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striped BLISTER BEETLES on our tomatoes!

 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5550
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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We had settled into our hot and dry summer routine of watering, picking and squishing the occasional hornworm and stink bug, watering, protecting the blood peach trees (all bending to the ground with their load) from deer and more watering, trying to second guess what the deer will eat next, when overnight the swarm of striped blister beetles showed up on the tomatoes...so we squish, knock into soapy water and I will resort to my homemade pyrethrum flower spray after it steeps.
What I wonder is, if it is true that there is some sort of blister beetle/grasshopper interaction like I remember hearing years ago, to do wth one or the others larva and at some point one is a "good" bug? Grasshoppers have never been a problem,a few all the time but little damage. I generally try to not throw the balance of good bug/bad bug leaving aphids for the lady bugs who will show up, etc. but in this case I want to destroy them before they take our beautiful tomato crop.
In the 12 years we have lived on this land we have had occasional single black blister beetles and one small handfull but since we have lived in the ozarks (since 1973) this swarm thing has happened 4 or 5 times.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5550
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
262
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I don't think the pyrethrum (with a little 7th gen dish soap) did much but send them running. I pulled back the mulch and the ground was crawling with them and in one place they did seem to be coming out of a hole in the ground but by the time I finished stomping them I couldn't find the hole. any ideas?
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5550
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
262
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In case someone is interested, we have learned that the striped blister beetle larva finds grasshopper larva/eggs to feed on and wait until conditions are right (hot and dry) to emerge from the ground as adults. I have never worried about the grasshopper population but something is out of balance, obviously. We are still brushing some into bowls of soapy water but the ground is crawling with them under the peppers now (another of their favorites). So I am making lacto fermented tomato relish.....and hoping they don't find our other garden areas.

edited to say:..in my first post I said we had had swarms like this four or five times...I take it back ...this is a first... hundreds of thousands (and the others were solid black)
 
Kathy Burns-Millyard
Posts: 75
Location: Arizona low desert
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It's probably too late for you this year but I accidentally found a solution in march or april: weeds and native vegetation. The blister beetles here stripped the weeds just about bare but hardly touched any of my garden plants. Rabbits and ground squirrels on the other hand... :s
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5550
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
262
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striped blister beetle update....for the forth morning we are knocking handfulls off of tomato and pepper plants. I went ahead and picked four bushels of tomatoes, mostly full sized so they will ripen. I've sprinkled wood ash on the sweet potatoes and melons and calendula as a deterent . The county agent says it has happened in gardens and pastures this last week or two in the county due to the heat and dry. He only offers chemical solutions but I always call anyway to remind him there are organic growers here. they say they will be gone in a few days...I am guessing thats when my tomatoes and peppers will be also. We do have a lot of diversity in this garden and minor insect problems until now so I am just accepting it as a one time phenomenon (think of the bug scene in the tunnel in one of the Indiana Jones movies) and planning to plant buckwheat in the bare patches.

We did find what looked like two blood sucking cone nose bugs doing their job on a couple beetles.
 
