Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Hate Bugs

Well, except bees.  But it seems these days that every time you turn around some new pest has materialized out of the blue.  Or out of Asia.  Or Australia.  Or somewhere.  My blueberries had the best crop I've ever had this year.  The early picking was great, with only a few berries showing some signs of disease (probably anthracnose) and then the usual onslaught from the Japanese beetles.
Japanese beetles on raspberry plants

Although they're still out in pretty good numbers, they are starting their seasonal decline and aren't being quite the pest they were.  Then, I began to notice some very soft berries and discovered small holes in the berries that oozed juice when slightly squeezed. Opening them up, I discovered a small white grub.  A little research led me to an insect I had never heard of before:  blueberry maggot.  So, I pretty much abandoned the blueberries for this year, deciding I would severely trim them back, remove all dropped berries and mulch around the plants and do dormant spraying when there was little chance of harming the bees, like in March.  Then I got a note from my daughter, Jessica, who happens to be an entomologist.  She indicated it could very well be a relatively new pest in this area, the spotted wing drosophila, which is a small fruit fly.  On her suggestion, I've put a number of berries in a jar and will see what emerges.  Most likely they are maggots from drosophila, as we began inspecting our red raspberries, which are just not coming into their second half season.  Sure enough, in berries that had a watery appearance inside the cap when picked I found little maggots.  I even saw little fruit flies flying around the berries.  The problem with red raspberries is the bees are all over the blossoms of this second half of the season, so any type of insecticide is out of the question at this time.  This may be a serious problem, as, unlike many fruit flies that attack already damaged fruit, the female of the drosophila has a specialized mouthpart that allows her to cut into healthy fruit and deposit her eggs.  Blueberries, raspberries and even grapes are subject to attack.  (Updated Note:  I got the wrong end of the female--she has a specialized ovipositor, or egg laying organ, on her abdomen that has a double row of serrated teeth she uses to cut into the fruit to deposit her eggs.)
To read about them in Iowa, visit spotted wing drosophila.
Honey bee on our raspberry blossoms
So, while not directly affecting our bees, this new insect, if it indeed turns out to be drosophila, can just about ruin our fruit crops, which would be a huge loss.
It was a beautiful day out, though, and so on a brighter note here are a couple other shots I took.  
These cherry tomatoes are Baby Girls.  Though not super sweet, they don't tend to split open, are very vigorous, firm but juicy.  Great in salads!

Bumble bees really love these Mexican sunflowers.



3 comments:

  1. Grrr! I hate destructive insects. We had our first batch EVER of Japenese beetles this year but luckily things haven't gotten any worse. How all of these insects get here from Asia is puzzling sometimes (such a long way to travel).

    I should plant some cherry tomatoes next year. Both this year and last year our tomato plants didn't do well :(

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  2. Bessie, I'm sorry to hear about the infestation. I don't know about you but berries especially raspberries are among my favorite fruits, if not the favorite. Your post incited a little research on my end and if you haven't yet addressed the problem maybe this website from UC Davis can be of help http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74158.html. At least when life gave you lemons you made some lemonade and took some nice pictures, bravo!

    Alta Peng @ Liberty Pest Inc

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  3. Thanks, Alta. This fruit fly is really a nasty one. Fortunately this season we had an abundance of blueberries and the flies don't appear until mid-July, so we were able to pick quite a few before the infestation. After they appear, with all our raspberries and blueberries there just isn't much I can do--just have to let them go.

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