Accidental Trap Cropping

Mrs. Paranoid often says that she has the soul of an Italian grandmother, because she loves to cook for people. But based on my observations, I’d say it’s more likely she has the soul of a WWII Marine who did a stint in the Pacific Theater, because she clearly hates Japanese.

Beetles, that is.

Once the Japanese beetles and other mid-summer bugs come out, she spends time each day collecting and drowning them in a bucket of soapy water, with no small amount of glee at each sudsy death. It’s a great contribution to the health of the garden, and the chickens love to finish off the crunchy cadavers, so we end up with more and better eggs. It’s a whole circle of life thing.

This year I inadvertently made her bug collecting chore a little easier by leaving some sort of weed plant in the pea patch that the Japanese beetles just love: IMG_20140721_180055_612I have no idea what the plant is, but it’s clearly a mature version of plants I pulled out by the hundreds when the pea patch was young. The Japanese beetles think it’s party central, though, and they attack it with relish, as witnessed by the lacy filigree they’ve turned it into. Seems like they get a little sleepy from all that eating, too, because Mrs. P. can pick them off and transport them to their watery demise without any trouble.

So this is a form of trap cropping, even though I had no intention of doing so. Trap crops are basically something that you plant that preferentially attracts some pest away from the crop you’re trying to protect. It’s an all-natural form of pest control – no pesticides needed. And it doesn’t have to be bugs that you’re trapping – you might used a hedge of blackberries to keep deer busy and away from your veggies.

Sometimes the trap crop is just something that the pest loves to eat, so they never bother getting to the thing you’re trying to protect. But you can take trap cropping one step further by using “trap and zap” – selecting a trap crop that not only attracts the pests, but kills them. Rose enthusiasts apparently use geraniums to protect their bushes from – wait for it – Japanese beetles. The geranium petals have an amino acid that mimics an insect neurotransmitter and rapidly causes paralysis of the bug. Pretty flowers and death to Japanese beetles? Wait till Mrs. P. gets a load of that.

Although maybe not – like her Marine kindred spirit, I think she likes to do her killing up close and personal.


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