Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Newest Pest-Control Ally: Guineas!


Despite my efforts at feeding my chickens all the Japanese beetle grubs I could find, the invasive pests still cover my plants.  They prefer roses, asparagus fronds, cannas, and beans in my garden.  Oh, and they like only one of my apple tree’s leaves.  I don’t know why they like it over the others, but the chickens know this too and lurk underneath it waiting for some treats to fall. 

A recent introduction to our area, the kudzu beetle, is about 1/8 inch long and colored army green.  They cover my bean plants, concentrating themselves along the stems and, I heard on the PBS show “Making It Grow,” only eat legumes.  They don’t visibly damage the plants, but suck juices out of the stem of the plants, weakening them.  According to “Making It Grow,” and my own observation, they don’t noticeably decrease yield in the home garden.  If a plant is young or otherwise weak, the bugs might kill it. 

Kudzu bugs are a relative of stinkbugs, and they do smell bad when squashed.  According to an article in “The State” newspaper on 4/4/2012, http://www.thestate.com/2012/04/14/2234085/kudzu-bugs-blanket-sc.html, the bugs first appeared in the US in Atlanta in 2009, and they have spread across the southeast.  Gardeners can handpick them or put diatomaceous earth on them, which should kill them as it does other crawling insects. 

A few weeks ago, I got guineas.  They are known for their voracious insect-eating appetites.   I took it as a sign from God that I should get guineas, if He cares about such things, that on the way to get my guinea keets I came upon a flock of them in the road.  I have never seen them around here before.

The keets are tiny; six of them could fit in an infant’s shoebox.  They are loud, and they are wild.  I am used to baby chickens who wander around the yard and approach humans.  When we set a keet down in the yard, (fortunately we only took out one at the time) it ran amazingly fast on its tiny legs under the bushes, and my husband and I spent about ten minutes shooing it out until it ran back toward the house and I could corner and put it back into the box.
My daughters examine the guineas, as all six of them hide behind the mason jar feeder



Because even professionals cannot sex guinea keets, I assume I have both males and females.  The males are not usually aggressive, unlike roosters, and so I hope my guineas will be able to hatch more guineas, assuming they bother to stay around my house when I do let them free-range.

Unlike my chickens, who would destroy my garden by scratching up and eating plants,  guineas do not usually eat plants, and they do not scratch, so they can, I hope, be trusted in the garden for pest control. I envision them walking down the rows of beans, deftly picking off kudzu bugs and Japanese beetles, and then wandering over to the squash to eat a few squash bugs.  After that, I expect them to wander the yard and eat the ticks that plague us.  We’ll see.  They may be eating the bugs in your garden instead. 

The rest of the time, they’ll give my dogs competition as watchdogs.  I understand that they let you know if someone or something enters the yard that does not belong.  They’ll have to get a little more appreciative of dangers, though, because the other night my husband held my two sleeping dachshunds, Sterling and Mr. Schultz, on his lap while a guinea keet snuggled between the back of his head and the chair.  The keet decided to walk down his arm, and then jumped on Sterling’s head on the way off the chair.  Sterling awoke with a start, but fortunately for the keet, his sight and reflexes are not as swift as they once were (he’ll be 15 in August), and I was able to grab the keet without incident.  Sterling looked around in surprise and went back to sleep, surely thinking the keet must have been part of a dream.

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  4. Your pest control ally seems to be doing great, and i can say that as long as there is a genuine and great way of controlling pests its all worth a try. I do find this post very helpful, and it would be a nice thing to see more of this. Keep blogging.
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