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I think permaculture insect control has failed me.

 
steward
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Kola Lofthouse



Thank you for the great honor.
 
gardener
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The honor is mine Kola, you have shared much great information that has been put to good use on Asnikiye heca over the past two years.
I think of you as oyasin (one of the people or tribe) and Tiyospaye (extended family) I hope you do the same with Luta ceta

Redhawk
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
The honor is mine Kola, you have shared much great information that has been put to good use on Asnikiye heca over the past two years.
I think of you as oyasin (one of the people or tribe) and Tiyospaye (extended family) I hope you do the same with Luta ceta

Redhawk



Yes I feel the same.

When I logged-in this afternoon, I wasn't expecting that I'd be crying before I logged-out.
 
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Food for thought;  Thousands of years ago there was a law that everyone in the entire nation would let the land lie fallow every seventh year.  On the same exact year every seventh year no one would touch the ground.  This had the effect of decimating the predatory insect population!  The essence of this law remains valid and required in order to vanquish the hordes of squash bugs!  Until then we all fight the hordes.
 
master pollinator
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Larry Pobiak wrote: The essence of this law remains valid and required in order to vanquish the hordes of squash bugs!  Until then we all fight the hordes.



I'm not convinced it's required.  Joseph touches his ground and doesn't have a squash bug problem.  His plants are not attractive to squash bugs, apparently.  My observation is that "pest" insects are attracted to stressed plants that are not adapted to the conditions.  In my garden I don't see insects causing problems on truly healthy plants.

 
Larry Pobiak
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Hey Tyler,

Other aspects of letting the "land rest" deal with the opportunity for the land to repair and re-energize itself, yielding healthier plants.  There are actually several restorative dynamics in play, many which even soil scientists don't fully understand.  Many people are tilling ground that has rested for many many years while others are working patches that have not rested fully for decades.  I know here in Tennessee the Extension service recommends that land be rested twice as much in a seven year period, however after talking to them they all know that no-one does this.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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I'm not arguing that it isn't helpful to avoid tilling; but that it is not apparently necessary - unless it turns out that Joseph does indeed rest his land, at which point I will happily stand corrected!
 
Larry Pobiak
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No contention here.........I get what you are saying now, yes, I agree that it is not required to let the land rest in order to defeat or maintain a high level of control over the squash bugs.  There is only one way to know the collective benefit of a national land rest, until then we can only experiment one homestead at a time.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I make contracts with my bugs...

For example, I grow a wild species of solanum as a weed in my garden, Solanum physalifolium. The Colorado potato beetles can gorge themselves on it. I will never poison my garden. I will never harm any beetle that is eating the weeds. I expect the beetles to leave the domesticated solanums alone: Never touch a pepper, tomato, potato, or eggplant. Even landing on a domestic plant is a death sentence if caught. It is also a death sentence to any domestic plant that has a smell/texture that confuses the beetles into thinking that it's a suitable food source. The weed thrives. The beetles thrive. The crops thrive. And I only had to enforce the contract for two growing seasons. Since then, the beetles only eat the weeds, and my domestic plants don't mislead the beetles. This particular contract works with these particular beetles because they are year round residents, so I am breeding beetles as well as vegetables.

I suppose that I aught to develop a similar contract with the flea beetles!

If you were to walk through my gardens this time of year, it would be difficult to discern in many cases whether there was a crop growing, or whether the field was fallow... I certainly grow more than enough weeds. For example, part of this photo contains row-crops. Part of it is space into which I didn't get anything planted. I don't plan to leave fallow areas in my fields, it just happens because some of my planting windows are very narrow. And if I miss a planting date, there is no sense planting a crop late. I'm already expecting  my fall frosts in 2 to 3 weeks.



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Weeds or crops?
 
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Went to an IPM seminar that the local Extension put on.  Showed some research that squash high in curcurbitacin (e.g. Blue Hubbard) were tastier for squash bugs.  Their recommendation was to use a bitter squash around ther perimeter, planted a few weeks in advance. Once they'd get good and infested, burn em/ Poison em/ nuke em from orbit.  That appeared to draw in the local squash bugs into the trap crop and take the load off of the real crop that matured a few weeks later.
 
