Aug 3: drought, pests, and some delicious veggies

(excerpt from our newsletter- to suscribe email feralfields@gmail.com)

Pest of the Week: Black Blister Beetle

Tis’ the season of many new pests.  While it can be a disheartening topic to discuss, we’ve also come become quite fascinated by each bug- and have tried to take the time to learn about each bug’s lifecycle, and how it typically behaves in one’s garden.  While we have lots of bugs to catch up on, we’ll start with our most recent find – Black Blister Beetles.

Last Friday I got a frantic sounding email from our neighbour saying, “We’ve got a new pest!”.  She explained how the “Black Blister Beetle” had found it’s way into her garden and began eating (quote), “everything!”.  At the time we hadn’t seen a single one of those beetles in our garden.  But that was Friday.

Then we went to hillside for 2 days, and the cottage for 3.

5 days is all it took for these little buggers to find their way into our chard patch and a few other crops, eat a bunch, and start to proliferate like mad.

Among the first things you find when looking these bugs up on the internet are pictures of blisters that these insects can cause due to the poisonous chemical “Cantharadin”, that resides in their insides.  Cantharadin is good for curing warts, and sometimes causes accidental death in horses. Luckily the black blister beetle is a type of blister beetle that produces very low levels cantharidin- but to be safe I’ve worn gloves when squishing them.

Adult blister beetles lay their eggs in soil, at sites utilized as “egg beds” for grasshoppers. The newly hatched blister beetle larva is tiny, but highly active and burrows into the soil. Upon finding an egg pod it subsequently molts to a sedentary, grub-like larval form that begins to feed. They eat 21-27 grasshopper eggs (hooray) and then go dormant the overwintering stage. In spring development resumes, pupation occurs, and the adults emerge in early-mid summer.  So these beetles we see are adults that are from last year…

Nothing in our garden is simple.  The beetle larvae feed grasshopper eggs, which is awesome for us because those are a major pest, but the adults we’re seeing are eating all our chard, starting on the beets, and threatening other things as well.  Online it says they like yellow flowers and flowering plants best- we’ve seen them mostly on our yellow chard.

We’ve been drowning them and squishing them all afternoon, which we both decided was a good idea.  I came inside to an email message that confirmed that though…

Hi Bethany,

I suggest you kill every last one of them before they get in
to your other crops.  I did a fair bit of reading about them
and they are not a good bug.  If you are squishing or picking
them up and putting them in soapy water make sure you
wear gloves because they do cause blisters.  Lucky for me
David spent a good portion of a day in the garden with a
vacuum cleaner on a long series of extension cords!  He
did a great job!

R

So that’s the black blister beetle- sounds like we’ll need to do some more work on them tomorrow.  We don’t have electricity at our garden so we’ll have to keep trying our old fashion ways of hand picking, squishing, and drowning.

Final fun fact: Blister beetle populations follow closely the abundance of grasshoppers the year previous which means that if we have a warm winter again and these pests survive there will be many more of these beetles next year.  Yikes!  So we’ll try to stop them while their population is low enough.

Swiss Chard, for a while, was our most pristine, bug-free, drought-resistant crop.  I suppose all good things must come to an end and soon we’ll have other great greens…

Recipes

Curried beans and potatoes

Ingredients:
3 Tbs. vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
4 cloves garlic (finely sliced)

1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/8 – 1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1 large potato (quartered and sliced)
1 qt. fresh beans (whole or chopped, with stems cut off)

Directions:
Heat oil in frying pan on medium-high heat. When hot add
mustard seeds.  As mustard seeds begin to pop add garlic,
stir until garlic turns golden.

Add remaining spices and potatoes. Stir for 1 minute.

Add the beans and mix thoroughly. Add small amounts of
water to keep beans from sticking and to help steam.
Cook until potatoes are tender. increase heat to evaporate
excess water.
Add salt to taste.

Fridge Pickles!

Ingredients:
2-3 medium cucumbers (sliced)
OR 1-2 summer squash (sliced)

Any combination of:
1/2 tsp. peppercorns
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp mustard seeds
1-2 garlic cloves
(peeled, whole)

1 Cup organic white or apple cider vinegar
1 Cup water
1 Tbs. kosher or sea salt.
OPTIONAL:
Add 1-2 tsp sugar or honey to taste if desired

Directions:

Prepare vegetables and pack into a mason jar or a sealable
container,

mix liquids and add spices, bring to a boil for 2 minutes.

Pour hot brine over vegetables and allow to cool to room
temp. cover and place in fridge. The longer you can leave your
pickles in the fridge, the more flavour will infuse into them.
(1-2 weeks is recommended, or you can eat them right away if
you cant resist!)

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