Saturday, July 7, 2012

Saturday Shudder

It doesn't make much sense to be a gardener if you scream, jump a foot off the ground and run when you see a worm. But that's how the hateful things affect me. Give me any kind of a bug to deal with and I'm okay. But worms? Heck, I don't even like the friendly, environmentally healthy earthworms that are so beneficial to our garden soil.

So you can imagine the angst I just experienced when strolling through the garden and found our whole bed of comfrey heavily infested with army worms. ((Shudder!))

We had been warned that our area should be on the look-out for these nasty creatures this year. Several years ago a large part of our state had a terrible (and I mean terrible . . . as in sides of houses and whole roads covered with them . . . ish!) invasion of army worms and many mature trees died as a result of the infestation. At that time, we apparently were very lucky and were not affected by them.

Well, we have them this year. (You may have to biggify the picture to see the damage.) Papa Pea knows my aversion (that's putting it mildly) to worms so he came out to help me cut down the comfrey patch, pile everything in our big garden cart and truck it out to a distant part of the poultry yard where he assured me our chickens will feast with relish on the worms.

After disposing of the foliage, I carefully walked through the rest of the garden to see if I could spot them anywhere else. Lots of grasshoppers happily munching on various plants here and there but no other detectable army worms.

However (insert more cringing), I did find what I'm afraid is the variegated cutworm. (Arrrgh, how will I survive all this?) Supposedly this is a new kind of cutworm that hasn't previously been able to survive this far north. Thanks to our wimpy winters for the past couple of years, they have been able to migrate from farther south and take up residence here now. We've seen lots of the moths that lay the eggs that hatch into the worms, but this was the first sighting of the actual cutworm. (No picture of these guys. I was so freaked out by then that I was hopping up and down and squealing like a little girl.)

We've always had (regular, old, garden variety -- pun intended) cutworms and I lose a couple of newly set out plants to them each year. This old, familiar type wraps itself around the base of the tender stem of a plant at soil level and basically cuts it off in order to suck the juice from the stem.

This new-to-our-area variegated cutworm will also eat the leaves and will burrow right into the formed vegetables besides sometimes cutting off the plant at the knees. Or toes. Or whatever.

Upon discovering these blankety-blank variegated cutworms (four of them) on my snow pea vines (dining vigorously on the leaves), I ran to get my big, bad, better half to kill them. (No, I cannot stand to touch the hateful things.) He plucked them from the pea vines, dropped them on the ground and I pulverized them with the heel of my shoe. For about 5 minutes per worm.

Now I know each time I'm in the garden my eyeballs will be popping out of my head searching for worms trying to steal our fruit and vegetables from us. If the army worms get into other crops like they did the comfrey, it's gonna be curtains for any harvest around here. Cross your fingers for us.

P.S. You have no idea how creepy and crawly I feel right now. I've washed my hands at least six times in the hour I've been back inside. ((Shudder!))

27 comments:

Sparkless said...

Oh I know exactly how you feel! I had a small black widow spider crawling on my arm today. I quickly brushed it off before it could get to my skin. Now every time I feel something touching my skin I'm sure it's a spider so I'm itching and smacking myself.
I'll trade all your worms if you just take away all our black widow spiders! *shudder*

Carolyn Renee said...

Worms, eh? Never would have guessed it.

Next time I see one chowing down on my vegetables I'll squish it in your honor.

judy said...

I take my invitation to invade your garden,back this year,you can have all them worms ,I can barely put one on a hook for fishing--lol

MamaTea said...

Aw, Mama Pea! Too bad you can't train those chickens to walk along with you and be your worm defense but NOT eat the plants they are on. Yucky! I'm always afraid what's going to be lurking on the plant that I'm jabbing my hand at....

Sue said...

Oh, I remember your aversion to all things worm-like. I'm sorry you're having to deal with this right now. It's gonna be more and more of a challenge gardening every year. But we're tough!! And we shall prevail!!!!!!!!!!!
(And make darn sure our better halves are available for "squishing"!)

Jenyfer Matthews said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jenyfer Matthews said...

When I lived in Louisiana as a child, we used to get these giant green worms on the tomato plants - the exact color and approximate circumference of the stem of the plant. SHUDDER! My father used to go around in the evening and pluck them off and cut them up with his pocket knife. I hope I can coax him to my place if I ever have that problem here because I don't think I'm up for it!

Leigh said...

Well, there are worms and there are worms! The nasty veggie eating kind are fed to the chickens. I usually try to knock them off into my bucket so I don't have to touch them, LOL

Karen L. said...

