Friday, June 10, 2011

Some are invited

Amidst all this promise of life giving life a war wages, me versus a tenacious invader, fire ants. Indigenous to South America these aggressive, biting pests quickly move in, overtaking the more docile native population and reign by swarming and terrorizing anything that disrupts their work. I am prepared at this point to take them on having suffered the blistering, discomforting manifestation of their bites. What might end-up being my Waterloo is a nest that took hold in a pile of garden clippings just adjacent to the shade garden. I made the mistake this past spring when one day I discovered this particular mound rife with winged juveniles. I should have at that point worked to disperse the nascent colony, flinging them here and there in order to shake up the confidence of this developing drone army. Now, two months later masses of workers scour the lands around the nest in search of food to feed their queen and her seemingly endless production of offspring. I am not defeated yet. Though my options are limited to environmentally sensitive applications – rid is what I want but not the product I will buy.

So far, I have unleashed my own cursing plagues upon them: cooking oil, viscous lavender-scented hand soap, a mixture of tea tree tincture, detergent and water, cornmeal, coffee grounds, borax, and flooding them with the hose. I have even taken to urinating on the mounds for I read they seem to find it annoying – who doesn’t? Clearly, I am willing to try anything. My next step is to secure diatomaceous earth, which is made from the fossilized remains of algae-like plant. Ground to a fine powder that feels like talc to us humans for insects it has razor sharp edges that tears at their exoskeleton causing them to dehydrate and die. Gruesome yes, but necessary for it’s survival of the fittest. I can’t get to the nursery in town that carries this brutal yet environmentally kind killer for a day, so until then it is kettles of boiling water.

It seems like the tide has turned, and it is in my favor. The continuous march, on end of my nemesis has abated. After a seven-day battle, with heavy causalities of both sides, surveying the battle theatre this morning all seemed silent. I am not ready to raise the flag of victory quite yet, but I am hopeful. For now, I will keep vigil watching for signs of re-grouping.

I am excited to report that after a hard fought seven-day siege I have won. It has been two full days without a sign from my stubborn, aggressive enemy. Or, sure there has been a wandering solider here or there but nothing threatening. I am now looking for my next mound to conquer.
I found a ladybug crawling up the base of one of the tomato plants; I do hope this so welcome insect has friends and family to invite over for a meal they are great eaters; they are a great controller of aphids and other pests. Do they eat fire ants? Though I am definitely conflicted for I have been spraying my plants with an organic concoction meant to rid the leaves of that which would be appealing to the ladybug. However, the shade garden is most definitely a tad harder to control, for every morning I have found a few leaves of the squash spotted with amber-hued eggs and new hatchings of what I think are spiders.
Do I dare try to capture this welcomed ladybug and move it to where there is a buffet waiting? Most assuredly, I want to support and promote, as best as I can, the life cycle of this voracious eater for it wants what I find a nuisance. And, after the battle I waged, mano-a-mano, help is greatly appreciated.

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