Wednesday, July 10, 2013

advice on insect damage?

Or should I say,

Insect damage! 


Behold, the gorgeous cauliflower.  And associates.

Something nibbled several of the first cauliflower plants a while ago.

Happily, it wasn't this bunch of hooligans; they were being very good and eating only what they should have been eating.
Good goats.  Carry on.

Also happily, the nibbled plants rallied and recovered, putting out new leaves.  I rejoiced!

I also paid very close attention, and although I never saw bugs eating the leaves, I did sometimes find teeny-tiny white bumps - insect eggs, maybe? - in a scattered group on the underside of a leaf or two.  I destroyed them immediately, by rubbing them out with my thumb and finger on either side of the leaf.

I know.  Ewww.

But it seemed necessary.

But ewww.

Moving on...

Now there has been a repeat attack, of awful severity.
One example:


This makes me wince.  I can only imagine how it makes the cauliflower feel.

I still have not seen any bugs, and any white bumps have been dealt with right away.  Sometimes I do notice a little bit of darkness inside the little nook created where a leaf attaches to a stem.  I thought it might just be dirt, but now have taken to flushing the dark bits out with a spray bottle of water, just in case it's some kind of bug-related bother.


"Teeny-tiny white bumps."
"Little bit of darkness."

Maybe, just maybe, this is another situation where eyeglasses might be helpful.  I prefer to use my hand lens, but I can't find it.  Possibly eyeglasses would help in situation also.

More insect damage:
my one ground cherry plant has also been struggling with attackers, but almost from Day One.
Leaves get chewed up, the plant gamely puts out new growth. Holes appear in the new growth.
It's very hard to watch.

I think it's a different kind of bug than the cauliflower attacker.  I occasionally spot (and try to grab) a very small stripey winged creature on one of the ground cherry leaves.  There has never been a huge number of these bugs on the plant at one time - three, max - but there certainly is an ongoing problem with leaves being eaten.  Those bugs are quick, too...I've only managed to catch a few, by knocking them from the leaf into a jar of water before they saw me (and the jar) coming.

So far, all I've done is spray plants every couple of days with a very weak solution of water and tea tree oil, and sometimes other essential oils such as balsam, eucalyptus, and cedar.  It's a spray I use on myself when working outdoors and I usually have a bottle within reach.

Clearly I need to do more.  After seeing those cauliflower plants this morning, I am determined to find a stronger - but still organic - option.  Or many options.  I will be happy to experiment.

I know many of you lovely readers are also gardeners, so if you can suggest anything I would be so very grateful!

I planted more cauliflower and also cabbage last week, when the feed store had clearance-priced the last of their organic seedlings.  This morning the little cauliflowers look like this:

I want to prevent insects from even getting start on these little ones!  They are just beginning to recover from too many weeks spent crammed into tiny cubicles of potting soil.

The determination (for lack of a better word), the flexibility and the resilience of plants is a source of constant inspiration to me.

Morning smile provided by this sprout, growing in the tiny space between the base and leg of the goats' stanchion.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions on dealing with damaging insects!!!


  1. oh those goats are adorable..almost as gorgeous as Piper x

    1. Piper is a bit jealous of the goats, I'm afraid. I can tell because she Cannot See Them. Even though there are quite a few of them! ;)

  2. Looks like the work of a cabbage worm...that's what i call them.
    They make Organic Spray that I've used. spray under side where they most often eat from...

    1. Thanks! Can you remember the name of the organic spray? Or do you know what the spray contains? Maybe I could make something similar.

  3. You can also use row covers if you get them on before the moth lays the eggs.

    1. I'll look into that for the last batch planted - thanks!

  4. Looks like cabbage worm to me - they can wipe out broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower pretty fast!

    Here is a good link -

    1. Thank you, Pat! I'll check that link out right away. Found eggs on another plant this morning. Argh.

  5. We too had our cauliflower, broccoli, and brussle sprouts ruined this year.

    1. It's awful, isn't it? I just identified the bug that's attacking the ground cherry - it's the ThreeLined Potato Beetle - but I still haven't figured out the cauliflower demon.

  6. I am late to this, but agree that it is probably the cabbage worm attacking your broccoli and cauliflower. They can really do a lot of damage fast. We've had lots of trouble with slugs too, due to the wet weather. The ground cherry is the potato bug; good luck with that one. They were so bad the past three years that this year we planted only a very short row, and those were leftover taters from the grocery store. They're doing fine! Go figure.

  7. You might try wood ash or lime on your cabbage family plants--the caterpillars don't like it. It might help with your new plantings.

    1. Thank you so much for your advice! Should I just sprinkle wood ash all over the leaves? Will it burn them if (who am I kidding - "when"!) it rains again?
      It's the darnedest thing, but I have not seen a single worm or bug on the plants, and I've been checking for slugs, too. I saw one grasshopper...could they be doing a hit-and-run? It really had me baffled!


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