Plague

Writers need ways to alleviate stress, activities that let their creativity rekindle after a hard day’s work at the keyboard.  One of my favorite ways to unwind is to putter among my roses.  Although I’ve dug up and transported several beloved bushes to my new yard, I also acquired two showy Pinata climbing roses with the place.

Last week, just as the Pinatas were about to burst into their second big bloom of the season, disaster struck with an infestation of bagworms.

Concealed and protected inside their brown, cone-shaped jackets, gabworms are busy stripping the leaves from this rose bush.

Bagworms are nasty little brutes with voracious appetites.  They’re sneaks, disguising themselves inside innocuous brown cones of juniper needles and bits of leaves.  You hardly notice them dangling on the underside of leaves — until the plant under attack begins to turn brown, or gaping holes appear in leaves, or suddenly the leaves are gone altogether.  Before you know it, your luscious rose bush looks like this:

In early May, this Pinata climbing rose was a healthy, green shrub loaded with spectacular orange blooms. Now it's been stripped.

Sad, isn’t it?  I wish I had a picture of the bush when it was in full bloom earlier this spring.  Now, I don’t know whether the plant will even survive.

The worms have eaten the leaves, buds, and blooms.  They have all the appetite and mercy of piranhas, and when they’ve destroyed a plant, they move to the next one.  Today I found several that have  migrated across the back lawn to the patio, where my geraniums await them.

The county extension agent recommends spraying them with a Bt product called Thuricide, but very little of it is likely to penetrate the cone to get at the tiny, speckled brown worm residing within.  Gardening expert P. Allen Smith advises that the most effective remedy is to pick the bagworms off and crush them.

Since I don’t want to drown my yard in Bt, thus destroying all the worm life in the garden (meaning I won’t have any butterflies), I tried picking.  There are too many of them, although I’ve managed to squish quite a few.  The birds don’t want them and are of no help.  Apparently the natural predator of the bagworm is some species of wasp.

Yesterday, while I was picking and squishing (ick!), an enormous red wasp sailed past me, surveyed the flagstone where I was conducting the slaughter, perceived that I was executing its rightful prey, and gave me serious warning to back off.

I left, heading straight to the store to purchase poison.  You see, although I’m allergic to insecticides and try to let nature handle things, my beloved Linda Campbell rugosa roses are at stake.  It has taken tremendous effort to bring them here to the new yard.  They are just getting settled in and starting to thrive at the front of the house.  And the bagworms are just now going for them.

To save my trio of Lindas, I’m willing to step over my objections to using garden chemicals.  Otherwise, they’re going to end up like this poor little spruce, which used to be such a charming splash of blue in my backyard:

Only a few blue needles remain on what was a charming little spruce. The bagworms have munched it into probable death.

I’ve found a volunteer willing to spray the chemicals for me.  War is declared.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Plague

  1. Bagworms are attacking all my small ornamental trees so I can sympathize. Tonight we’ll pull off and destroy as many as we can.

    I also read somewhere asters and daisies are good companions, so I may move some asters under the trees this fall.

    My extension agent told me to pull them off anytime between now and next may, and to spray if I need to next June. Like you, I’d like to avoid that if I can.

    Good luck

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