The Potager

The Potager

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Good Bug or Bad Bug?

The goal of organic gardening is to not use chemicals to eradicate bugs. Chemicals have the nasty habit of killing the good bugs along with the bad bugs. What we all hope to achieve is enough good bugs to wipe out the bad bugs. But which are which?
Today's subject was found on the underside of my red russian kale. Before I get to the quiz, let me tell you about what I had done so far.
My kale began life under a floating row cover.
It's to the right in this photo. As the kale grew, the row cover puffed up like a jiffy pop popcorn - oops, I'm showing my age. It was always clean and bug free as I picked it.
However, under the row cover with the kale were eggplants and an errant tomato plant, that I did not plant. At a certain point, I realized the tomato plant had blossoms and would need pollinating. This was about the same time as my church group was coming for their annual garden tour, so I removed the cover. The kale did fine, but I am not adverse to spraying when pests are noted.
This is what I spray cole crops with:
It is approved for organic gardens. I just don't have time to go out and hand-pick every bug. The kale got holes, I could not find a bug so I sprayed, but then it rained several days in a row and I began seeing more holes in my kale. There is nothing as unappetizing as holey kale. I searched but could not find the worm.
Saturday, I went out to work in the Potager and looked for the worm again. I don't want to spray for worms if it turns out to be a japanese beetle or something else. I turned over the leaf and saw this:
Here you go guys - good bug or bad bug?
You may think, as I did, that that looks just like the braconid wasp from a post I did here.
Although my photo is poor, the white cocoons are the same shape, size and color. But they are not on a worm. And there is a lacy netting over them.
Fortunately, I have read that cabbage worms and cabbage loopers do not pupae in a cocoon, but rather in a lacy hammock like thing. Could the larva of a braconid wasp have eaten a pupating cabbage worm and all that's left are the white cocoons? Is that even possible?
For now my best guess is some type of braconid wasp. I will watch it carefully. The kale is going to go soon anyway. It's really gotten large and tough with the summer heat.  The row cover is the way to go with kale or any cole crop around here. Next time I won't have it share space with flowering plants!
7-19-15: Edited to note that the kale had a large amount of baby cross striped cabbage worms. Most of the kale was removed from the garden. One plant had minimal damage. I sprayed that one. I guess they were not braconid cocoons. 

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