One of the lessons I give my sons is that the man has got to kill the bugs. But this may not be true when it comes to the garden.
Yesterday morning, I went to the vegetable patch with one of the Green Thumbs and her daughter who is home from college. We were greeted by our garden angel, who oversees the community gardens. He told us to check our tomatoes and eggplant for Colorado potato beetles and any eggs they may have left on the leaves.
He removed a few of the bugs from our neighbor’s garden and held them out in the palm of his hand. They were pretty insects, like ladybugs are pretty, with black stripes down their yellow body. But their heads and legs were lanky and menacing. I didn’t want to touch those bugs, much less kill them. They looked like they would release lots of nasty bug juice if squished.
“Can’t we just declare the gardens a bug-free zone?” I asked.
But that’s not possible. We watched our garden angel squash the bugs with his fingers and drop the flattened insects to the ground. Then the three of us were left to inspect our plants.
“I teach my boys that the man has got to kill the bugs,” I told my friend and her daughter. But the men of plot 6 were at work and the boys were at school, so if any Colorado potato beetles lurked in our garden, they were about to be squished by two stay-at-home moms and a college student.
Armed in green garden gloves, I took a row. My friend took another. And her daughter took another. We turned over the leaves.
“Something’s been eating over here,” my friend said, after finding holes in the leaves of one plant. We continued our search, but the bugs had moved on or were hiding from us formidable ladies who were ready to protect our food.
I was relieved not to find a beetle invasion. My bug rule can stand another day. But if the neighbors have those bugs, we’ll find them, too. My wish would be that the beetles stay away until the end of school, when my sons can do the morning bug inspections.
But I chose to be a gardener. Unwanted bugs are going to show up to eat my plants, and if I plan to grow tomatoes and eggplant, I’m going to have to squish those Colorado potato beetles and other unwanted pests between my fingers and get bug juice on my favorite garden gloves whether I want to or not.
New rule: just kill the bugs.