bug busters

Two years ago I tried soy bean seeds for the first time. We had a good first-time crop. They grew well, they were easy to process, and they were delicious.

Last year I planted more soy bean seeds. A total bust.

I planted them in one long row next to the asparagus. I think they were too shaded by the asparagus fronds. But the kicker was the Japanese beetles. I didn’t notice the beetles for a long time because we basically ignore the asparagus after mid-June. It took me a long time to notice the beetle infestation and by then it was too late. The plants had been munched enough that they didn’t produce soy beans. At all.

This year was year #3. I bought two varieties this year and planted them in two long rows next to each other. The plants seemed to be flourishing until I started noticing the beetles again.

Stupidly, I saw the beetles but didn’t do anything for a week or so. Sometimes brains just don’t work… The synapses finally kicked in: the beetles must have killed the plants last year, so get on it!! For the past week or two, I’ve been trying to watch for and pick off beetles at least once a day. On uber-gardening weekends, I check several times a day.

The best part of beetle policing, though, is feeding them to the chickens. I’ve been carefully flicking them off into a flimsy plastic vegetable start container and carrying it over to the orchard where the chickens are. Mysteriously, once in the container, the beetles don’t fly off. They just lie there, often upside down, doing nothing.  ???

Then comes the real fun and amusement–for the chickens. I generally have two tactics. One is flipping over the container and dumping any beetles onto the ground. The other is showing the container to an especially interested and helpful chicken who sticks her head in the container and–munch, munch, munch–eats them all in about 2 seconds flat.

Nony and Daisy have been my regular bug busters. Nony is queen of the ground munching technique, while Daisy has perfected the nab out of the container approach. A few other chickens have gotten in on the bug action–Caroline, most recently Hawkeye–but I think Nony and Daisy have learned what that little black container means. They usually run over to the gate and eagerly await a crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bug snack.

Yum, yum!

In all seriousness, this is reason #n to keep chickens. They lay wonderful eggs, they poop out rich nitrogen, and they eat bugs and larvae that gardeners don’t want. So, to Nony and Daisy, thank you for being our bug busters.

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