flying insects in German nature reserves have been wiped out in the past 27 years according to a published in the scientific journal PLOS that also asserts the problem – if worldwide – could have a negative effect globally.

“The flying insect community as a whole … has been decimated over the last few decades,” researchers from Radboud University and the Entomological Society Krefeld reported. At the end of the study, flying insect populations were 25 percent of what they were at the beginning.

The Survival Lantern That’s Far Safer Than Candles

“Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services,” the researchers stated.

The falling insect population — which includes honeybees — might affect human supplies because bees and other flying bugs are needed to pollinate crops.

“There’s no reason to think this isn’t happening everywhere,” Tanya Latty, researcher and teaching fellow at Sydney University’s School of Life and Environment Sciences, told CNN. “If you see these sort of dramatic declines in protected areas, it makes me worry that this (trend) could be everywhere.”

“We don’t often think about insects other than ‘eww, an insect,’” Latty said. “But these are the organisms running the world. Insects pollinate the crops we eat, they contribute to pest control, we’d have to use more pesticide. They’re even crucial in waste control — most of the waste in urban areas is taken care of by ants and cockroaches.”

Said researcher Caspar Hallman, “These are not agricultural areas, these are locations meant to preserve biodiversity, but still we see the insects slipping out of our hands.”

What is your reaction? Share it in the section below:

How To Teach Your Kids About Bugs

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What is it about bugs that fascinates kids?

From a very young age, my two boys squished, squashed, and saved bugs of all kinds. They are curious knowledge-seekers always asking me questions about their latest bug find. Here is a quick way to teach your kids about bugs:

The questions you’ll get:

What is this bug?

Why is it fuzzy?

Can it fly?

Use this natural curiosity to teach them to observe the world around them. Expand these lessons to broaden their young minds and feed their curiosity.

kids-bugs

Look what I found!

Holding a kid’s interest can be challenging, especially when they are small and energetic. They constantly bounce from one subject to the next. But when they find something that interests them, they can obsess about it for days.

How to guide their interest

Similar to garden work, bugs are perfect tools to introduce science and biology to kids in a fun and engaging way. Grab an insect field guide or a laptop, and help kids identify the bug they found. They can learn so much, and you can tailor the information to their age.

  • Count the legs and talk about how all true bugs have six legs.
  • Identify the parts of the insect: head, abdomen, and thorax.
  • Discuss how bees and butterflies help plants grow and fruit ripen.
  • Ask them to sketch the bug they found or build it out of Legos®.
  • Give them a journal to write down a few interesting facts about the bug.

My boys love to catch butterflies. We spent one afternoon finding, catching, and looking them up on the Internet, and in a few field guides. We learned about pollination, which led to a mini-lesson on how fruits and vegetables ripen. Naturally, we picked some fresh berries to snack on when we were done.

kids-bugs

Do they bite?

Sometimes fascination can lead to fear if a kid touches a bug they shouldn’t or gets stung by a territorial bee. Teaching them to “look before they leap” is a great lead into a lesson about the social hierarchy of the insect world.

  1. Tell them why bees sting.
  2. Talk about the different kinds of bees in a hive.
  3. Did you know?
  • Worker bees are all female
  • Drones are all male and don’t have stingers
  • The Queen rarely leaves the hive

Talking about the dangers of some bugs will make kids more cautious and less afraid of being stung or bitten. Knowing what to do when a bee comes near takes the fear out of being stung.

Friend or Foe?

Just like kids, every bug behaves differently. Teaching kids to observe bug behavior is another great learning tool.

Through careful observation, we learn whether the bug is a friend or foe in the garden.

It’s easy to see that bees and butterflies are beneficial. They fly and flutter from plant to plant leaving no sign of damage. We don’t feel the urge to squish them because we know they help.

But what about the bugs we don’t recognize?

It’s important for kids to learn to observe before interacting, so they don’t harm a helper.

Ask them to be bug hunters

They can search the ground under a pumpkin patch for squash bugs and watch as they swarm all over the stems and leaves. They can hunt for eggs by turning over and inspecting the backs of the leaves.

Talk to them about the harm that these bugs do to squash plants and ask them to think of ways to combat them naturally. Squishing squash bug eggs is highly satisfying and fun for all!

Some damage is easier to recognize

Japanese beetles swarm and cover leaves and their damage are almost instantly seen. Grab a bucket of soapy water and give the kids a mission to get as many beetles in the water as possible. The little buggers can’t swim.

Where do they come from?

Life cycles are another topic we can introduce through bugs. Turn the study of life cycles into a research project and science experiment.

  • Ask the kids to find a caterpillar and put it in their bughouse.
  • Make sure they take notes on the habitat, so they know what to feed them. It is usually the plant they were found on.
  • Grab some field guides and do a Google search to identify the type of caterpillar.
  • Teach them the difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon.
  • Ask them to keep a journal of daily changes.

If you are lucky, the caterpillar will build a chrysalis or a cocoon, and a butterfly or moth will emerge after a few weeks. Raising butterflies is an amazing experience for the kids (and adults).

Life Lessons

By embracing the natural curiosity about bugs, we teach kids to work with nature rather than against it. We model “observing” before “interacting.” They learn that even the tiniest creature can help make a difference in the natural world.

I like bugs and squiggly things

Beetles with horns and moths with wings

Caterpillars and bumblebees

Dragonflies and ants and fleas

I love creepy crawlies

I love bugs!

kids-bugs

Did you miss the article on Kids and Gardening? Check it out here!

How do you teach kids about the natural world? Tell us in the comments below.

