Among the many summer chores around the farm are those found in our own garden. There is the expected hoeing, weeding, thinning and then the most disgusting; squash bug eradication. Our 11-year old son has been growing gourds for five years or so, which he then harvests and sells at our farmers markets in late fall. As any adult might expect, this is a great activity for him to learn about growing his own “crop”, tending and caring for it, and the end result of marketing, selling and putting some money in the bank. Where things falls short, at times, is the tending part.
One or two evenings a week, my son and I go out on Squash Bug Patrol. Squash bugs, as many of you may know, are gross little creatures that lay eggs on the underside of squash, gourd and pumpkin plants. It’s a good day if all we find are the eggs, which are easy to smash and take off the leaves. The bugs themselves are a dark-grey and flat, with a hard shell that scatter like wind when their prey (us!) approaches. The bugs are truly disgusting. I don’t know anyone who grows a garden in western Colorado who does not suffer from these scampering, copulating critters. Squash bugs eat the blossoms that the plant produces. This year, we have scads of squashbugs. They are everywhere. On a typical year, we find our first squash bugs towards the end of July. This year, we found the first adults in June. Ahhhhh! This means many evenings of Patrol….many evenings of protest of “why do we have to do this?”…many evenings of dead larvae under your fingernails.
So my son and I were “on patrol” the other night, enjoying the summer evening and mindless banter between us. I was smiling to myself as I listened to him sing songs from the Lion King and then the phrase, “Die bug die” as only an 11-year old can do. Because he’s a boy and because he’s 11, my son finds alternate ways of eliminating these bugs and this is what we’ve learned: Squash bugs do not float or swim, If you are brave enough to actually touch them and pull them off the leaves, they can’t move on their backs (this is handy as they are quick to bury under the stalk of the plant), Squash bugs smell when they are smashed with a hard object, Squash bugs often continue to move around after smashed with a hard object. After 30-40 minutes of Eradication Patrol, smelling the putrid smell of dead bugs and being pretty grossed out in general my son said,
“You know Mom, these bugs have a little bit of zombie in them. You try to kill them and they just keep going”. And I was laughing quietly at the wonderful comment he said because it really is true.
If you are at our farmers markets in the fall and happen to see our son selling his gourds, please remember that there was lots of “Hakuna Matata” and lots of zombie that went into that crop!