The Last Windrow: In search of a way to destroy potato beetles

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Is there any way we could transfer the coronavirus to a potato beetle? I'd chip in if there were.

Our family garden is sprouting quite well this June, regardless that late frost took all our tomato and pepper plants. A quick trip to our local greenhouse replaced all the drooping plants with new and vigorous models. We once again are planning to can both vegetables along with a stellar pea patch, and I've just dined on a raw radish sandwich, a favorite of mine over the years.

We also planted eight semi-straight rows of potatoes. Russets, reds and the purple breed that my brother donated to our cause have begun to spring from soil.

Right alongside these tubers have also sprung up the annual Colorado potato beetle crop. They are a splendid looking beetle with their stripes and shiny heads. They also have chewing mandibles and like to lay their orange colored eggs underneath a potato's green leaf. Those little orange beings are like dynamite with a lit fuse.

Some of my gardening friends have given up raising their own spuds. They've experienced potato famines due to these little critters. Oh yes, there are sprays and dusts on the market that say they are effective on potato beetles, but rarely do they work as well as the label states.


My dad's formula to dispatch the bugs was the use of lead arsenic. I remember following him down the row of potatoes as he dusted each and every plant. He would show me the bag with the skull and crossbones on the cover and tell me that if I ever ate the stuff, I would die. That was a serious enough warning that I never tried a taste. Sometime direct warnings work.

My wife and I traveled to Canada a few years ago on a fishing excursion just as our potato crop was spiking out of the earth. We joyfully caught our limit of walleyes and crappies and all was happy and positive at the fishing camp. Little did we know that while we were out bouncing merrily on the waves, a wave of potato bugs was devouring or plants.

We returned home with fresh fish fillets and then found our potato crop in shreds.

Rather than leafy, green plants, now only stalks appeared in the rows. Being so late in the season, our potato cellar was devoid of the tubers that year and we were forced to actually buy our supply for the winter. That scene of a decimated crop has never left either of us.

So now, we make twice daily sojourns to the potato patch and collect and dispatch every beetle we find. We also look under the leaves and if we spy those orange clusters, that leaf goes into the soap water as well. So far we are even-steven for the year.

But, we are ever watchful and fishing trips during the potato growing season are out of the question. You can't get into Canada anyway this year with the virus situation, so that dulls the blow a bit.

I'm lobbying for scientists to find a way to transfer the coronavirus to the potato bug. There must be a way if the virus can find a way to get into humans, that we can somehow get that virus into a potato bug and get rid of it for us?

And, the potato beetle deserves no lesser fate. We'll be dining on fresh pea and potato soup later in the summer. I'm counting on it.


See you next time. Okay? And stay safe!

John Wetrosky - Last Windrow.jpg

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