Soldiers

We don’t use any pesticides or other toxins on our farm.  If we have a problem with pests, we have to depend upon other solutions.

Last year harlequin bugs did a lot of damage to our gardens. I don’t recall ever having seen one here before, yet last year they were seemingly everywhere.  I braced myself for another onslaught this year, but so far I haven’t seen a single one.  Nature, it seems, solved the harlequin bug overpopulation problem, with no help needed from me.  In most of our gardens we’re seeing far less damage from flea beetles and other leaf chewers as well this year.

Part of the reason is probably this year’s abundance of soldier beetles, a beneficial insect that eats the bad guys.  In the past we might occasionally see one, this year they seem to be the most common insect in the garden.

Tokyo Bekana

Tokyo Bekana

Collards

Collards

Swiss chard

Swiss chard

English peas.

English peas.

Lettuce

Lettuce

Nature will not allow unhealthy imbalances to long survive.  What we’re seeing this year with our thriving population of soldier beetles is what we’ve seen over and over again here–by avoiding monocultures and giving nature a chance to function without chemical intervention, a natural healthy and sustainable balance of life occurs.

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19 comments on “Soldiers

  1. shoreacres says:

    I’ve seen those, and didn’t know what they were. They remind me of lightning bugs, probably because of their shape. I don’t remember seeing them around here, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out and about. If I happen to see one, I won’t squish it.

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  2. Ann Wood says:

    Hurrah for nature and for you allowing her to do it her way!

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  3. Jeff says:

    “Nature will not allow unhealthy imbalances to long survive. What we’re seeing this year with our thriving population of soldier beetles is what we’ve seen over and over again here–by avoiding monocultures and giving nature a chance to function without chemical intervention, a natural healthy and sustainable balance of life occurs.”

    I can think of another species that this applies to ….

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  4. I glad you pointed these good guys out, now we will know what they are if we see them in our garden. I have seen the same as you if you let nature take care of itself it usual solves the problem. I am like you in not wanting to use chemicals to solve our bug problems, but sadly this year I resorted to using permethrin to take care of a Peach tree bore that has been attacking our fruit trees. If we lived on our farm we would have been able to get rid of them by hand, but since we are not there yet, we resorted to using a mild pesticide. The trees are not producing fruit yet, and won’t be for at least a year or two more. Hopefully there will be no chemical residue when we finally get some fruit.

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    • Bill says:

      Peaches can be especially difficult to grow without the use of chemicals. I know you’re counting down the days to when you can be on the farm full-time. I’ve been in that boat. It may seem like time is crawling but someday you’ll think those last days raced by,

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  5. Good for you guys… and your soldier beetles. -Curt

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  6. Amy Lou says:

    Soldier on, little beetles! And a big yessir to nature not allowing imbalances to long survive. I believe that to the core. So far not too many bugs in our garden. I think we’re so far out in the middle of nowhere that the bugs don’t know the garden is there. Yet…

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  7. nebraskadave says:

    Nature has a way of keeping things in balance until the most intelligent creature on earth decides to out smart nature. How’s that working for us. 😛 One bad year does not mean all the following years will be bad. If the food supply for the beneficial insects is plentiful, they will come. A wise old gardener once told me to always have a two year supply of garden produce in the cellar because there’s always a chance that a bad year for a particular vegetable could happen for what ever reason. I have two gardens nine miles apart and in the process of buying another half way in between. If one has a problem with bugs or disease, most times the others won’t. I’m so glad to hear that a little bug damage doesn’t bother you.

    Have a great soldier bug day.

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    • Jeff says:

      Your comment brought up a most interesting little factoid that I stumbled across a year or so ago. I had been doing some reading on something called the “commons” (have you ever read Garrett Hardin’s infamous essay, The tragedy of the Commons? – don’t waste your time) and I learned that in Russia, before the emancipation of the serfs in the late 19th century and the destruction of the commons there, that each serf had garden plots separated geographically for the exact same reason you do. If you study the extant maps of land tenure in medieval England, you will see the same pattern. Interestingly enough, when the French settled what is now the mid-West, the same pattern is seen there. There are still portions of St. Louis that reveal the original layout of parcels of land. It is also seen in St. Genevieve, Missouri and several other places. Fascinating stuff!

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    • Bill says:

      We raise about a hundred different crops/varieties. If we have a bad year with something (and we always do) it’s not a big deal, because we are raising so many other things. This year, for example, our arugula was a total fail. I don’t know why. But if we were arugula farmers I guess we would have had a total loss. Because we grow so many different things we just shrug it off, try to figure out when went wrong, and keep tending all the other things we planted.

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  8. Luke Lindon says:

    I am so inspired by this post. My mom is a hell of a gardener too, along your lines as well. I however, struggle. I have squash bugs that kill off half my plants 2 years running. Any suggestions?

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    • Bill says:

      Only half? They eventually kill all of ours.
      Years ago I was at a conference and the speaker was a successful organic vegetable grower in NC. Someone asked him about squash bugs. They said the squash bugs kill all their plants. He responded, “They kill ours too. But I get a lot of great squash before they do.” Over the years that has made a lot of sense to me. We battle them by hand, squishing the eggs and bugs as best we can. We don’t let them win without a fight and we keep them subdued for quite a while. By the time they eventually overwhelm us we’ve usually gotten in a lot of squash. I wish I had a better answer, but that’s the way we do it.

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