They hang out on tomato and cucumber plants, two foods I am likely to grow every single year because they are favorites in my family. I try to warn my husband when I’m on my way to harvest so that when he hears my screams he can safely assume it’s because these freaky bugs are pinging off of my head, once they can fly they’ll hurtle themselves at you.
As far as getting rid of them, it seems that all I’ve been able to do is minimize their population, I’ve never been able to successfully eliminate them from my Summer garden.
To minimize their presence I spray with Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) and compost tea. BT is a bacterium toxic to many insects but harmless to humans and animals. It is an approved organic gardening method of pest control. BT is available at any garden store, it comes in liquid concentrate so purchase a spray bottle as well. Dilute according to instructions and then either spray very early in the morning or after the sun sets in the evening. Never wet leaves before they’ll dry or when the sun is out because you’ll expose them to burns. Little water droplets act as a magnifying glass, add sunlight and you’ve got burned leaves. When you spray, concentrate on the underside of leaves, where bugs lay their eggs. If you have ripening fruit, spray well to provide protection from these and other insects who suck on them. While you’re spraying if you find clusters of amber eggs, squish them! Once it rains, you’ll need to spray again.
The compost tea is to help strengthen the plant. Healthy plants are less susceptible to attack from pests. You can make your own or purchase it from local nurseries. Compost tea can also be used as a soil drench to feed the microbes in the soil and boost soil-life health. Feeding microbes promotes their population and they are food for macro-organisms like earth worms who are expert composters in the garden.
Those stink bugs are actually called Leaf Footed Hoppers, and they are one annoying bug. Last year I learned that there are several visible stages of this bug. This is what they look like:
When they are in the orange/red nymph stage you can try and spray them with an organic-friendly pesticide and that may take out a few. What I like to try and do is grab as many as I can at any stage of their growing cycle (use gloves or tongs/tweezers because these little guys can pinch) and then dump them in a container with soapy water. Be careful though, when they are full grown they have wings and will fly directly at your face (I think it’s their defense mechanism to try and surprise you and take you off guard, at least that is what they do to me…). I have even heard of some people using a vacuum to suck them up and then dumping them in soapy water after that.
These guys normally show up in full force at the end of my spring growing season. By then I am somewhat tired and have eaten lots of tomatoes so I don’t fight them too hard. They leave your tomatoes with little indents in them. I believe the tomatoes are still edible if they aren’t completely covered, they just don’t look super nice and will not last as long sitting on your windowsill. With cherry tomatoes that have been attacked by these bugs I just toss them, but I try to save the larger ones because those are my favorite.
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