Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bacillus thuringiensis

Waiting in the checkout line at the garden center, I wished I had dark glasses and a fake mustache because I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea. I was holding a bottle of Thuricide, which at first glance, looks like the typical eco-terror poison capable of wanton mayhem and nondiscriminatory destruction of life. In other words, the type of insecticide applied by the ton on most industrial farms across the country. I have sworn off such poisons and would rather give up gardening than stoop to using such environmentally-unfriendly products.

But these strangers in the store didn't know that.

Finally I couldn't stand it anymore so I blurted out to the woman in line behind me, "It's organic could actually eat it." She gave me a strange look which I interpreted as, "Did I ask? Please don't talk to me anymore you weirdo!"

I paid at the counter and slinked away with my items bagged and hidden from view.

The day had come where I needed help. Help in a bottle. Our winter garden is growing with Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, and Collard Greens, among other cool-weather crops. These plants have attracted daily visits by the ubiquitous White Cabbage Butterfly. They are pleasant enough to watch as they flit around whimsically from place to place, but in reality they are pursuing a singular and determined purpose. They want--NEED--to lay eggs on plants in the Brassica family, i.e., Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, and Collard Greens.

Here is a picture of what happens next...
A small green caterpillar emerges within days and begins to eat an unbelievable quantity of leaf. See the little dude in the picture? See what he has done to my growing broccoli over his first few days of life? And this despite my daily search-and-destroy missions.

So I bought some Thuricide, a brand name for Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a naturally occurring bacteria that is toxic to certain kinds of caterpillars if they ingest it. I think it's working. The little guy in the picture has not moved or eaten in the last couple hours. I think he's dying. snif, snif... NOT!!

There are other biologically-based insecticides approved for organic gardening and farming. Two of the more popular ones are Neem oil and Pyrethrum, made from seeds of the Neem tree and Chrysanthemum flowers respectively. I will be trying these eco-friendly pesticides when the aphids arrive.


meh-wee-uhn said...

I've never dealt with the creatures that you're dealing with, but I've had some luck with a spray of red pepper in h2o.

Good luck!

Marco Fanelli said...

Red pepper spray... been there, tried that. These critters eat it up like ranch dressing on salad. Maybe it helps against other bugs. And my cats don't like it so much.

Which reminds me, I should have mentioned in the post that my cats were intrigued by the Bt smell. I assume they have a good sense about what is safe and what is not. The label says you can use Bt up to the day of harvest's not harmful to animals (including human animals).

Greg Knowles said...

I was laughing hard at the checkout guilt! You sounded like a recovering catholic. ;o)

TnA said...

So...did you taste it?

Marco Fanelli said...

Well... Yes, actually. I used one of those pump-and-spray devices, and after finishing, I wanted to release the pressure so I started unscrewing the top. As soon as the seal was broken, some Bt sprayed up into my face and a bit got in my mouth. Doh! That was yesterday. Today I rode up to the repeater peak and felt fine, so all is good so far ...but let me know if I start acting more stupid than normal.