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ease up, bugs

We enjoyed a very fun afternoon and evening out today, but the nature of the entertainment meant that Rascal had to stay home. Giving him some much-needed attention once we got home meant that I got to take a rare late-twilight walk and enjoy the peaceful tranquility of the neighborhood as everyone settled in for the night (well, it was tranquil until the ambulance sirens started wailing up towards the center of town; such is life in the suburbs). But while it was still quiet, I noticed once again a small sound that's all too prevalent around here lately: the munching of the caterpillars in the trees.

Now, generally speaking I'd be the last one to begrudge an insect a meal, but the last couple years they've been taking things a little too far. The maple tree in the middle of our yard, for example, looks pretty much like lace, which isn't good at any time of year and completely unacceptable before the end of May. The leaves didn't even get a chance to reach their full size before they were chewed full of holes. And it isn't just the maples: pretty much every deciduous tree in the area has been hit hard.

And it isn't just the trees that are suffering. Caterpillars—cutworms, in this case—are also doing a number on the garden. There's nothing so frustrating as seeing a row of carrot or beet seedlings chopped down overnight—and the bugs don't even eat the leaves! They seem to pretty much leave the weeds alone too; or maybe I just don't pay as much attention to weeds as I do to my precious seedlings. I can and do put physical barriers around the big important plants like tomatoes and peppers (and my few surviving Swiss chards) but carrots would just be too much. I've read that you can slit pieces of drinking straws and put them around small seedlings, but that sounds like it would make me crazy.

On the other hand, the cutworms are already making me crazy, so maybe I should give it a try. I do know that I'm going to make sure the chickens get time to roam in the garden this fall, and again in the spring; we'll see what that does to end the scourge.

And beyond that, could you just ease up a little, bugs?

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