Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Bug Alert - Bagrada Bug & Holistic Approaches to Any Infestations

Bagrada bug

Scientific name: 

Bagrada cruciferarum, Bagrada hilaris

University of California Riverside
Center for Invasive Species Research

Bagrada bug is now in Santa Barbara County

This above Update Article about this pest follows an earlier article written January 13, 2011. 
Bagrada bug: An exotic pest in southern California

However there was an even earlier article in the August 3rd 2009 Orange County Register by Going-Green writer Pat Brennan.

‘Red bug’ makes first American appearance — in Orange County

African Distribution
Well there is plenty of reading here on the bug, but what caught my attention was a link provided by a reader who made a comment and provided a link to an African website which offered advice to people on what they have done in Africa in regards to management practices there in Africa where the Bagrada Bug is native. Here's the link below and I'll provide an illustration they use and quote their comment under it and some of the logical recommendations they suggest under this link:

Pest and disease Management:  General illustration of the concept of infonet-biovision
"This illustration shows the methods promoted on infonet-biovision. The methods shown at the top have a long-term effect, while methods shown at the bottom have a short-term effect. In organic farming systems, methods with a long-term effect are the basis of crop production and should be of preference. On the other hand methods with a short-term effect should be used in emergencies only. On infonet we do not promote synthetic pesticides."
Now I have to say I have read something here that I totally agree with and someone else who seems to have a same view of responsible methods as I do. Notice in the illustrative chart methods in order of importance, with the most dangerous one avoided on the bottom. Like me, they are not opposed to the use of the synthetic chemicals, but it is a last resort. Although in most of my writings I am clearly against
Synthetic fertilizers and Pesticides, I'm also aware that such things can have a responsible place as a necessary tool where necessary. The problem is that this is usually the first tool grabbed by the worker in pest management.

I've also used Pesticides when necessary in the past, but as a desperate means of destroying what is a gross infestation and then creating a Holistic setting to get the system back on track biologically speaking. Here's one good example. 

University of California Cooperative Extension, Kern County
Infestation on Hibiscus of Giant Whitefly and Woolly Whitefly

Before I was hired for my job as head gardener with the property management company in the San Diego County area, I was taken to one of the bigger and older properties and shown a number of large tropical Hibiscus shrubs on the property where there were many which looked identical to the one in the photo above. I was then asked how would I take care of this problem if hired. My main interest and background were natives and the ecosystems of the southwestern United States and having come from living up in the mountains for 24 years where no such infestations exist, I have to admit I was a bit taken back. I had never seen such alien looking scenes for which to me only existed in some bizarre Sci-Fi flick. My basic answer and still my practice would be to actually use a chemical pesticide and cut back hard the infected branches and leaves. (seriously, even when you kill the bugs, the foliage is shot and will not recover)  Such immediate and sadly drastic measures are necessary in the beginning to remove as many of the enemy as possible. He agreed, but my next proposed solution he was far more skeptical. I would inoculate the ground with a mycorrhizae & beneficial bacterial mix to create a mutualistic colonization between the plant roots and the soil microbial diversity. 

From everything I knew about nature, this is how this has worked for countless thousands of years and I had never ever seen any infestation of any sort on any plants in the wild. Not that they don't exist out there, but the numbers are kept in check. Needless to say I wasn't hired. Another individual with the conventional thinking programs and skills and the politically correct Landscape Philosophy was hired. Besides , I heard he also gave a long list of University merit badges. However a little over a month later I received a phone call that the individual was fired for incompetence. Go figure!

Bruce & Sharon Asakawa
They were still skeptical, but needed someone and couldn't afford the time and expense of going through a long list of interviews again. While waiting and looking for work that month I also did homework on a specific holistic approach to the now common Giant Whitefly which previously I had only heard of being a problem from news reports down in Imperial County agricultural areas. One day I had heard of a report by a renowned San Diego Horticulturalist and Garden expert who had his own show on the radio. His name was Bruce Asakawa and his wife Sharon. Specifically he mentioned the use of earthworm castings was found to not only make the Hibiscus healthier, but distasteful to the Whitefly.

Sure enough the earthworm castings worked. I later found that the castings act as a form of natural systemic which means the plant takes in certain natural enzymes like Chitinase which is a Chitin degrader internally though it's digestive system. Chitin is a component or element of an insect's exoskeletal structural arrangement. The insects don't like what they taste in the plants leaves and they head for another unhealthy home. The whiteflies are always around but rarely seen and never in the huge infestation numbers as before. I generally don't like the synthetic chemical systemics for roses and other flowering plants because I don't want to harm the beneficial nectar & pollen gathering critters like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Uptake of wormcastings is enhanced by beneficial microbes colonized into the root system. Beneficial mycorrhizae may increase water and nutrients more than 200%. So the combo has always worked for me without fail.

