I like gardening well enough, but I've never been able to work up much enthusiasm for dealing with common insect pests. I just don't like thinking about all the things that might go wrong, so I take a wing it sort of attitude. For the most part, this has worked well for me, which I suppose is why I still adhere to this way of thinking. Sure, not everything succeeds. But most of my gardening endeavors do, and I see acceptably good returns on my efforts.
My sugar pumpkins are pretty well done for the year. The leaves have been withering for several weeks now, and this rather unsavory looking bug has been conspicuously hanging about on the leaves and ripening pumpkins. I don't think they're squash bugs, unless I have a whole lot of young bugs that are going to change appearance as they grow. (Update: El from Fast Grow the Weeds confirms that these are, in fact, squash bugs.) Nor do they quite match the descriptions I've read of cucumber beetles, which will sometimes attack squash vines. Whatever they are, I figure if they're around in such numbers, they're up to no good.
Enter my frugal and very non-toxic solution. I walk around knocking these little critters into a wide plastic container, where they collect pretty easily. Then I dump a load of them straight into the chicken pen, where their life expectancy is roughly that of a tissue paper mouse being chased through hell by an asbestos cat. I don't know the name of these bugs, and neither do my hens. But they recognize them sure enough as snack food. It's frugal because I don't spend any money to deal with the insects, and because I reduce my feed costs for the girls, who then turn these bugs into eggs that I get to eat. I spent about 10 minutes this morning collecting the bugs, and plan to repeat this minor chore daily until the bugs are too few to collect. If I were able to keep my hens as free range birds, I wouldn't even have to make that much of an effort.
It's nice to use the chickens as pest control. My girls are getting older, and their egg output is becoming rather inconsistent. So it's gratifying to have them providing other services. Now someone please tell me what these bugs are. I really hope I'm not feeding the girls some beneficials.
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