Praying Mantis!

I’ve been waiting all my life for a visit from a praying mantis, very truly, and it appeared magically minutes ago in one of my olive trees! Sigh. To be specific, this is a California mantis (Stagmomantis californica) and it was moving quite slowly, deliberately, with contemplation. I first became interested in the insect after watching an old school television show, Kung Fu, years ago, where the praying mantis form of martial arts was featured (and was so cool). This looks to be a female. I didn’t see any other mantises around. Having seen this gorgeous specimen, I will, henceforth, be more watchful of the praying mantis in my garden. I see it as a symbol of good luck and quiet strength. Wow!


Tomato Hornworms

I was inspecting the last of my actively fruiting tomato plants when I noticed two tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) eating away at one of my plants. This was absolutely appalling! And yes, these caterpillars will devour and kill your tomato plants if you don’t remove them right away. Their green color is a close match to the stalks and leaves of the plant so you do have to look carefully. They can be easily missed even if right in front of your eyes. If allowed to mature, these caterpillars will become five-spotted hawkmoths.

img_1604And then, there’s the indelicate matter of removing these things from the plant. They cling hard to the plant so you will either have to forcibly remove them by hand (I was too grossed out to do that) or by some other method. I opted to poke and smack them off with a small stick and then smacked them some more once they got to the ground so that they would not make a reappearance. A very hungry pile of ants quickly moved in for their unexpected feast. I found that yelling, “Get off my f***ing plant!” several times helped with the process immensely, to deal with the awfulness of the moment, kind of like that scene in the Harrison Ford film, Air Force One, when he, as the US president, is fighting off Gary Oldman and (spoiler alert), tells him, “Get off my plane!” and out the plane he went.

More information on tomato hornworms and their abatement can be found here:

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

Insect: Lygaeid Bugs, Mating

The early evening was just the right setting for two lygaeid bugs to get together! I usually spot these bugs (aka milkweed bugs) on the sidewalk, close to my lawn’s edge.IMG_1411

Gray Bird Grasshopper Sunning Itself on My Office Window Screen

It’s a beautiful spring day in my tiny corner of the world. The birds are singing. A nice ocean breeze is coming in. The sun is out in a clear sky. This sets the perfect condition for a gray bird grasshopper to enjoy itself on my office window screen. The gray bird grasshopper is a familiar visitor in my garden,IMG_3300 but I’ve not quite seen it from this vantage point before. It appears to be quite content – and very still – in this location, where it has been for more than 15 minutes. It does make me wonder about the “private lives” of other insects and animals during their “down time.”

Fungus Gnats Attacking My Indoor Tulip Container Garden

Yikes. Much to my chagrin, My indoor tulip container garden is being attacked by fungus gnats. I could apply insecticide or wait until the soil dries for a while and see if the insects go away but the annoyance and gross factor prevail in this case. While they will continue to grow in their containers, they will do so now in the outdoors, next to my English rose container garden, where I am hoping they will enjoy themselves.IMG_3210

More information on this pesky and pesty insects and how to manage them can be found here:


Insect: Lygaeid Bug

Also known as a milkweed bug, this insect (Melacoryphus rubicollis) caught my eye this afternoon as it was scurrying through my lawn (in the center of the photo). So far, I don’t see its desired plant, milkweed, from which it gathers its food. It enjoys a good meal, but apparently is not itself delicious. More information on this orange-red and black insect can be found here:


Asian Ladybird Beetle

I came upon an Asian ladybird beetle (aka multicolored Asian lady beetle or Harmonia axyridis) on the leaf of one of my young blood orange trees. Hopefully, this beneficial insect is enjoying a brief rest and will consider visiting my rose container garden and snack on any aphids trespassers!


There are various ladybird beetles that are common in my small patch of the world so I had to re-count the spots to rule out lookalikes – easy work if you capture its image in a photo, not so much if catch of a glimpse of it as it’s about to fly away!

Olive Fruit Fly and Its Abatement

Gardening requires a bit of vigilance to ensure the health of plants, at all stages of their lives. I’ve had my young olive trees for just a handful of months when I recently discovered brown spots on the four olives growing on one of my olive trees. In my mind, I knew it was insect damage (given my previous experience with my pear/quince trees). Searching online, I found information that confirmed that what I had was the result of egg-laying by olive fruit flies ( I will have to remove the fruit from the trees since they’re filled with insect larvae.

I’d searched for ways of killing these flies before they harm my trees become very productive. Most of the techniques involve some type of bait with chemicals, which I did not want.

How To: Further online investigation led me to information that all I need do, as a home gardener with few trees, is to hang containers filled with red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar is supposed to work also, as would red wine) and a few drops of dish soap, and swirl the concoction around to distribute the soap. The sweet smell of the vinegar is the bait, but the soap prevents the flies from getting out of the liquid, thus drowning them (

I made two traps so hopefully this will work. Only one of my trees is fruiting right now but since my backyard neighbor has a mature olive tree opposite my young olive trees, I thought it would be good to protect both of my trees. The ingredients for making these traps are easy to find, inexpensive, and relatively “green.”

The traps are as easy to make as shown in this picture. I used empty plastic food containers and some kitchen twine for this small project. When there are a lot of dead flies and the liquid runs low, it will be time to replenish it. I have a few bottles of red wine that I do not like, so it will be awhile before I need to spend any more money to fight these flies. I will need to maintain these traps for the life of these trees, for pennies per week. That’s a bargain, considering the delicious return on this investment!

Pear Trees Removed Because of Beetle Damage

Sadly, I had my pear trees removed this morning. I made the decision to remove the pear trees because the snout beetle, also known as plum curculio, had been drilling holes into and destroying all of my fruit. The damage worsened over the past few weeks, making it untenable to keep these 4-1/2 year-old trees. The greater presence of the beetles increased the risk that they would damage my apple trees also, of which only one is currently in fruit.IMG_3080

It had been very instructive to have these 3-in-1 pear trees, if only for a few years. During that time, I learned about how dwarf varieties of pear trees are kept small in size because they are grafted onto quince rootstock. I also learned that sometimes, quince can overtake the tree and transform a pear tree into a quince tree. I learned more about brown rot and snout beetles than I ever thought I needed to know. I was able to enjoy a few pears and even one Asian pear that grew from these trees, so the loss has been bittersweet.

I have not yet decided what to do with these now-empty spaces. I have a gardening project that I am finishing up and will post with more information very shortly, so maybe this empty space can be added on to that project. Or I may end up planting two new fruit trees. That small space is a blank canvas so I will have to think what might best go here, in the context of the other types of elements in the yard and my budget. I hope to come up with a happy solution soon.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of these fruits.

More information on toxic plants can be found here:

Spotless Ladybird Beetle on My Golden Delicious Apple Tree

My fruit trees attract a lot of visitors, but I am usually not home when they are, or have a camera to capture the moment that they are there.  I caught a lucky break this evening. I found a solitary spotless ladybird beetle (Cycloneda sanguinea) exploring my Golden Delicious apple tree.ladybug

In the past, I’ve seen another type of ladybird beetle in my backyard, the seven-spot ladybird beetle (Coccinella septempunctata). Both of these ladybird beetles eat aphids, so they are good and valuable garden friends!

It’s interesting to know the types of visitors in my backyard, if only to not dismiss them as some ordinary “bug” and to recognize the good work that they do!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

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