Recently on the farm, we discovered a nest of spotted eggs and a momma killdeer protecting them. Beautiful eggs of a beautiful animal. The only problem was that they were on top of one of our baby cucumber plants!
All was well until we needed to weed the plants around the nest and to trellis all the cucumbers. As soon as we got close to the nest, the killdeer would either screech loudly over and over or run off and fake a broken wing. The broken wing act is to distract the predator from the eggs and draw it to the adult. She was sometimes aggressively protective of her eggs and sometimes just obnoxiously loud. I know you’re probably thinking– “Come on, it’s just a momma bird trying to protect her babies.” We know, we know. We had appreciation and respect for what she was doing, but the repetitive squaking soon became more than just an annoyance– it was constant! Here’s an example of the classic killdeer broken wing act.
Eventually, the eggs hatched and the gorgeous killdeer family left us for a new home. We were glad to help them out with their housing situation, but we do hope they don’t tell their friends!
It’s been awhile since the blog has gotten any attention and I’m breaking the silence! We have been busy at the farm which has left us little time to blog and keep everyone updated. A good bit of time we spend at the farm is done insect scouting, which might sound like an in depth process, but is literally just checking every plant for insect- pests. This past week myself and some other interns were scouting and noticed a new insect on our eggplant, and not really anywhere else. They were identified by Mary, our boss, as Blister Beetles. They get this common name by a defensive mechanism of secreting cantharidin, a chemical that causes blister on the skin where the bug touches. This chemical is released near the leg joints of the insect and affects people differently depending on how reactive they are.
We usually smash bugs with latex gloves on and I was thankful I had them on before asking Mary more about the blister beetle. The damage is pretty substantial on our eggplants, the beetle has greatly defoliated about a quarter of our plants. We realized that after smashing as many as possible it was going to be hard to put a dent in thier already robust population. So I geared up and sprayed the eggplant with Pyganic. I know what you are thinking, because it was my same though when I first heard of this product. How can you spray for insects if you are growing organically? Well this is an insecticide that is derived from chrysanthemums, so it is organic itself. After a hot hour of spraying I was done and hopefully the blister beetles are through munching on our eggplants! Take it easy in the heat!