Resources:

*Songs about Insects Bugs and Squiggly Things

Holmgren, Dave, Essence of Permaculture

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Eating Bugs and Offal

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Eating Bugs and Offal Micheal Kline “Reality Check” Audio player below This show might make you queasy.   If you are squeamish you might not like this one, but it’s a subject that needs to be covered and something you might benefit from. So why talk about this?  Why bother? Listen to this broadcast or download … Continue reading Eating Bugs and Offal

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What To Do With A Bee Swarm!

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Have you ever come across a bee swarm? It can be scary, exciting, and overwhelming. What do you do?

All of us at The Grow Network do various kinds of homesteading. Nikki, our Director of Customer Success, is … among other things … a beekeeper. A few weeks ago, she shared with us that the bees from one of her hives had swarmed.

Nikki’s Story

bee-swarm

Those little brown specs are bees flying all over the place.

Nikki said, “We have 2 hives in the yard, and one decided it was going to swarm to the top of our sycamore tree in the backyard today.”

With the height of her tree and the size of the ladder, it was going to be quite an ordeal reaching them.

She decided to sacrifice her 13 year old, and sent him up the tree. She jokingly said, “I am officially okay with being shorter than my kids now!”

Her son had to rig the ladder with a tie down strap in the truck.

He used his body weight to hold the ladder straight. There wasn’t a branch to rest it on. Her other son took the cutters and took down the branches. They worked together on two separate branches.

There were so many bees that their weight broke one branch just before her son had a chance to fully cut through. This sent thousands of bees raining down on top of her.

“This hive has the potential to give us more than 100 pounds of honey this year, so we definitely didn’t want to see the bees relocate. Now, they are safe and sound in a new hive. We are re-queening the other two hives we have, and hoping to have 3 healthy and hard-working hives,” Nikki said.

It sounds like everyone is trying to settle down from the experience.

bee swarm

Nikki said she wishes she had seen Jacqueline Freeman’s presentation at the Home Grown Food Summit before she had a swarm of bees on her hands, but all worked out well.

What? You haven’t seen Jacqueline’s Home Grown Food Summit Presentation, “Gentle Ways to Collect Bee Swarms.”  She is so gentle with these little buzzing sweeties. You can still get in on this goodness, click here.

Why bees swarm

According to Jacqueline, it’s very natural for bees to swarm. Bees swarm because there is no more room for them. Their home is full of honey, pollen, and brood (baby bees).

The good thing is that healthy and successful colonies create more healthy Queens and new colonies, so it’s a good thing for a hive to swarm.

Before they swarm, the Queen is slimmed down. All of the bees have a feast and fill their bellies with honey. Two-thirds of the colony will suddenly fly into the air. One-third stays in the original hive and re-queen. Bees will only leave the hive if there are new queen cells in the hive.

The other reason that bees swarm is so the queen can increase her fertility, and sunlight does that for her.

When do bees swarm

Jacqueline says that a swarm is a big, bunch of chaos that typically takes flight in mid-spring, around mid-day. There needs to be a lot of pollen available. It also needs to be warm and windless. When they first leave the hive, they fly into the sky in a big, buzzing, whirling cloud of bees. Jacqueline’s amazed that they don’t bump into each other. The queen is hidden in the swarm, so she is well-protected.

Eventually, the bees land on some object, a branch, fence post, vine, or anything that looks like a good spot. The Queen directs the bees to gather and form a tight cluster on the object.  Jacqueline says it’s about the size of a football that is clasped to the branch. This is their resting spot for a few hours to a few days. Then, the scout bees roam around trying to find a suitable place to live.

Typically, bees that swarm are very gentle, according to Jacqueline. She said, in the hundreds of bee swarms that she has captured, she’s only been stung four times, and they were all her fault. A bee swarm is not likely to sting you.

How to catch a bee swarm

There is only one way to catch a bee swarm, according to Jacqueline…gently!

Here’s how she does it:

  1. First, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Be respectful. Let the bee swarm know what you are going to do, and how you’ll do it.
  2. Hold a catching box underneath the swarm.
  3. Give the branch a good shake. The swarm will regather in the box. Put the lid on and leave an opening, so bees can get in.
  4. Let the swarm rest for 10 to 30 minutes so as many bees as possible get in the box.

How to transfer a bee swarm to a new home

When you’re ready to transfer the bees, have your hive ready. Remove a couple of the frames to give you room. Hold the box over the new hive. Give the box a good shake so the swarm goes into their new home. Jacqueline shows you exactly how to do it in her video. Get access to it here.

 

More from Jacqueline Freeman:

Bees Need Water, Too!

 

 

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The post What To Do With A Bee Swarm! appeared first on The Grow Network.

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

The post Battling Summer Garden Pests Successfully – Without Harsh Chemicals! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

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 stopbmsb.org:

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.

From firefly.org:

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

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 heathline.com:

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 Mosquito.org:

  • 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

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!

 


Mantodea

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!

 

Conclusion

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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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.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Can Double Your Garden Yield!

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

Image source: Wikimedia

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

Basil. Image source: Pixabay.com

 

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

Lavender. Image source: Pixabay.com

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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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

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!)

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

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.

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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. http://doi.org/10.1016/S2221-1691(11)60001-4

[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.

 

 

CATERPILLARS

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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insect-hotel

“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.

If you appreciated this article, please help me by voting for Still Getting Ready! at topprepperwebsites.com

        

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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.

Sick of Pests Ruining Your Garden? Natural Pest Control is NOT a Dream!

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The Companion Planting and Natural Pest Control for Veggies can help you rid your garden of pests organically. You’ll learn 7 proven strategies for discouraging pests and 11 must have plants which attract good predatory insects. Get this comprehensive and gorgeous book today.

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 Pic by Martin LaBar