Girl Tuesday - a column by Maggie Cooper.
Girl Tuesday - a column by Maggie Cooper.

Pests a bugger for Girl Tuesday

MY GARDEN has (almost) survived the annual onslaught of a plague of the dreaded monolepta australis, or red-shouldered leaf beetle.

For those of you who don’t recognise the name, they look like a yellow ladybird with reddish-brown spots, and they can strip the leaves off a garden virtually overnight.

Because I try to practise organic gardening methods as much as possible, I only spray pests as a very last resort. I prefer to encourage birds and friendly insects to do their jobs and munch beasties. I have a family of friendly magpies living in the yard; they have learned to follow me while I bounce around the lawn on my ride-on mower and eat the insects that are exposed on the freshly-mown grass. Real teamwork – I don’t need to spray and they trust me enough not to dive-bomb me during their breeding season.

My neighbour Cyril warned me when I first moved here that the crepe myrtle in the garden would attract leaf-eating beetles, and of course he was right. They make a beeline (if you’ll pardon the pun) for the pretty pink blossoms then, full as a tick (again the pun) they stagger to the next tree – a tipuana tipu – and strip it of its yellow blooms; then it’s a hop skip and a jump to the lovely old plum tree in another part of the yard.

Cyril also told me that when he was a boy attending school where I now live, if a pupil did particularly well in class they were invited to pick a plum from that same tree as a reward. What a difference to today’s kids – imagine telling a teenager with attitude that their reward was a piece of fruit. But I digress.

In desperation I dragged out my bug catcher; not the plastic toy that was invented years ago, but an electronic beastie that is so simply designed and works so well it’s a wonder someone else didn’t think of it 50 years ago. An ultraviolet light attracts destructive critters like the beetles and coddle moths, then a tiny fan sucks them into a tray of water where they drown. Brilliant, really.

The best part about it is that the large green frog population that resides in the downpipes and gutters of my house have learned that the light means dinner time. They queue in anticipation of the switch being flicked on like cars waiting at a drive-through at the golden arches, then they dine at their leisure as the light draws their prey ever closer.

I often sit and watch, but I’ve never managed to catch even a glimpse of the fabled long tongue they use to snap up their prey; it’s out and in faster than you can blink.

You wouldn’t be a bug for quids.

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