Tyler Ludens
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But if you nuke 'em, wouldn't the bugs just move over to your preferred squash?  Or is the theory that you could somehow magically contain the bugs so they wouldn't escape?  In my experience, squash bugs, at least the adults, are pretty spooky and tend to run away if you disturb the plants.  I figure they'd run away to other squash plantings.  So I'm afraid I'm having my doubts about this method - I wonder if it might be more successful if you just leave the trap squash there for the bugs to live on?

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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When I first started growing my own varieties of squash, some plants would act as squash bug traps. It seemed like a half dozen plants would have more squash bugs on them than all the rest of the patch combined. So I culled those plants, and/or made sure to not save seeds from them. These days, the only time I see a squash bug in the garden is when I plant a commercial variety as part of a trial.

I irrigated the squash field today. My it was noisy. The squash bees were buzzy, Buzzy, BUZZY!

Does anyone have feedback for me about what is the absolutely favorite crop for flea beetles?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Larry Pobiak wrote:Food for thought;  Thousands of years ago there was a law that everyone in the entire nation would let the land lie fallow every seventh year.  On the same exact year every seventh year no one would touch the ground.  This had the effect of decimating the predatory insect population!  The essence of this law remains valid and required in order to vanquish the hordes of squash bugs!  Until then we all fight the hordes.



Is it not the predatory insects that we want to survive?  The way I have understood the fallow land law (from English law) was that one field would lay fallow every year on a seven year rotation. Not touching the ground actually would have no effect on insect population since they would just move to the active fields. The fallow law was to help the soil rejuvenate so it would not loose the ability to grow good crops from depletion of nutrients.

What kills insects in nature is cold, for an extended period of time (approx. 30 days of below 32 f (0 C) this freezes eggs and burrowed in adults thus reducing the population.

Plants can develop resistance to insect damage, the healthy plant when attacked will produce toxins in the parts being eaten, these toxins will discourage the bugs from eating the plant.  This is one of the wonderful things about developing land race plants, their ability to resist attack increases as well as their ability to thrive in your conditions. I know my Kola, Lofthouse has expressed these very things several times, select the best plants of those exhibiting the traits you desire and save those seeds, repeat process over several years and you will have landrace plants, ideal for your area.

Redhawk
 
Larry Pobiak
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Hello Joseph,

I have only been gardening heavily for 6 years now, so my observations only have that much time to gather my intel.  In that six years I have noticed that the flea beetles prefer many of the nightshades first of all, specifically potatos, eggplant, and sweet potatos (although they is not strictly a nightshade).  Of all of the nightshades they prefer the eggplant.

Also, in the six years I have observed flea beetle damage, the only year I had any success in controlling the flea beetles was the year I planted tarragon around each plant.  We had planted a flat of 244 plants, all of which came up, and if you are like me, you cannot not plant even the extra plants you start, so our garden was speckled with tarragon.  We garden an acre, so we focused on the plants we typically needed protection around.  
 
pollinator
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Tarragon, interesting.

I've never had flea beetle damage on nightshades to any significant degree. But they do love my turnip greens.
 
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What I found that has worked for me was a easy way to rid the problem but I am not sure if you would agree with this method. It is a non pesticide way but it works. I have used a propane hand held torch and heated up the bugs and eggs and killed them with out doing much damage to the plants. It doesn't take much to rid them off of your plants and it works on potato bugs too. Try it if your ok with this method and you will be surprised how fast it works to save your plants from these pests.
 
pollinator
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I've read that Southern Giant mustard and Vittoria eggplant are highly attractive hosts and have been used as trap crops for flea beetles.
 
