A dreaded email arrived with the news.

Unwanted beetles are feasting on the eggplant and tomato plants in The Green Thumb community garden plot No. 6.

The striped bugs were discovered earlier this week by the Garden Angel who oversees the land where we rent one of the spots with three other families.

I put my sons on alert.

“The man has got to kill the bugs. That’s the rule,” I announced as they scooped spoonsful of cereal into their mouths at the breakfast table before school.

“If we find beetles in the garden, efforts to graduate from sixth and ninth grade temporarily will be put on hold,” I added. My sons will have to postpone studying about electromagnetic waves and writing papers about imperialism after school. Their No. 1 job will be to get rid of the bugs.

“Fine,” said my sixth grader, who left the table to stuff heavy school books into his backpack. His brother was way ahead of him.

“Well, maybe,” my sixth grader said, as he walked toward the front door. He paused with his hand on the door knob.

“I mean, probably,” he answered, stepping into the world and heading to the bus stop. I wondered how many undetected beetles he would pass on his walk to the corner. I figured, probably not many because no one on our block has a garden.

My little boys who “wouldn’t hurt a fly” were being asked to get rid of innocent, hungry adorable beetles.

But the damage the bugs could do to our garden isn’t so cute. These insects are known to eat roots and leaves, often destroying the plants.

Later in the day, I took a trip out to the garden to look for the bugs, even though I did not have a good plan if I found one. Another Green Thumb also came to comb the rows for beetles. Unsure of what a striped beetle looks like, we gently searched under the leaves of our eggplant and tomatoes. To our relief, the inspection turned up nothing but one tiny caterpillar and random debris we couldn’t identify. Unsure if the worm was good, or bad, we moved him out of the garden and took some of our natural trash to the nearby compost pile.

On the walk back, we admired the other gardens at the site and stopped to talk to a neighbor. Peering over his fence, we saw a beetle crawling near one of his tomatoes. He squished it, and found another moving on a leaf, which he also squished.

The bugs are in the vicinity. They are a nuisance we must confront.

I’m not really going to stop my sons’ academic studies because of a few beetles. But they will have to step up their garden visits if the insects decide to stay.

“The man has got to kill the bugs.” That’s our family rule, and I’m sticking to it.



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