I am not the kind of person who likes to pick up frogs, snakes or insects of wriggly or squirmy nature. However, that is changing.
This past summer has been a huge learning curve about the incredible numbers of insects and pests that could possibly inhabit or visit a Florida backyard.
I’ve learned to say there are “benefical insects” a gardener’s word for don’t kill it! Let it eat the harmful insects. An insect is no longer just an insect.
Both beneficial and irritating kinds of insects fly, crawl, squirm, arrive invisibly, live in the soil, fly at night, hover in the day and transport themselves via numerous other (yet unknown to me) modes.
I have not gone out at night with a flashlight to pluck insects from my plants, as instructed by a knowledgeable gardner.
First I’m too exhausted from building raised beds and elaborate structures to cover the fragile plants with netting (akin to itchy crinolines I suffered as a child) from the things that arrive in the night, or morning or afternoon. Second, I cannot imagine my gloved hand pulling a wriggling, slimy serpent from a leaf. Ugh.
But yesterday was the bug that broke my resistance. A black, caped moth (these things move frenetically and that’s how it looked) was flying around the patio looking interestingly at my Blue Lake pole beans. Only 3 bean plants are growing from a pot near the patio, winding up the trellis en route to a 7 foot overlook. The other bean plants are beneath netting in a raised bed farther away.
It was full sun, 89F with a beautiful breeze. But who was this cloaked black marauder dancing around my beans? Beneficial or harmful? If it was beneficial, I should leave it and keep at the current task of repotting the wonderful Genovese basil plants. If a harmful moth, I was getting irritated with things constantly attacking my innocent plants. Something is laying small round yellow eggs on the undersides of my bean leaves. Is this the culprit? Audacious in full light? Surely not.
I moved closer to my bean plant to inspect the dark creature. As it danced about a set of bean leaves, it chose one and alighted. Suddenly its wings were still. Was it about to lay eggs or begin to eat the whole leaf?
Without thinking, my ungloved hand swooped in and grabbed it by the wings. It wrestled. Squirmed ferociously.
It had a long black tail (to go with the cape) and a sturdy writhing thorax. Oh gross. But I hung on. I called for help.
We thought we had it, pinned between the tines of a table fork on the patio table. But. It flew away. Undaunted and untined.
Not without a photo thanks to help.
Who was this creature? I combed my new gardening insect book that had yearbook photos of pests. This moth was not there. Some internet searching for long black tail brown grey moth and I found it. The bean leaf roller. (read so much more about it!) The depositer of those yellow eggs!
Now I’ve a name to put to the dark cloaked creature. And I’ve learned my gardening hands should remain gloved at all times in case they need to capture future offenders.