Attack of the Asparagus Beetles

Coming off of the drought year has been hard enough on our asparagus, which needs lots of water to thrive, but we have another problem on our hands as well:


After a good week or two of a small harvest, we started to have stunted, crooked spears like this one. At first I thought the tips were being nibbled by an animal, but then we noticed this:


I thought they might be aphids, but upon further inspection, it turns out that those are asparagus beetle eggs. They belong to these guys: 


The red beetles are spotted asparagus beetles, which I have seen before — but never this early in the season. They’ve never caused much harm. But there are also these guys: 


The black ones are common asparagus beetles, and they do cause a lot of damage, since as the eggs hatch the larvae eat their way up the stalks. They probably got a foothold during the drought as the plants were already weakened and overwintered in larger-the-usual numbers. They’ve been ruining our asparagus, and all we have are some skinny stalks left.

To deal with the problem, I pulled on my gloves and picked off all the beetles I could find and tossed them into a bucket of soapy water:


I also brushed the eggs off of all the stalks, though the worst stalks ended up in the bucket in their entirety.

With any luck, breaking their reproductive cycle will help save the rest of our asparagus. We can harvest it through the end of the month or so, and that’s a good three weeks of spears left to get. Now that I’m on bug patrol, I’m hoping we get some good side dishes before spring is out.

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