Blister beetles attacking Swiss chard in my kitchen garden.
For more about how to deal with blister beetles—and the many ways we use diatomaceous earth around the farm—check out this post.
Realization of the Day:
I knew better, I really did. Translation: I am a lazy gardening idiot.
There are several things that I block out each year once they're over, like lambing season, which is very cute but stressful and totally exhausting. Poisonous snake season. Chiggers and ticks and the unsightly, horribly itchy ankles they cause. Hot and humid Missouri summers that often last five months.
And blister beetles.
So when I saw a couple of blister beetles, which love hot, dry weather, trotting along the burned up grass near the sheep barn the other day, what did I do? Nothing.
What should I have done? Raced back to the garden and liberally doused the pepper plants, tomato plants, and Swiss chard, as well as the surrounding soil, with food grade diatomaceous earth (which we buy in 50-pound bags). These are the crops they seem to go after the most, although I know they also like beans.
Yesterday morning I went out to the garden and discovered that the ravenous blister beetles had arrived just in time for my birthday. The 4'x4' patch of densely planted, previously beautiful Swiss chard was teeming with them—and the leaves that hadn't been devoured were covered with their disgusting droppings. I found minor damage on a few tomato plants too.
I tossed handfuls of diatomaceous earth all over the chard leaves, and then sprinkled some around all the tomato and pepper plants, along with the eggplants just in case, and then went back inside to block out the depressing invasion and have some cake.
And then I got my birthday wish and it rained—and washed away all of the diatomaceous earth I'd just put out.
More below. . .
Even though I'd said I wasn't going back outside for the rest of the day (Did I mention the two big pepper plants the deer decimated? And the two little flowering birthday perennials I'd just bought myself that were eaten down to nothing while sitting in the greenhouse?), I went out last night and covered everything with DE again.
There were still quite a few blister beetles on the chard this morning, but they weren't moving very quickly. There was minor damage on a few nearby pepper and tomato plants, but not much—and I only saw a couple of beetles still on the plants.
I had really good luck last year using DE against the blister beetles, so I think the trick is to put it on before you have a bad infestation. At this point I'm just trying to keep them on the Swiss chard, which is already history, and away from everything else. And if I cut the chard back to the ground once the beetles are gone, it should grow back, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. If I cut it back now so it looks more depressing, the beetles will likely move on to something else.
For the last few years we've been drenching our sheep with a 50/50 mix of Garlic Barrier organic garlic juice and organic raw apple cider vinegar as a natural wormer and overall health tonic. The garlic juice is mainly used on agriculture crops, and I've been meaning to try it in the garden against various pests.
What I should have done yesterday was spray the plants with garlic juice and then dusted them with the DE. If the blister beetles haven't retreated by tomorrow, that's what I'll do next.
Last year a reader said she'd had good luck using organic spinosad spray on blister beetles, and I'm thinking about ordering some and trying it. It's supposed to work on lots of other garden pests too.
I can't remember how long the blister beetles stick around, but they usually arrive after a particularly hot and dry spell. I do know I'm already looking forward to when I can once again block them out of my mind for another year.
Do you have any tips or tricks for getting rid of blister beetles?
—Garden Journal 8/1/11: Attack! Using Organic Diatomaceous Earth on Blister Beetles and Other pests in the Garden and Around the House and Farm
© FarmgirlFare.com, where I just found a blister beetle crawling around on the kitchen floor. I think I need more birthday cake.