Wednesday, August 28, 2013

the good, the bad and the ugly

I'm talking bugs, of course.  We've waged war against the bad guys, but it's a long road.  Over the past couple of years (since Carson came along) we've switched almost completely to organic gardening methods.  It's tough.  Sometimes I REALLY want to grab a bottle of Spectracide insect killer.  But, the organic method is a battle that I'm determined to win.

I've got my go-to methods for all my different pests.  We've got BT for the caterpillars, beer (and salt) for the slugs and snails, diatomaceous earth for the ants and earwigs and ladybugs for the aphids.

But, this summer brought an unwelcome invader that had me completely stumped.  Something was feasting on our ivy.
Nothing eats ivy, right?

One night, I took our dog out for a late walk (10pm) and something in the ivy caught my eye.   Upon closer inspection, I found hundreds of...
walking stick bugs!
one of our walking stick bugs (the bad guys)
They're actually kind of cute and apparently they make good pets.  In fact, they aren't native to Southern California but there have been quite a few reports of infestations here.  Sounds like they were originally someone's pets, they got tired of them, released them and that caused a BIG problem.  I've been studying up on these little terrors and it turns out San Diego has a major stick bug problem.

Long story short, the only recommended way to get rid of them is Orthene (a broad spectrum insect killer) and I just wasn't willing to go that route.  So, I've spent a lot of nights with my flashlight and my clippers snipping walking sticks in half (sorry, I know it's gruesome).

But, I've also got a secret weapon (that's the helpful part of this post), praying mantids.   They sell them at our local nursery (or you can order them online!) and they eat LOTS of other bugs, including walking sticks!  We started raising (?) them months ago and now we've got quite a few of them hanging around.  To raise them you simple hang a little nest (looks like a tiny beehive) in the yard and wait for it to hatch).
one of our praying mantids (the good guys)
They are amazing!  My yard has never looked better!  I don't have aphids.  No caterpillars.  Haven't seen an earwig in weeks.  I still have a few stick bugs, but it's SO much better.

So, my suggestion for all my gardening friends: GET PRAYING MANTIDS.  I know many people are bug shy, but do it anyway.   They're completely harmless to people and they don't eat plants at all, only bugs.  I promise you'll learn to love 'em!


  1. Whitney,
    That's a great tip. I love the birds that visit my yard and never want to use poison on the plants in case they eat the bugs that I've poisoned...well, you understand. It's a vicious cycle. But the praying mantis sound like a great addition to the mix. I will buy some, did you get them on line or at the nursery?

    1. You should absolutely get some! I love the little guys. I actually got some online (amazon) and some at my nursery. The folks at my nursery said that fall is a great to put them outside (somewhere sheltered) so they will hatch in the spring.