From a human perspective, this brightly colored, spotted little critter is a PEST. The larvae (often called a Southern Corn Rootworm) feed on the roots of a large range of plants, including many field crops. Adults will eat almost anything from cucumbers to roses. Adults also transmit bacterial wilt and other diseases.
As with many other pest species, our experience with this beetle in our garden is that there is almost always a few around during the growing season, but they've never been a problem. Their population has always remained at a background level.
This particular cucumber beetle is feasting on a fallen and partially fermented persimmon. These persimmons are attracting many insects, mostly bees and wasps. I've read about wild mammals becoming intoxicated after eating large amounts of fermented fruit. I wonder if the same thing can happen with insects? One the one hand, the alcohol content of the persimmons is low and the insects eat tiny amounts. On the other hand, the body weight of insects is minuscule. It wouldn't take much alcohol to produce inebriation. I mean, how can one tell if a beetle or wasp is flying under the influence of alcohol?
Background: Due to a variety of circumstances more or less beyond our control, Jo and I didn't even begin preparing the beds and planting our garden until after our last spring art fair which was held on the first weekend in June. Because of our late start, we didn't bother planting some crops -- like corn. We anticipated problems with other crops. We figured the question was: Would the crops produced before succumbing to the prolonged heat and dryness typical of our late summer?
One barely full flat of Yukon Golds is our pathetic potato harvest for 2008. We normally have four or five of those wooden flats heaping full.
That question proved irrelevant. The later part of this summer was much cooler and wetter than most. Had I known this in advance, I would have predicted a bumper crop of veggies. I would have been wrong. Some veggies -- like tomatoes and green beans -- produced well. Others -- like the potatoes we harvested today -- did not do so well. I really do not know why our potatoes produced so poorly. I've heard others also had poor potato yields. Ditto for peppers (bell, jalapeno, etc.) which are usually a "nothing to it" plant to grow.
A half of five gallon bucket of sweet potatoes instead of our normal harvest of 3+ buckets full.
As far as conditions unique to our garden that might have contributed to our dismal potato crop: The Yukon Golds never produced the normal amount of foliage. First they were attacked by a heavy infestation of squash bugs sucking out their juices and then blister beetles ate what little foliage the potatoes had managed to grow. Mid-season squash bugs and late season blister beetles seems especially bad the year. Squash bugs aren't usually a problem on potatoes in our garden. We actually planted fewer sweet potato slips this year. Jo thought she might be planting the sweet potatoes too close together so they competed with each other for nutrients. She experiment by planting fewer potatoes farther apart, thinking each plant might produce more and/or larger potatoes. That experiment was a resounding failure.
The sweet potato vines were still growing well. The rabbits had even stopped keeping the edges trimmed.
We normally dig sweet potatoes right before the first frost which isn't even in our forecast yet, but we decided to go ahead and harvest them today since the ground is relatively dry and rain is in our forecast. I doubt the potatoes were apt to get any larger or more numerous.
Finally, both potato beds were hard to dig because of the tree roots that had grown into them over the summer. Perhaps those roots had robbed nutrients. (Cutting trash trees that have grown up around the edge of the garden is one of this winter's projects.)
While we dug potatoes, a variety of butterflies were enjoying the garden flowers. The zinnias are getting a bit ragged this late in the season, but they are still growing and attracting butterflies.
(Left to right: Monarch, Cloudless Sulphur and Painted Lady)
For several weeks during the fall Sulphurs are the most common butterflies here in the Ozarks. Okra's long-tubed blooms are well suited to Sulphurs' feeding habits. The end results are excellent yellow on yellow photo opportunities.
Identification: Upper surface of male is lemon yellow with no markings. Female is yellow or white; outer edges of both wings with irregular black borders; upper forewing with dark spot in cell. Lower surface of hindwing of both sexes with 2 pink-edged silver spots.
Life history: Males patrol with rapid flight, searching for receptive females. Eggs are laid singly on young leaves or flower buds of host plants; caterpillars eat leaves and rest on underside of leaf petioles.
Flight: Many flights year around in the Deep South; may have one flight in late summer in other southern states; immigrants to northern states in August or September usually do not reproduce.
Caterpillar hosts: Cassia species in the pea family (Fabaceae).
Adult food: Nectar from many different flowers with long tubes including cordia, bougainvilla, cardinal flower, hibiscus, lantana, and wild morning glory.
Habitat: Disturbed open areas including parks, yards, gardens, beaches, road edges, abandoned fields, scrub
Range: Permanent resident from Argentina north to southern Texas and the Deep South. Regular visitor and occasional colonist in most of the eastern United States and the Southwest.
Okra is a tall-growing, warm-season, annual vegetable from the same family (Mallow) as hollyhock, rose of Sharon and hibiscus. The immature pods are used for soups, canning and stews or as a fried or boiled vegetable. The hibiscus like flowers and upright plant (3 to 6 feet or more in height) have
ornamental value for backyard gardens.
The female spider wasp paralyzes her spider prey, then drags it back to her intended nest location. Typically, nests are constructed in a crevice or at the base of a rock pile, walls, or building. The female scoops out a shallow depression in the soil, deposits prey and then lays her eggs. She covers the nest with soil and debris. This particular wasp had a different idea. She was doing a fine job of dragging her spider straight up an outside wall of Jo's studio. I did not see her final destination, but I assume her intended nest was in a crack or crevice up where the wall meets the eaves or, maybe, between the wall and chimney.