Monday, November 11, 2013

Pest control without wasting life

We maintain small planters in which we plant salad greens every spring.  Despite our best efforts at growing them, we almost never get a chance to harvest them.  In a span of a week, the leaves of our veggies will go from solid green leaves to being polka-dotted with evidence of a caterpillar infestation.  The safest way of exterminating the pests while keeping the veggies edible is to peer underneath the leaves with holes, and pick them off manually.  Why should such lives be wasted?  Fortunately, there's no shortage of predators to feed them to, and it alleviates my guilt that I'm killing for the sake of killing.

Eratigena atrica - the giant house spider

An odd thing was that this single web had a visitor hanging underneath.  The one below didn't seem too interested in the caterpillar.  But they tolerated each other for several days.

I loved her bluish tinge, and the red lipstick she put on just to look good.  I can't imagine what creature she had eaten to dye her fangs red.
Eratigena atrica
Araneus Diadematus - the cross spider

With about 30 caterpillars, many of the spiders got a double helping.

Araneus diadematus

Platycryptus californicus

Caterpillars aren't the only pests around though:

Spittlebug - these can be a serious crop pest in larger numbers, but these ones seem to be satisfied with the English Ivy hedges, which I'm more than happy to let them suck on
 In the fall, for a few brief weeks, mushrooms spring up out of our wood mulch.  I dabbed a bit on my tongue this year to test its tingling.  But they were still too wormy to be appetizing.  I waited too long, once again.

A single bolete mushroom was home to probably 40 of these maggots

The spiders appreciated this late-fall meal, a time when there were few other insects wandering about.

Eratigena atrica

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Christmas cactus, a month earlier than normal

With the extraordinarily bright October we had, I would've expected a late blooming of our cactus this year.  In fact, this is the earliest it's ever bloomed, three weeks earlier than last year.  Two flowers are already about to fall off.

No new leaves this year.  Compare it with the 2012 photo.

Being the rebel that he is, this little guy (his gender should be clear to anybody who sees the pollen that he's dropped all over the floor) likes being dormant during the summer, and is most active in the winter.

As per tradition:

Maybe his lack of growth is his way of communicating to me that he needs a new pot.  Without any new growth, his existing leaves will continue to droop.  This year, two of his flowers are already growing right on the floor.