Mites, Weevils and Flies, Oh My!
You can’t live in the country without getting acquainted with bugs. They really do pop up everywhere. And unless you have a sense of humour about it, these invasions can be quite off-putting.
Now some creepy crawlers I can easily live with. And for the record, these creepy crawlers are lumped together and classified as arthropods - organisms with jointed legs. In our home, we leave the jumping spiders alone because the pros outweigh the cons: the spiders give us pest control without the webs. Ants, on the other hand, have to go! As do mosquitos and flies.
This fall I’ve become engaged in a battle, of sorts, with mites, weevils and flies. Not all at the same time, but on three different fronts.
We’ve realized that our poor little backyard flock of chickens live in a coop infested with mites. The mites are nasty little creatures that like to hideout in the woodwork during the day and crawl out at night to feed on the chicken’s blood. I get shivers up my spine whenever I see one. Unfortunately, our coop is made from wood paneling and plywood and once the mites arrive, they are pernicious little beasts and quite difficult to get rid of. They are definitely a small but mighty foe.
These mites are super pests; they are capable of surviving for 34 weeks without food and won’t die in the cold weather, as lice and fleas do. The best defence against these little nasties is, of course, a good offence; and that means keeping the coop clean. We have sand on the floor of our coop and clean-up the mess beneath the roost at least every two days. But as we let our hens free-range, the doorway to the run is open and House Sparrows fly in and help themselves to the chicken’s feed. I’ve found them inside the coop itself and suspect that they introduced the mites.
Now that our coop has been invaded, the battle is on to rid the coop of the mites. Our best weapon is diatomaceous earth. I sprinkled some of this powder all over the horizontal surfaces, on as many vertical surfaces as I could and into all the cracks I could see. I also mixed some into the bedding of the next boxes. The diatomaceous earth works because it is composed of silica, which absorbs the oil and fats from the exoskeleton of the mites while slicing their little bodies. Rather cruel when you think about it, but it’s the mites or my hens. And since I’m the one making the decisions, the war is on!
Another front on the arthropod battle, and one that I’ve been waging for months now, is the Fruit Fly Battle. It has been complicated by three little people who do not realize the importance of properly disposing of snack leftovers. Two little ones in particular are guilty of stashing apple cores wherever is most convenient at the time. And of course, the fruit flies find them long before me. I’ve found cores stuffed in bedroom garbage cans, toy bins and behind shelves.
I have several weapons for my defence. First, I try to keep fruits, veggies, and compost inaccessible to the flies. Second, every few days I make a trap, catch a cluster, and get rid of them. These traps consist of a bit of wine or vinegar at the base of a glass. I make a paper funnel and seal any gaps with tape. The traps always work, but are at their best within the first few hours. Third, I try to squish a fly between my hands by clapping wildly into the air and looking like I’m a few donuts shy of a full dozen. But lately, I’ve gotten desperate and have hung fly tape above some fruity bait - disgusting, yet effective.
The final front in my arthropod battle is with weevils and this came about because of hollyhock seeds. I had saved some seeds from our hollyhocks and was looking to label and put them away until spring. I found little gray weevils crawling about within the container. I started to sort through the seeds and pick out the little insects. The larva had fed on the embryonic seeds, and having matured, burrowed out, hoping to drop to the ground and overwinter in the soil before re-emerging in the spring to lay eggs within the flowers of next year’s plants.
If left unattended, my hollyhock patch will eventually become unable to reproduce since the weevils will destroy the seeds. This battlefront will have to go on hold over the winter and resume again in the spring. At that time I have three options at my disposal; handpicking, spraying insecticidal soap, and removing seed pods. I envision some of these tedious tasks being a chance for my little ones to earn some extra money. The more help in the arthropod wars the better!