Isn't it funny (not as in hahaha but as in "strange") how certain things creep us out. I would have never guessed this about you especially being the great farmer that you are. But there is just no telling what our Achilles heel will be. Big strong men can be felled by a spider. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Here's hoping that your veggies survive the onslaught.

LindaCO said...

Yuck! Very high on the ick factor, but I think it's really cool that the chickens will eat them!

Chicken Mama said...

A black widow????????????????? On your ARM??????? I would have died on the spot. That's one BIG reason I live in the Frozen North . . . although, so sadly, we are QUICKLY changing into the Temperate North. Auughhhhh. I'm so creeped out right now!

Chicken Mama said...

Army worms this year??? I haven't heard that at ALL! I thought their life-cycle was 17 years. (Or was it 11?) Anyway, it hasn't been that long since we had the huge onslaught. But, I'd forgotten that you didn't have them then even though *I* did, in spades! SOMETHING is cutting down my vegetation this year, though: not sure if it's the over-abundance of grasshoppers or the cut-worms . . .

Mama Pea said...

Sparkless - I'm not sure a trade for your poisonous black widow spiders is something I want to enter into! Geesh, do you have trouble with people actually getting bit by them? As you can tell, my daughter didn't inherit my intense dislike of worms, but she just about faints at the thought of a spider! We all have our hang-ups, don't we?

Mama Pea said...

CR - Heck, squish two of 'em. And thanks!

Mama Pea said...

judy - Put one on a hook for fishing?? NEVER! I don't care how many people call me a wimp. Ish!

Mama Pea said...

Mama Tea - If I grabbed a big ol' worm instead of a pea pod or green bean, I promise you would hear me scream at your house! Plus I'd jump so high I'd probably LAND at your house.

Mama Pea said...

Oh, please don't say it's gonna be more and more of a challenge gardening every year, Sue! The only thing that is keeping me from crying over this year's pathetic garden is the thought that next year's will be wonderful! No??

Mama Pea said...

Jen - We used to have those in Illinois, too. The first time I saw one I seriously thought it was an alien landed on our planet. When other bloggers post a picture of one, I cannot bear to look at it. Talk about the worm from H-E-Double-Hockey-Stick!

Mama Pea said...

Leigh - Yeah, but the thought of carrying around a bucket with those ugly-buglies in it . . . Eeee-uuwww!

Mama Pea said...

Karen L. - I know, I'm not being very mature about it, am I? I found one more variegated cutworm on the peas this morning. I MADE myself knock it off the leaf (I had gloves on) so I could grind it to nothingness. (Gleefully.)

Mama Pea said...

LindaCO - When you think about it, it's a high ick factor if you consider all the creepy crawlies chickens will eat! (Okay, I can't think about that anymore, 'cause I do love my chickens eggs and want to be able to keep eating them.)

Mama Pea said...

Well, daughter o' mine, if it's just the leaves and foliage that is getting eaten, it's probably the grasshoppers. But if the plants are falling over, it's probably the new cutworms.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I thought of you yesterday, Mama Pea, when I was digging in my flower bed and saw an earthworm come up...and up and up and up! It must have been close to 6 inches long in all - um... I know they are good for the dirt but I prefer it if they stay out of my way! (though I suppose it could be argued I was in ITS way!)

Anonymous said...

We've been wiped out twice this year by the varigated cutworms. I had to buy plant starts to replace my own starts. In late spring I set some trays of seedlings out on the porch to harden them off. In a matter of just a few hours, my herbs were skeletonized. A few days later, my beautiful pepper plants were defoliated except the top leaves. It looked like I had little potted palm trees. If that were not enough, I went into the greenhouse to harvest my spinach and lettuce. It was fine the night before; the next morning it was ALL GONE! I could not believe it!! We have a neighbor who showed me how the worms have eaten the green tops of his onions and now they are hollowing out the bulbs. This certainly is an infestation, a plague. I've picked hundreds of the awful and ugly devils inside the greenhouse. And every time I tell my hubby about how many cutworms I got, he says, "I hope we're not having a stir fry tonight!" LOL-"M"

Mama Pea said...

Jen - Okay, your description of the earthworm coming up and up and up . . . was way TMI for me!

Mama Pea said...

"M" - Oh, "M", you seem to be having it much worse than we are! The thing is I'm hearing we're to expect the damaging insects to be even WORSE next year. What are we going to do??

Erin said...

I love, love regular earthworms and find myself discussing all kinds of things with them in there garden LOL, but I'm with you on those others. Cutworms, Armyworms, Bagworms, blech!