David Moser
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Location: New Hampshire
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I'm sorry I did not see this post until just now... I am an entomologist who occasionally deals with odd infestations. I have never dealt with these beetles, though I am familiar with them. Of course, most integrated pest management systems suggest removing them by hand (carefully, wearing gloves), which can be very difficult if there are large numbers. If it is in an area where the soil is not too exposed, you might have good luck with some sort of small vacuum cleaner, like a dust buster. be sure to wear a dust mask, because the cantharadins may be aerosolized by the moving air. I have had very good success with this at times with other aggregating insects. Let us know how it turns out, and best of luck.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5550
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Thank you, David, I can't believe we didn't think of the vacuum cleaner as we were just using my husbands shopvac for our first ever flea infestation (gone now). The beetles were gone after six days. We had a short rain on the seventh morning but I think they just left to lay eggs (or went under ground?) as we had heard they would. I am not sure anything we did made a difference...drowning by soapy water and a few bowls with the same set into the ground caught thousands and they attracted phoebes to the fence for that week. The ashes did not keep the beetles from eatting half of the peppers and burnt a few leaves on the melons. They hid in the sweet potatoes but did not eat them. They defoliated all of the Rutgers tomatoes. about half of the black cherry tomatoes and didn't touch any of the purple cherokee plants (all of the tomatoes are my saved seed and indeterminate varieties). They didn't eat any fruit just leaves. I read that they are native and in Arkansas can have two generations if they emerge as early as May or June.
and for accuracy's sake, these are the other plants the beetles did not eat a bit of (and are almost always bug free in our gardens) arugula (yellow flowered, perennial, but we also let it reseed), lambs quarters, assorted basils, anise hyssop, walking onions, blueberries, sunflowers...all of which are either perennials or allowed to reseed every year.
My buckwheat is sprouting, the tomatoes and peppers are cleaned up and we are back to our normal summer in the Ozarks...the rain brought out the seed ticks and the temperature will be back into the 100's in a few days..
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 202
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Kathy Burns-Millyard wrote:It's probably too late for you this year but I accidentally found a solution in march or april: weeds and native vegetation. The blister beetles here stripped the weeds just about bare but hardly touched any of my garden plants. Rabbits and ground squirrels on the other hand... :s


We left all the weeds that grew in the garden alone (except grass and grape vines). There is this WONDERFUL plant that I've been paying close attention to because anything I planted that is near it, is the most beautiful specimen. I noticed the potato plant growing TOWARDS it and when it touched the plant, started growing up along this weed's stem. It LOVES it.

In the last week blister beetles have showed up and are pretty much just attacking this weed that I love. The potatoes that aren't close to the weed are getting hit a little bit, but nothing else. There are tomatoes and all sorts of things nearby the blister beetles are completely ignoring. We noticed this morning, the ground crawling with them, but they seem to only care abou this one magical weed. I have been waiting anxiously for it to bloom so I can ID it.

For now it's just designated as "Plant C". It has thin, soft "wing" like leaves up the center stem. The plant is very tall, soft and fuzzy. It's about to bloom.

Here is a link to the plant I'm talking about:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151054225068703&l=649aa3d72e
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5550
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
262
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hello to another ozarkian...keep us posted on your magic weed, it was sounding like mullien from your description and I am just on a kindle with not many capabilities so I cant look at your link. My tomatoes look good again and also the peppers that are left, our potatoes were on the far side from the beetles and they didnt make it to them. good luck. if they are still in your garden I think a shopvac with soapy water is a good idea.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 202
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Judith Browning wrote:hello to another ozarkian...keep us posted on your magic weed, it was sounding like mullien from your description and I am just on a kindle with not many capabilities so I cant look at your link. My tomatoes look good again and also the peppers that are left, our potatoes were on the far side from the beetles and they didnt make it to them. good luck. if they are still in your garden I think a shopvac with soapy water is a good idea.


Nah, not a mullein. It's soft like that though. There are little wings on the stem running vertical, very cool. I have several great weeds this year that are just magical and I"ve been taking notes all season. Hopefully within the next few months I'll write every thing up into a blog post. Some weeds keep off flea beetles, some keep off the Japanese beetles. I have more weeds than "traditional" plants (by intention) and it's just amazing what the native species will help you with. Even if at first glance you think they are junk weeds (like people think about horse nettle). Horse nettle has been a powerhouse weed for me this year!
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5550
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
262
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I guess the title/subject to this thread is no longer relevant but just yesterday (exactly three weeks from the day the last invasion was gone) we had another small round of striped blister beetles. They are again not eatting the purple cherokee tomatoes but are munching on the buckwheat under and around them. a few traveled through the sweet potato vines and found pepper plants . This time there are just a few hundred and we got to try the shop vac which worked great and was very satisfying (thanks David). They seemed slower and smaller this time. I guess another brood? or laggers just showing up?
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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