Monday, September 9, 2013

Squash Bugs, Projects and Bees Update

We finally got some real rain yesterday. It's been several dry weeks and things were looking pretty ragged around here. September is a dry month typically anyway and our average rainfall is only around 3.5 inches or so for the month, but it was really beginning to cause some major alarm.

I have several little tidbits, observations and news from the past week or so that on their own did not merit a dedicated post but may mean something or just be generally interesting to some of you.

The first was a disturbing observations about squash bugs and wood chips. I am seriously re-evaluating a few things and once again taking a very critical look at the "eden garden" method of doing things.

As many of you know I pretty much determined that having even a modest sized garden covered with wood chips is totally unsustainable. There is just no way a person can keep up with the loss of the cover medium on their own. If you have a ready supply (like I do right now) that is consistent year after year (Mine isn't) it does work but there are other problems. If you don't cut massive amounts of woody material on a daily basis and have a very expensive heavy duty chipper you just cannot keep up with the media loss.

Crab grass and morning glory/bindweed as I have pointed out thrives and expands rapidly snug and safe under the wood chip blanket and since you cannot till the chips into the soil there is no way to control these weeds satisfactorily as they are impossible to simply dig up.

This week however I discovered another very distressing bad side effect of wood chips. Squash bugs.

I have used wood chips all over the place as mulch for fruit trees and as ground cover around my wood piles and other areas. In each spot this week as I was working I noticed squash bugs crawling around in the wood chips. A couple of the areas are 50 yards or more away from the garden with no plants nearby that should attract these bugs. Either these devil bugs are out in search of food as the plants they were attacking collapse or (as I suspect) they are looking for over Wintering spots. It is well known these bugs over Winter in the remains of plants and such left in the garden. Apparently they can and will use wood chip mulch for this as well. A person may want to think long and hard about creating so much Winter housing for such an annoying and destructive pest.

I have the advantage of moving my squash bug buffet plantings further off as needed but you may not. Most recommendations for fighting the Squash bug infestations begin with removing all debris left from the plants. If a thick coating of wood chips counts as debris well things could get ugly fast.

Yesterday also saw the end of the pumpkins and other melon hold outs except for like two remaining plants. I planted my pumpkins way too early this year but at least now with most of the garden work completed and only a few beans left to pick along with only the tomatoes and peppers left I can begin focusing on the barn once again and another fence row I want to clean out.

The poor little nuc that had already been robbed once before is now gone for good. I checked it the other day and could not find the queen at all and only a few bees remained inside, no brood had been started nor honey stored in the comb. By this afternoon the other hives were robbing all that was left and I didn't even try and stop it. Perhaps by leaving that one to rob the larger hives won't turn on my other small late season swarm, which against all odds appears to be making progress. It was pretty good sized for a late swarm anyway and almost immediately began bringing in pollen to raise brood unlike the other little (now dead) nuc swarm.

I just cannot seem to ever get a late season swarm through the Summer dearth and into the Fall goldenrod flow.

This latest rob out leaves me with 11 hives going into Fall. About half the number of where I hoped to be this year. Basically as you all know 2012 was a compete write off and even though 2013 so far has been a good year it still wasn't good enough to make up for last year's losses and then some. Such is life.

Speaking of Goldenrod it is blooming in small patches here and there but still not enough to get any honeybees taking much interest in it. I seem to remember last year it was only well after it had started blooming before the bees really started working it. No asters blooming as yet either.

The Late Summer Dearth continues.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. I didn't think about not tilling the wood chips but that would be a problem in some areas. I just thought of a possible problem that we would have around here, termites. I keep my huge supply of firewood out in the driest area I could think of away from the house. I have to wheelbarrow it to the house but it is downhill, I did think ahead on that one.

    1. Sf - We don't have much of a termite problem that I have ever noticed. But yes bugs in general maybe a real problem with the wood chips and you cannot till them in or it will remove all the nitrogen from the soil to break the chips down.

      We do have some other wood bug problems but none of the wood I get comes from more than a few miles away which means I prolly already got what ever is in it anyway.

  2. Sorry the bees/hives haven't come back the way you wanted. Sounds like bees' numbers are diminishing everywhere, which is definitely not good.

    1. RP - Oh they came back good just not good enough to make up this year's growth and last years as well. No biggy I was prolly hoping for too much anyway.

  3. I too am sorry about the hives. and about those pesky squash bugs. as we are in land scape, we tell our clients all the time to shy away from wood chips as mulch. Bugs love it, and even worse are the roaches down here..they thrive in it.

    1. JuGM - Ya I never thought about the Squash bugs. I use wood chip mulch in many areas and have not had any problems but with the scale of have now it could be a different story.

      I think many people see the allure of the no weeding claim and forget you are gonna pay for that somewhere else as well.

  4. I've always thought that being a human being was tough but I believe bees must have it tougher.

    If squash bugs get in wood chips, and you have all those wood chips those trucks brought you, aren't you basically screwed?

    I remember after Katerina when they were grinding up all the wood down there and selling it up here for mulch, then they found out that Louisiana tiger termites were in some of it. Seems like life never lets you catch a break. The law of unintended consequences hoses people every time.

    1. Harry - Well it may indeed cause my bug damage to go up, especially if other bugs use em too. The Squash bugs are not that big a deal though because I can simply move my plants that the Squash bugs like away. I got plenty of open tillable ground to use.

      Since all these chips are coming from less than a mile away I doubt I will get anything I don't already have. But yes I may have more of a Spring bug survivor rate after this.

  5. Woodchips I seem to recall are also associated with voles. Voles don't seem like a big deal until you get them.


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