Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2011 Year of the Rabbit, I think not!

This is supposed to be the year of the rabbit. But then again this is from a Chinese Zodiac calendar, not a Texas calendar. I do believe that if we were going by the Texas Zodiac Calendar you'd find that this is the year of the Pest!

Not until I stopped and really looked around myself, did I realize just how bad the pests are this year.

The Ants: The first battle I waged was about a month ago was with ants. Every day I'd find a steady stream milling about on my desk. And if I left a glass of water or an empty juice was ANT Partayyy!

I put an end to their capers with my bottle of Orange Guard but unfortunately though that stopped the ones already on my desk, it didn't stop the search parties that came looking for their brethren. Right outside my office window was a huge prickly pear which I was in the midst of removing. I could finally get in behind it to see if I could find the source of the ants and I did find a trail. I sprayed those with my Orange Guard and my problem was no more.

Squash Bugs: I've already posted about finding these pests in my gardens (link to previous post) . Be forewarned: Do not and I repeat do not give them a chance to get the upper hand! These garden pests won their battle with me. I believe I discovered their presence once too much damage had been done. So if your little squash plants suddenly start wilting, inspect them closely for these pests.

Houseflies: Living on my farm I'm used to having flies in the house, it's a part of life and I put up with it. I keep a fly swatter handy and go on fly killing rampages from time to time and that takes care of it. I don't use any fly sprays as I have a Hahns Macaw in the house and birds are particularly sensitive to pesticides.

This year the house flies are just plain ridiculous. My swatter can't keep up. Swatting flies is now an actual chore I've assigned to my DD. We literally swat scores each day only to awake to double the reinforcement troops. I'm so tempted to vacate the house and spray...

Fleas: Each Spring my dogs usually pick up a flea or two. Annie and Selena must be allergic to them because if they have just one flea on their body you know about it. They practically tear their skin off with the scratching. I had to start the spot-on applications unusually early this year . I also have to repeat them much sooner than I normally do ( I can usually get at least a month between treatments but I've already done them at least 4 times and it's only the end of June!

Ticks: Ticks are the new pest on the block and I'd really like them to leave. Over the years I might have found maybe one tick a year on the dogs, they really haven't been a problem. Ticks are supposed to like moist ground so what gives? We're experiencing the 3rd driest summer on record and were just pronounced a disaster area by the USDA because it's so dry, so why are these pests surfacing this year? I think it's because it's the year of the pest.

If I hadn't just put Advantage on the dogs last week, I'd just buy a flea/tick spot-on product -but I really hate to double up on the poisons. It's bad enough putting it on every 3 weeks let alone twice within a week. Yesterday I picked off about 1/2 a dozen of these pests off of my dogs. They really gross me out and with the all the diseases they carry they need to leave-now.

Yesterday I searched for organic tick remedies. I found quite a few. The one I made follows. I chose it because it's the simplest and I had all the ingredients on hand and wouldn't leave the dogs stinky and greasy:

Homemade Tick Repellent:

2 cups of water
20-25 drops of peppermint essential oil.

Mix well together and spray on.

I put some on the dogs yesterday and they did smell lovely! I can't smell it on them today so I imagine it needs to be reapplied fairly often.

Another herbal remedy I will be trying for repelling ticks is Rose Geranium Oil and its sister oil Palmerosa . I didn't have any of this oil on hand to try it straight away but it does sound promising. Supposedly just a few drops on the dogs collar is supposed to repel them. Here's the recipe for making this repellent:

2 TBSP vegetable or nut oil (almond oil contains sulfur, a repellent itself)
10-25 drops of Rose Geranium Oil (or Palmerosa Oil)
Combine in a glass jar. Shake to blend. Makes 2 tablespoons. Shelf life: 6 months.
Application: Dab a few drops on skin or clothing making sure to avoid eyes.

GRASSHOPPERS: I battle these guys each year but this year all I can say is Wow. I didn't realize just how many there are out there until I actually really opened my eyes and looked. My butterfly bush is covered with them and I mean covered -scores of them on one single plant. My remedy of choice is to squish them, but these guys are smart. I've never seen such fast grasshoppers, catching them is a feat unto itself. Annie, my dog helps as much as she can as she considers them a delicacy but her stellar efforts don't even make a minuscule dent in their populations. I've starting free ranging my hens but they haven't quite grasped the principal of foraging for themselves yet. I found a recommendation for a product called "NOLO" or "Semaspore" which is organic and takes down the larvae of the grasshoppers -it isn't a miracle solution but it allegedly it will reduce your grasshopper populations overs time. I intend to try it
It's trying to get me!

Mealybugs: I'd say these guys were cute if they didn't devour my plants. I saw my first mealybugs on my brand new Meyer Lemon tree. They are little white fluff balls - I wish I'd taken a picture of them before squishing them and spraying the tree.

Aphids: I thought I'd finished this post but another pest while watering my meyer lemon. I haven't yet ID'd it but I'm sure it's part of the aphid family. It posed before I zapped it with my insect soap.
Can any of you ID this pest?


  1. We used to have wolves as pets. They liked to get into the herb garden and roll in the herbs, especially the mint. Seemed to be a natural something for them. Enjoy your blogs.

  2. I think the mint spray is working...I have only found one tick on the dogs since I started spraying them. It sounds like the wolves were on to something!

  3. You sure have your hands full with all those pests! I saw the photos of some of them on another one of your posts and they look creepy!

    I'm looking forward to exploring your blog. Thanks very much for becoming a follower of My Backyard Farmyard!

  4. The weather you describe sounds just like North Carolina, so don't feel bad. I saw the picture of your dogs. My neighbor seems to be a border collie pro, has I don't know how many and runs the agility trials and exercises around here. They are always headed out in their travel trailer with their dogs off to some trial somewhere. I love that picture of all of them. Debi