Thursday, May 26, 2011

Joplin Tornado

Amy and I (the authors of this blog) are from Joplin.  On Sunday, a massive tornado destroyed most of the town.  All of our relatives live there - our parents, grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins.   My grandma and cousin Amber each live in the section of town that was obliterated.  My aunt Rayma and cousin Trisha were in St. John's hospital when the tornado slammed into it.

But we were lucky - everyone in our family survived. 

I mean lucky as a relative term.  My cousin Amber and her husband Dustey made it to the basement and held onto their 3 young boys for dear life while the entire house blew away above their heads. When the storm passed, they literally walked away with only the clothes on their backs.  Even their washer and dryer had disappeared.

Amber's strength of character showed through in her Facebook status the next day.  She wrote:  
"just saw on tv we have had 6 inches of rain in the past few days. at first i was worried about my roof leaking as it was in need of replacing. then it came to me, there is no roof at all, nor is there a house for it to cover. no need to worry then i guess."
Many of our friends and acquaintances have asked how they can help.  Rather than collect physical items to ship from far away, we set up an online fund for donations Amber and Dustey.  We thought it would be easier than gathering up a whole bunch of gift cards.  It will help them re-stock on items needed immediately:  clothes, shoes, food, toiletries,  plastic bins, new underwear and socks, towels, other household items.  

You can donate to this Paypal account for Amber and Dustey:

Standing at the north edge of Amber's yard looking south/southwest. That's the front bedroom still partially standing.

 Looking east toward the house

 Between Amber's house and the neighbor

The house

Looking toward Amber's house from across the street.

They used to have a garage on this concrete slab.

Cleaning up

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Soil Centipede Attacking Wireworms


You mentioned that the orange soil centipede is a predator and might be eating the wireworms, since they are all hanging out in the same corner of my garden.  This week I pulled one of the carrot decoys up and found not only a wireworm, but an orange soil centipede going after the wireworm:

Between the centipedes and me killing the wireworms in the carrots, I don't seem to have hardly any wireworms left in the garden now.  Pretty cool!  I'll probably keep the carrot decoys around the garden throughout the growing season and see what happens with the populations.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Beautiful Beetle - Answered


I finally completed a major garden project today. I used to have gravel walkways between my raised beds, but over time, the barrier fabric underneath stopped suppressing weeds. Last year and this spring, dandelions overtook the gravel, and their strong taproots grew straight through the fabric. Today I tore it all up and planted Corsican mint, a spreading herb that you can walk on. Added bonus: it releases minty air freshener every time you step on it.

As I was disturbing the rocks and soil and dandelions, I turned up some creatures. Notably, a fair population of roly-poly's, plus this purplish beetle.

You can see both in the picture above. I took this additional photo, mostly because I know how much you like beetles. (Don't you have a coffee-table book with photos of beetles that look like jewels?)

Although very pretty, I wonder whether the beetle is good/bad/indifferent to my garden? I found it in the pathway, not feeding on any vegetation. So, I did not kill it.

Also the roly-poly things. Again, they were in the pathway, not my actual beds. Are they detrimental, or a sign of something else that is bad?



I'm not sure what kind of beetle that is. There are a lot of beetles. When someone asked the scientist J.B.S. Haldane what he'd learned about the Creator from studying His work, Haldane replied that God has, "and inordinate fondness for beetles." There have been over 350,000 species of beetles described (slightly more than 4 per day since we started keeping track in the 1700s). And my favorite statistic: if every plant and animal species in the world were placed in a single file line, 1 out of every 5 would be a beetle. They inhabit pretty much every habitat in the world. And, yeah, I have a coffee table book that's full of pictures of them. But I'm not very good at identifying them by sight, except for some of the usual suspects. I especially like the Clown beetles that do handstands when disturbed and aquatic whirligig beetles.

That said, I think you have some type of carabid there, which would be a good thing. The first picture looks like it has fused elytra (the hard cap on the back of the wings), which points to a carabid. There are about 40,000 species of carabids world wide, and at least 4,000 in North America. They're called ground beetles, and several species are cosmopolitan (meaning they don't seek out humans, but they thrive in areas with humans). They're primarily nocturnal, and spend the days under bark and/or rocks. Good news: if it's a carabid, it's probably eating your slugs. They hunt at night, so you wouldn't be able to see them in action unless you brought out a black light and looked for them. I might be wrong, so keep an eye on your plants. But I'm pretty sure it's a good thing you left it alone.