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For what it is worth, I've had good success with Trombocino squash,butternut squash, and Seminole pumpkin here in the eastern part of Virginia; should be very similar to the NC Piedmont. All 3 of them resist both squashbugs and vine borers here. I no longer attempt any kind of summer squash.
As an aside for those in this Piedmont region: I have noticed that Japanese beetles actually prefer a tall variety of smartweed that grows wild here,"lady's thumb", a polygonum. The beetles prefer it to anything else growing nearby. I cannot tell whether the beetles are avoiding the lady's thumb growing near the chickens' normal ranges, or if the chickens are harvesting all they can reach.  Anyway, as decoy plants, it is easy to knock the Japanese beetles into a jar to feed the chickens. Bonus, the plant is beautiful in the early fall!
 
Mike Turner
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I have noticed that insects change their behavior patterns when chickens are around.  If I disturb some crickets, they'll make a few quick hops away and then scurry off into the underbrush.  If chickens are around, they'll remain motionless even when the chicken steps on them, only hopping frantically if the chicken reaches for them. Also insect camouflage is fine tuned for birds since they see colors differently than humans.  When I see a green grasshopper, its green but a slightly different green than the vegetation and can be seen.  But to a chicken that grasshopper is totally invisible until it moves.  Chickens are great at seeing movement and at spotting worms, cutworms, and earwigs when only a tiny part of them is visible above the soil.
 
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looks like to me your question dissolved into a discussion of squash genetics .??  get some guine chicks  and introduce them to your garden after the plants are 4 or 5 in tall . they will eat every bug that shows .  then when the harvest is done harvest the now grown chicks.
 
gardener
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Annual crops tend to have populations that naturally fluctuate over time in a given spot. If pest pressure is high one year, the population of plants starts dwindling. The lack of food the next year knocks back the pests, allowing the population of plants to recover. Rotating the crops around your property can help break the pest cycle on crops that are particularly susceptible. You would need to identify the crops that the squash bug attack(I know they attack more than just squash, but I'm not all that familiar with them) and make sure to plant them in a different location. By moving production around on purpose, you mimic that cycle. It won't stop infestation entirely, but it will help keep the "population" of insects under stress by fluctuating their food source. You can then time your other interventions for maximum impacts. I recall that squash bugs hide in mulch and debris over the winter, so you could strip the old mulch after it starts getting cold, and replace it with fresh mulch. The One-Two punch of moving the bulk of their food, and rousting them from their winter hiding place, could help turn the tide in your favor.
 
Mike Turner
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The only problem with doing crop rotation to control squash bugs is that they are strong flyers and have no problem flying 1000's of feet to find their hosts.  When I started gardening here, the closest vegetable garden that I knew of was over 1/2 mile away, there are no native cucurbits on my property, and yet squash bugs found my plants in the first growing season.  In my pre-chicken days, when summer and hubbard squash were about impossible to grow, large numbers of squash bugs would build up in the squash beds by the end of the growing season.  That winter I would find squash bugs hiding under debris and crawling around on warm days 100's of feet from the garden.  From what I have read, squash bugs only attack cucurbits (including our native wild cucurbits), but the similar looking leaf footed bug attacks a wide range of hosts and sometimes gets mistaken for a squash bug.  
 
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Sounds like animals might be the answer.  Does anyone have experience with ducks and whether they would eat the squash bugs as enthusiastically as chickens?  My expectation is that ducks would cause less damage to the garden in general.  Also curious if anyone has experience with ducks/chickens for japanese beetles - I suppose I could shake my trees/bushes to dislodge beetles and ducks would hunt them down when they hit the ground??  I have been considering adding ducks or chickens - and this added benefit of helping control our 2 most annoying pests might just be the thing that pushes me over the edge (and gets my wife on board).

 
pollinator
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Just saw this post and thought I'd revive it.   I accidentally learned about trap crops when I planted amaranth to the side of my veg garden.
The Colorado potato beetles loved it and turned the leaves into lace.   Meanwhile, my potatoes just 10 feet away were not touched !  So I did a little googling and this is one of the articles that lists good trap crops for various bugs.    Another article which I can't find right now but will post if I do find it - discusses in more detail the importance of planting trap crops around the perimeter of the garden rather than interplanting with your crops.   Also, it's a good idea to somehow remove the bugs from the trap plant periodically (I was not successful in doing this with the beetles because they jump/pop away too quickly).   I've also had good luck with cleome attracting gladiator bugs.   I haven't had a problem with squash bugs thankfully (knock on wood!)

