Pipi’s Pasture: The little gray bugs
A few years ago, some small gray insects invaded our garden here next to Pipi’s Pasture. It showed up first on a weed that I know as “pig weed,” eating the leaves off the plant until only the stem and veins of the leaves remained. I don’t know the identity of the insect, certainly it is not a true “bug,” but I’ve named it “the little gray bug.”
Watching the insects, I was reminded of the soldier characters in the “Star Wars” movies. After eating up the pig weed, the little gray bugs marched right up a row of spinach and gobbled it all up. Luckily, the bugs didn’t seem to care for most of the vegetables in the garden.
Years have passed without a sign of the little gray bugs, but guess what? A few mornings ago, while it was cool I was weeding the garden. I noticed some pig weed skeletons. Looking more closely I saw that the ground around the weed was “crawling with little gray bugs.” Then, alas, I noticed some of them on my green beans, and already a few of the leaves had taken on the skeleton look.
So I got out my vegetable powder and powdered the green beans. I powdered some of the pig weed that hadn’t been pulled up yet, and I powdered the ground where I saw the insects crawling around. I was a woman on a mission. Then I pulled up as many pig weed plants that time allowed.
When I came to the house, I felt a little sting on my side. I rubbed my side. I shook out my clothes.
I thought maybe I was getting rid of a mosquito. More stinging. Finally I found it — a single little gray bug that I had probably picked up from the pig weed. I got rid of the insect fast.
Since then I’ve been in the garden for a short while each morning. I haven’t seen any of the little gray bugs. The green beans are growing just fine. I’m still pulling pig weed with no sign of the insects. I wonder if the powdering scared them off. Maybe the insects will be back.
It is interesting how insect populations vary from year to year. This year there are lots of different kinds of bees here at Pipi’s Pasture. There are quite a few butterflies, too, including the type that lays eggs in cabbages, but I have seen only one lady bug. So far there aren’t any grasshoppers either.
Just a side note for people who are concerned about using vegetable powders: you can use ashes from a heating stove in place of the powder to control some insect pests. My dad, Kenneth Osborn, told me about using ashes one summer when I found holes in my cabbage leaves. I lightly powdered the leaves, and this alternative powder seemed to work.
More about the status of the little gray bugs later.
Some years we finish up the calving season with one or two bottle calves here at Pipi’s Pasture; some years we don’t have any. The “not any” years are lucky years because feeding a bottle calf is an expensive business, and it means an extra chore, too.