A special note here
. I had to purchase the earthworm castings and mycorrhizal mix from my own pay cheque. This was not something that was a part of the program as far as company expenses were concerned. No matter, the experience was worth it. And I also did a far amount of propagule and truffle collecting from colonized plants around the park after that. It would often be commented on when I had previously collected truffles and left them on top of my favourite electrical control panel unit when I was in a rush. I wouldn't always remember where I left them.

As the Starlight Mobile Home Park Manager's (Steve & Karen) there at the Park were fond of saying to one another & everyone else. My personal out of pocket expense was an investment that has paid of thousands of times over on many many a venture since that time.    

(Anne Cusack/ LA Times)
Of course the average person questions why such information on earthworm castings if outstanding and scientific, why isn't it so popular and well known ? Because the type of Science which works for Big Business interests puts a warm and fuzzy face to their synthetic death technologies which have ruled our planet since they started their so-called Green Revolution to save our planet with chemicals. And what better honest to goodness  face to use than a familiar one like James Whitmore in those famous early 1990s Advertisements for Miracle-Gro which made it look like your favourite Grandpa from Iowa even uses this stuff and who wouldn't believe an old trustworthy Granddad. People are going to have to stop being suckered by the "Eye Candy" Ads & Labeling out there and do the real homework. 

Last week I also read an article from the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student blog called "Intro: Bug Detective". It was posted by Danielle Ruais and dealt with the problems of whitefly on Poinsettas. Of course it mentioned the numerous conventional chemical methods used in Agriculture for control of such pests. She had decorated her article with many chemical warning signs which were kind of scary. I basically mentioned my successes against whitefly with what I've explained to you above. I also listed this recent article which shed light on a holistic approach given by an unexpected source a government site:
Researchers Use "Banker Plants" to Help Battle Whitefly Pests

She wrote me a nice friendly thank you email for the links and a reference to Calpoly's mycorrhizal biological controls instructor Pro Robert Richard Shortell. I thanked her for writing and requested that my comments be removed. My comments were never taken out of moderation and when I last checked the article was deleted entirely from the blog. I wrote her an email apologizing for any upset I may have caused for the article deletion and requested that only my comments be deleted. I truly wish a more realistic and natural approaches program would be taught more in science education especially at a very early age in elementary school when it comes to biology and various related science subjects. So much of science is controlled by philosophy and ideology. Yes I understand chemicals are a part of science and I am not totally against their uses when absolutely necessary to turn things immediately around and starting over. Science is supposed to be neutral, but as you all well know many things get in the way of that goal. 
Below is the link to the article

Something else happened to a former Agricultural Instructor of mine over there at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The controversy was in all the News last year and it dealt with a big money Grantor who is a  San Joaquin Valley Cattle Tycoon who employs Industrial Agriculture Methods and didn't like some comments by my Instructor and certain visitations by well known Food Inc documentary stars who promote Holistic Agricultural Care of the land and animals to Cal Poly students. In fact this guy threatened to withhold Grant Money Funding he had previously promised unless my former instructor was fired or somehow removed from teaching this class. I've recently been in contact with my former instructor since this incident. This man and others have a lot to do with the way I look at things and question conventional approaches to responsible Earth care. 
The story is incredible. You should find it fascinating. Here's the link:

Gardening References:

Gardening & Landscaping Authors - BRUCE & SHARON ASAKAWA

Worm castings solve whitefly infestation


  1. Wow, that's really interesting about worm castings. Wish I'd known to try that before giving up on bringing in my tropical hibiscus. They always brought whitefly infestations into the house with them, stealthily, because the flies wouldn't appear until mid-to-late winter after the plants had already been in the house for a few months.

    I have a worm bin, and usually use the castings in my veggie beds. Maybe I'll get up enough courage to try another hibiscus, and try worm castings to see it that would prevent my house from becoming a winter whitefly vacation spot.

    1. Incredibly, some folks will complain about the extra expense of earthworm castings, but when you cancel out the cost of synthetic fertilizers, the cost of dangerous chemical pesticides and times spent removing damaged foliage and having to view a less than attractive plant, the cost is worth it.

      Of course one could also create your own worm castings and get kids involved. Or do what I have done and collect them around the woods and lawns. We have tons of earthworms here in Sweden and after a rain castings are everywhere on the surface.



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