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Chemical free harliquin beetle control

One year for Christmas we bought a couple of citrus trees to first use as a Christmas  tree and then to plant in the garden. A wonderful plan that would give us a living Christmas tree one year and lemons and lime leaves for ever more!

Well, for the first few years the lemon and lime tree were just doing the growing thing. For the kaffir lime tree - that was fine cause we were after the leave off that tree, but for the lemon, I was getting a bit worried as I was keen on being able to pick fresh lemons and use them when ever I wanted - and it simply wasn't happening.

A few years ago I spotted a beetle on the lemon tree. A year or so later, there were quite a number more. By the time I realised that these bugs may have something to do with my lack of lemons, I had an infestation. I consulted Dr Google and discovered that these kinda pretty bugs were in fact Harlequin beetles - or Stink Bugs to the kids - and they were sapping all the life out of my new lemon tree growth.

They needed to go. Like most of you reading this, I'm not to keen on chemicals for lots of reasons and so I decided that there must be a better way.

Here's what I did...

In the first instance, I made up a boiled garlic, chili, soap mixture that is meant to deter bugs from your plants. In the case of these beetles, I was better off knocking them to the ground and bopping them on the head with the bottle for all the distress I inflicted on them with my spray. I wouldn't say they revealed in it, but it sure as heck didn't slow them down.
This is an old dog flea bottle now used for garlic chilli spray!
I tried knocking them off with a rake or broom and feeding them to the chickens - but the chooks wernt even gonna have a taste of these little suckers.

I tried blasting them off with a high pressure hose. It was very satisfying. About 1/2 an hour later after a shower and a cuppa to celebrate the departure of the bugs, I noticed something moving in the grass. Every single one of those bugs were heading back to the tree!!! I couldn't believe it. Within an hour, the tree had all its bugs back in place, sucking away at my lemon flowers!!!

 So this meant war!

The solution that finally worked for me is a bit gruesome but very effective. I got out the vacuum cleaner and simply gave those little suckers a taste of their own medicine! I just sucked 'em right off the tree and into my wee brown paper bag filled vacuum cleaner!

Now if you are going to try this - here's a few pointers!

First electricity and water don't mix, so watch were you have the plug and lead in the garden.

Secondly, this doesn't actually kill them.... So do it on rubbish day just before the truck is due so you can put the bag straight into the bin with its twitching smelly cargo. If you are so inclined, a quick squirt of fly spray into the bag will probably deal with them - but for me that defeats the purpose of the exercise. If you don't have a bag vacuum cleaner - borrow one. I don't think I could cope with trying to get them out of a bagless vacuum cleaner...

Oh, and take the vacuum and bag to the bin - the live ones start crawling out quickly and its freaky (well for me anyway!)

Thirdly, be prepared to have a shower afterwards. They squirt their smelly bug perfume at you and it stinks - they are aptly nicknamed!

The whole operation makes my tummy squirm. If it makes you too queasy, I'm guessing a 10 year old will think its a real life video game and get right into it for you... :0
And you may not even have to bribe them!?!

I have had a note in my diary for years about this time of the year to do it and I'm seeing a huge decline in the Harlequin bug population each time. The other advantage of this method is that it is selective. The lady bugs and spiders are still there and able to get on with doing what it is that they do. They don't get caught up in the chemical warfare as collateral damage.

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for not using chemicals. 3/5 for 10 minutes worth of electricity... Unless you signed up for green power... Then you can have a 4/5
Frugal-ness: 5/5 If your vacuum bag is full and needs to go in the bin anyway so you don't have to waste a new one.
Time cost: probably one of the worst 10 minutes of my life!
Skill level: Vacuuming and dry retching....
Fun -ness: Not at all.


Kathryn Ray said…
Those are very pretty bugs, but ick.

It sounds like you found a good solution.
africanaussie said…
Oh I had them in my pigeon peas once! gosh they are disgusting. Vacuuming sounds like a great idea. I had the pigeon peas as a green manure crop so cut them all down and dragged them to the curb on pickup day.
Anonymous said…
When I got to your vacuum bag experiment I burst out laughing. I have a similar vacuum story. In 1981-2 I was living in Los Angeles, we had roaches that used to walk in from the fireplace in our house. I had never encountered these before and couldn't deal with them, neither could my partner. He wouldn't touch them till dead, I wouldn't touch them at all.

Anyway this is before I knew the dangers of the chemicals, one day I was home vacuuming and spotted three of them. I sprayed them till they were dead, but couldn't bring myself to pick them up. I thought about marking them with shoes or something as I had to go to work soon for my partner to get when he got home. But then I looked at the vacuum.

I vacuumed them up and continued every time he wasn't home. But when it came time to change the bag, I just couldn't. What if one fell out, what if one wasn't dead and laid eggs and all these roaches come crawling out of the bag, etc.

So I waited till he was home and asked him to change the bag. He gave me a weird look but did. We moved back east, no more roaches. It took him almost 2 years to ask me why I wouldn't change the bags.

He had prefaced the question with all the ways I'm not afraid of getting dirty, working on the car, in a shop, playing with snakes... then asked what was with the bags.

When I told him what I'd done. He laughed said it was a good idea but also good I didn't tell him at the time because he wouldn't have changed them either. He said he would have rather bought me a new one every time it needed a new bag.

So when you talk about the creepy crawlies after this I totally understand. :-)
Practical Frog said…
Ha ha ha! I laughed so much when I read your story!!! These things just creep me out. I can do 1/2 mangled rates that the cat drags in, vomit at work, spiders dont paticularly faze me but these things just make me go ick! It works and next monday I have 2 more trees to do - I'll do the house first (so they land in a nice soft pile of dust of course) and then the other two citrus's that I tottally forgot about in my hurry to get it over and done with! - K xx
Anonymous said…
Hi, this was a funny story! Did the bugs really alive in the vacuum?
Years ago my aunt was clean out the cobwebs from her garage. She catched lots of big hairy spiders and outside the garage she sucked up many clusters of "daddy long legs". After vacuuming, she started a experiment: She opened the full dustbag and we found between the dust, dead (chopped) spiders and insects. I think the suction was to strong...
Practical Frog said…
Yes! The bugs were defiantly alive when I put the bag into the bin.... Wow, the suction in your aunts vacuum cleaner must be very powerful to chop them up! - K x
Anonymous said…
I must asking my aunt, I think the vacuum has 1000 Watt. Before this experience, I never belief that! All Spiders were very damaged, especially all of them lost many legs. Also the other insects like, wasps and grasshoppers were split in pieces.
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