Roly Polys (or pill bugs or sow bugs) are often blamed by home gardeners for damage caused by other pests, because they are so ubiquitous. I was reading a forum about slug damage, and several people swore the damage was caused by these (pill or sow) bugs. Nevermind that their little mouths are waaay too small for that. They feed primarily on decaying plant matter, so you'll have them in any garden that uses a lot of compost. They're very good to have in a compost pile. They have been known to feed on seedlings, which is why some gardeners blame them for damage. If you catch something chomping away, you assume it's causing the harm you see. But unless you have a ridiculously huge population, they can't do much damage to a plant. You won't see them stripping a garden. Usually, it's the case of a sick plant (due to other culprits) where the roly polys get in on the fun. Because they feed during the day and are recognizable, people blame them. Fun fact: the scientific family name is Armadillidiidae, because they look like little armadillos. Dorky fact: I used to play bug doctor with roly polys at Grandma's house: they were sick when they curled up, and I had healed them when they started walking around on my hand.

In conclusion: I think both the beetle and roly polys are a good thing to have in the yard. Let me know if you see the beetle over by your garden, because I could be wrong in my identification. My guess is that you only saw her because you were redoing the path.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lacewings & Lupines


Remember my first post on this blog about a leaf curl problem in my lupine?  Couldn't figure out exactly what it was, but you sent me some lacewing larvae to sprinkle around it.  I'm happy to say that solved the problem.  After applying the larvae, my lupine recovered within about 3-4 weeks.  This spring, it has emerged free of problems.  I still am not sure exactly which pest was curling the leaves, but whatever it was, there's no more leaf curl.

For anyone else out there with this problem, try lacewings!

Here's my lupine this spring:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Skinny Orange Soil Dweller With Many Legs - Answered

Following up from my April 10 post, I took a closer look at the skinny fast-moving orange thing. Its whole body is segmented and it has legs along the entire body. This picture is not stellar, but it's the best I could do:

You can kind of see its legs here. Like I said, I don't have a ton of them. But I did find 2-3 in the same corner of my garden with all the wireworms.

They are somewhat creepy. They curl into S's real fast sometimes when moving around.


I am very glad to hear that there are many legs. Otherwise I'd be at a loss. The many legs indicate either a centipede or a millipede. Neither one is a problem. Millipedes have 2 and sometimes 4 pairs of legs per segment. Centipedes have only one pair of legs per segment. I can't really tell from the picture, and I doubt you want to get close enough to check. Whichever it is, it's probably good that you have them.

Millipedes are usually beneficial to a garden. They feed on rotting leaves, wood, and help break down decaying plant matter. They are (generally) slower moving and curl into a characteristic C shape when you mess with them. When walking, their legs kind of undulate like a wave moving down the body. If you have a really large population, they have been known to damage seedlings. But this is pretty rare, and you don't have a ton of them. I don't think this is a millipede, anyway. Though I'd like to get a closer look at the thing that was curled into a C from the video you took. It could be a pill bug, a millipede, or even a cutworm.

Centipedes are generalist predators. They do move very quickly, and they don't curl up into a C-shape when disturbed. The fact that this thing is still running around when you have it on a new substrate makes me think it's a centipede. They lay eggs in moist soil in the spring, so you might simply have a hatching. They also might be feeding on the wireworms, since there is a positive correlation between the respective populations. Anyhow, they never damage plants. They might eat a few of your lovely earth worms too, but that's the worst harm they will do. When found inside a house, a lot of people immediately go into "Oh my god; kill it! Kill it now!" mode. Especially since some house varieties have really long legs. BUT. They eat cockroaches, flies and other pests. And they usually like dark and dank places - like basements. So if you can stomach it, it's better to leave them. Don't pick these up with your bare hands, because they have powerful jaws and some possess a mild poison. Seriously, one of the keys to determining whether you have a centipede or a millipede is, "attempts to bite." So well-meaning people who try to remove them from the house (rather than killing or leaving-be) can be in for a nasty shock.

Either way, I wouldn't worry about these critters. Millipedes are indicative of healthy soil and centipedes are creepy little warriors on your side.