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/vgen/using-decoy-trap-plants.htm
 
Susan Pruitt
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Thank you Susan. I have looked into trap crops before but have never used them. Will do some follow up reading.
 
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Scott Stiller wrote:I'm really sorry to hear so many folks have had issues with them this year. What I'm not sorry about is this incredible learning experience! This thread is great for me. So you guys are saying I should let me veggies cross? My understanding has been that saved seeds from a hybrid veggie either wouldn't produce or produce an undesirable yield. Have I been wrong all these years? Starting to look that way.
Not only squash bugs but borers, and squash lady beetles have been an issue. My pumpkins, and zucchini were really hit. Butternut squash and two others have not been. I'm posting a pic of those two others because I have no idea what they are. They were given to me mixed up in a sandwich bag.
Thank you guys and I look forward to more guidance.



that is most defiantly a bushel basket gourd(looks in up on baker creeks website)
I made the mistake of planting those 3 years ago... they pop up everywhere now! ugh, really annoying. But the squash bugs completely ignore them. They also attract giant moths, who pollinate the white flowers. My husband makes bird houses out of them.

I have got to say, I normally loose everything to squash bugs. This year i put a piece of wood or brick right next to the plants. each morning (early as possible) i go out and flip over the brick or wood. They are all sleeping under there, cucumber beetles too. So i submerge them all in the wate/soapr and then look at the leaves, scraping off the eggs and putting them in the water/soap as well. GREAT SUCCESS! my plants are doing awesome this year. Also, if there is a weaker plant that the cucumber beetles have gotten to, i have left in the garden. Noticed the cucumber beetle and squash bug both love to hang out in and underneath those wilted or brown leaves. Its an easy way to kill a bunch at once. I attribute it all to early morning inspections tho. If i get out there too late(like 9 am) they are not slow moving and not under the bricks.
 
Scott Stiller
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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. I just wanted to throw a Big Thank You out to all of my friends here. I also have good news! Year after year I have saved a few scrawny seeds from whatever plants my herd of squash bugs bugs have destroyed. Every year it has gotten a bit easier. This year was the breakthrough though. I was able to harvest a sizable amount of spaghetti squash, and pumpkins! The plants were (still are) so robust no amount of bug pressure could stop them. I am now 100% convinced that permaculture has not failed but enriched my life and farm. Next year I will go out to plant hundreds of my seeds that are sure to do well. I would like to especially thank Joseph Lofthouse for his insights that turned out to be right on the money.
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This picture was taken 3 days ago.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Scott Stiller: Thanks for the followup. That's some good growing there!
 
pollinator
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Thanks for the update. I only started reading this thread today and kept hoping there would be an update at the end from the topic starter with good news!
 
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Scott Stiller wrote:I grow lots of squash and gourds. I have them planted far and wide in polycultures. No matter where they are squash bugs have found them. I have spent hours and hours picking them and their eggs off my plants and drowning them. I haven't even slowed them down. I haven't used any chemicals, insecticides or other in years. I continue to wait for some kind of predator bug to show up and even things out. It hasn't happened. Now I'm afraid that I will get very little yield because of my stubbornness to hang onto a way of thinking that clearly isn't working. As much as I hate to I will not wait long before using chemical control in the years to come. I'm sure some will tell me I'm wrong but it's a lot of work to get a little yield.



I haven't read all the posts, but ...

Have you tried a natural, homemade insect deterrent like chilli and/or garlic spray?


 
pollinator
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So everyone knows about the 3 sisters, but did you know there is a 4th sister? It's tobacco. Simply bruising the plant makes it secrete a pheromone that attracts predatory wasps. The flowers also attract humming birds. You can harvest the leaves as they go yellow to make an organic pesticide.
 
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