Have you seen these little guys running around your garden? Well you would know if your broccoli, squash plants or anything else of the kind has brown, dry dead leaves or is just plain dying.
Nicknamed “harlequin bug”, these bugs are also called cabbage bug and the fire bug. The scientific name is Murgantia histrionica for all you science types out there. The harlequin bug sucks the sap of the plants and that’s what causing the wilting, browning and eventual death of your beloved crops.
This bug prefers heat and is found in most of the Southern states in the U.S.
So how do you kill these creatures? It’s not easy. In fact, some people battle these little soldiers from year to year. Most resources say that organic pest control will not do the trick and that you need to apply an insecticide to your affected plants to kill the adults and larvae. It’s a personal choice of course, and how much destruction you are willing to live with. Some sources say that if you plant a specific batch of cabbage, broccoli or the like in a far area of your garden it will attract the harlequins and they will feast in that one area. Once you discover them there, you can cover with netting and carefully set the crop on fire to kill the entire colony. There is another organic method called “Pepper Spray” that can be used that is relatively effective.
Whatever bugs you may have chewing on your valuable home crops, you have a problem for sure. Below I have posted (with permission) a list of organic solutions that you can try to get rid of them.
Chilli Spray Use fresh or dried chillies and blend one cup of dried or 2 cups of fresh chillies with two cups of water. Spray fresh. This will kill caterpillars.
Chilli and Wormwood Spray Blend one cup of chillies and one cup of wormwood with one cup of water. Then, add five cups of water and bring to the boil. Allow this to stand for one hour. Strain and bottle.
This can be sprayed on plants and garden beds to repel possums, rabbits, snails and slugs. It also kills aphids, bean fly and white fly.
Note: Do not allow to come into contact with eyes or skin.
Comfrey Foliar Food
Before Comfrey flowers, cut the leaves and pack them into an old bucket or something similar with holes in the bottom. Place a plate or a tin lid on top and weigh it down with half a brick.
Put a plastic plant pot in an old basin and stand the bucket on the pot. After three weeks, there should be a quantity of brown fluid in the basin. Strain this and then bottle it.
Spray plants in the proportion of 15 ml (1 tbsp) comfrey liquid to 1 litre (1 pints) water and a few drops of liquid detergent. Put the remaining contents of the bucket on the compost heap.
Home made sprays may be stored safely for up to one month, providing they are in sterile, glass, screwtop containers.
Glass bottles or jars may be sterilised by placing them in cold water and bringing them to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Allow the bottle or jar to cool in the water before using.
Correct labelling is essential. Include the date of making and the ingredients on the container and keep them in a safe place out of the reach of children and animals.
Boil equal parts of coriander and water for ten minutes. Strain and bottle. This is suitable for spider mites and aphids.
Elder Leaf Spray
Simmer 500 grams of Elder leaves in 3.5 litres of water for 30 minutes. Replace water lost as steam. Strain and bottle. This is a general pesticide suitable for aphids, caterpillars, thrips and black spot.
Feverview Spray (tea)
Pour boiling water over fresh or dried feverfew flowers and steep until fragrant. This can be used on a wide range of insect pests. it is said to be good for migraines – drink one cup every morning as prevention.
Garlic Spray (1)
Soak four garlic cloves for several days in one litre of cold water and then blend. This will kill ants, caterpillars and cabbage worms. A stronger brew can be made by using hot water and adding several red peppers, ground up, and adding two tablespoons of pure soap to help the spray stick. Use spray when solution has cooled .
Garlic Spray (2)
Chop 85 g garlic. Don’t bother to peel it. Soak it in 2 tablespoons of mineral oil for 24 hours. Add 600 ml water to which 7 g of soap has been dissolved (or as soapy a solution you can make). Strain and store in glass not metal, away from the light. Dilute with ten times the amount of water to begin with; then make it stronger if it isn’t effective. The smell isn’t as bad as you would expect and it doesn’t linger when sprayed.
Garlic spray can be used as a general insecticide in a wide range of situations, but its effect is variable, very effective sometimes not at all at others. Possibly harsh, arid conditions make it less effective. Remember, it is not a contact poison and must be eaten to be effective.
General Insect Spray
Crush three unpeeled heads of garlic and 90 ml (3 fl oz) liquid paraffin. Place in a bowl, cover and leave to stand for 24 hours. Melt 15 ml (1 tbsp) grated , oil-based soap in 500 ml (17 fl oz) hot water. Blend the garlic mixture with the soap mixture. When cooled, strain into a glass jar or bottle and seal. Keep it in the refrigerator. To use, dilute about 20 ml (4 tsp) of this solution in 2 litres (4 pints) of cold water. Spray fortnightly.
Cover Marigold flowers (not the English calendula flowers) with boiling, soapy water and leave overnight. Strain and this can be used for Aphids.
Dissolve 500 grams of dried milk in 4 litres of water and spray directly onto the leaves showing signs of virus diseases.
Soak cigarette or cigar ends in water for a week at the rate of 30 ends to 4 litres of water. Remove the filter ends first. This spray will kill scale insects and mealy bug.
Chop up one large unpeeled onion. Place in a blender with one litre of water and blend on a slow speed, to a milky consistency. This is useful for use on aphids and red spider mites.
Any kind of pepper sprinkled on wet leaves will protect them from caterpillars.
Pure Soap Spray
Dissolve 225 grams of pure laundry soap in 9 litres of water. This will kill most pests on your plants. Allow it to dry on plants and then hose it down the next day with clean water.
Red Pepper, Garlic and Onion Spray
Chop an unpeeled onion and a head of garlic. Simmer the onion and garlic with 15 ml (1 tbsp) cayenne pepper in about 1.5 litres (2 pints) water for 20 minutes. Cool the mixture, pour into a jar, seal, stand for six weeks and strain into bottles. To use, mix 15 ml (1 tbsp) of this mixture with 750 ml (1 pint) water. Add a little soap solution. Use as a general pest spray as well as for caterpillars. Note: Do not allow this to come into contact with eyes or skin.
Simmer one kilo of rhubarb leaves in a covered pot for 30 minutes. Do not use an aluminium pot. When cool, mix with a little pure soap, enough to keep a permanent lather. The use of rainwater will increase the effectiveness as some salts present in mains water can reduce the strength of the oxalic acid content.
Sprinkled around plants, it is a deterrent to many pests, including slugs and snails. It contains elements that irritate and insects are reluctant to cross the barrier. Ensure you do not leave gaps.
Simmer 225 (8 oz) wormwood leaves in 2 litres ( 3 pints) water for half an hour. Stir, strain and leave to cool. Dissolve 5 ml (1 tsp) soap flakes in 500 ml ( 17 fl oz) hot water. Combine this with the wormwood water and spray plants frequently at the height of the caterpillar season. A strong wormwood tea, cooled and poured on the tracks of slugs and snails will deter them.
White Cedar Spray
Place white cedar leaves in a bucket. Cover with boiling water. Put the lid on the bucket. Steep until cold. If the liquid isn’t pale brown, you need more leaves. Don’t inhale the steam and don’t store it. Keep away from children. This will kill most pests.