Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Trouble in paradise

When we moved into our house about 6 years ago there was very simple landscaping out front. Simple is perfect for us. We've never done much to it and I couldn't tell you the names of any of the bushes or plants growing out there, but they're obviously hardy since we've lived here 6 years and they don't look much different than when we moved in. There are two green long-leafed plants that have looked pretty bedraggled for years. I assumed they were just regular plants - nothing special. Then I woke up this morning to find this:

A bird of paradise! Who knew? And we have two of them. The one that just bloomed looks quite healthy, but the other one is very holey and eaten up. I have glanced at it in the past to see if there are any obvious little garden beasties that are eating it, but never found a thing. Then today my 4-year-old found the guilty creature chomping away. It was very disgusting. It turns out that these are the mystery creatures that we've seen attached to the stucco all over the front of our house for years. They live in little stick-covered cocoons and they stick onto any surface with a hold tighter than superglue. We never knew what they were, but after we caught one eating our bird of paradise plant today I decided to go online and figure out what it is. ((shudder))

I am not a fan of gross wormy creepy-crawly things. So the fact that these are all over the front of our house makes me shudder and itch. Turns out they are called bagworms. I discovered that female bagworms stay in their cocoons that they make out of stick and plant pieces and walk around with it like a hermit crab in a shell. When frightened, they retreat into their cocoon. They poke out their head and wander off when the coast is clear. The females lay eggs in their cocoon, which eventually hatch and she dies. The males eventually turn into moths and fly away. They have no beneficial use to plants or gardens and are just listed as a pest. The whole thing is bound to make me break out in hives just thinking about it.

The only way to get rid of bagworms is to hand-pick them off (ewwww) and burn them, or to spray them with a pesticide called BTK, which will also kill off your good caterpillars too. But I read that they can be immune to the pesticide depending on the stage in their development when you spray them. These things are all over the front of our house - hand picking them off while balancing on a tall ladder would be gross and insanely time consuming. Farmer B has tried to pull them off the stucco before their hold is so tight that you'd think he's trying to pry a nail out of a board. If anyone has any suggestions for us, we're up for them.

Ugh. I can't stop itching.

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