What’s Eating My Sweet Potato Vine?

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Unless you are very fast or very lucky, you’re not going to see the beetle that’s making the holes in this plant and others like it (morning glory, moonflower and that pest, field bindweed. It’s a shame we can’t train it just to eat that!).

This is a very interesting beetle. I’ve actually only seen it a few times back in my retail gardening days when we had so many of these plants that the beetles came in droves.

They looked like small golden ladybugs. They were beautiful–but of course very destructive. And, of course, that’s only part of the story because this is a very interesting beetle.

This beetle changes color under stress–for example, when we touch it. And of course, when it dies. So what I saw in my retail gardening days as a beautiful golden beetle becomes a red beetle.

Here’s a little bit more information–with some photos–about this interesting beetle from HGTV.

If you do a search for “what’s eating my sweet potato vine,” you’re likely to come upon all sorts of things out there. Take a good look at the photo in the my post. This is damage from the golden tortoise beetle. If your damage doesn’t look like that, it’s possible something else is eating your plant. After all, there are all sorts of insects and critters in our gardens, and we don’t all garden in the same place.

Airborne Marvels

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Unfortunately with all our rain, this photo doesn’t do justice to what’s really happening here.

Every year, for about a month or so, the timing of which seems to coordinate with the maturing of the periodic dog day cicadas, of course, eastern cicada killer wasps (sphecius speciosus)make tunnels (hence the large opening and the disturbed soil in the photo).

The cicada killer wasp is the largest wasp in my part of the world and it’s a fearsome looking creature. It looks pretty much like a giant hornet or yellow jacket–and when I say “giant” I am not kidding. They can be up to 2″ long (which doesn’t sound long until you are walking along and all of these wasps are burrowing and flying around at you!)

Despite their size, in general, they are gentle and non-stinging (although as with all stinging insects, if something happens to annoy them, they will defend themselves. The Spoiler once managed to get stung by a bumble bee! I wasn’t sure that was really possible. I now know it is.)

What these wasps are doing is making a tunnel nest for an egg. They then grab a cicada, take it down into the nest for the egg to eat when it hatches, and fly away. Nothing very scary. The whole process takes about a month.

Our cicada killers at this site have returned every year for decades and to the best of my knowledge, despite the building’s public use, no one has ever been stung.

There are lots more fun and interesting facts about our largest wasp (in North America, at least) at this site about Cicadas.

If you encounter them–or their tunnels–don’t be afraid. Just watch and enjoy.

Soupy

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June was abnormally dry. July and this beginning part of August has been uncommonly wet. Lawns look like this. Mushrooms are even sprouting in my flower pots.

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I tweeted this photo last week. This is a reminder of how large crab grass can really get–and half of this clump is buried under the rose, weighted down by rainwater. It would be truly impressive if it weren’t so scary.

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And for those of you who need a reminder of why I hate mulch–here’s a clump of lupine being consumed by the aptly named “dog vomit” fungus (otherwise known by its more correct name, fulgo septica). Truly lovely.

Before we know it, things will dry out and it will be back to “winter” again here in Connecticut so I will take the heat, moisture, mushrooms and almost everything (but perhaps not slime molds, thank you!) that summer has to offer. Bring it on!

Summer Wisdom for Summer Afternoons

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To quote Henry James: “Summer afternoon–summer afternoon: to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

What’s clear to me about the above quote by James is that he either wasn’t a gardener, or he had someone–or a staff of someones–to do his gardening for him!

Most gardeners I know find that by about this point in the gardening season, the weeds are as high–or higher–than the plants, the lack of rain has made constant watering a chore (or the converse has happened–it’s rained too much and molds and mildews are rotting out plants). By this point in the gardening season, I am heartily wishing for winter.

That’s why it was such a treat to receive a complementary copy of Garden Wisdom: 365 Days by Cheryl Wilfong.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but the accompanying letter instructed me to open the book to “today’s date” and read the meditation, so I did. And then I read the one from the day before. And then I back-tracked and read randomly from the “Spring” meditations because I didn’t want to skip ahead and spoil the ones that I had in front of me.

Each one is a little treat, like a perfect little sweet at the end of a meal, or a cool, freshly made drink (you fill in your favorite drink of choice here!)

The book is made up of meditations from Cheryl’s blog The Meditative Gardener. Both the blog and her book have won numerous awards.

And so now, thoroughly brought back to the wisdom of living in the moment–or attempting to, anyway–I will say that I do highly recommend the book. Anything that can drag me out of a weeding funk has really got something going for it!