Every year farming is a new adventure! There are always new crops or varieties to try out, shifting weather patterns to throw you off schedule, and new pests to battle. 2021 is no exception.
Last year, one of the teachers at Old Trail School requested ground cherries and we couldn’t get the tiny seeds to germinate. This year we nailed it! Check out these beautiful plants.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, ground cherries are tasty little sugar bombs that grow inside a husk like a tomatillo or Chinese lantern.
They are members of the solanaceae, or nightshade, family, which also includes tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant.
Ground cherries are fun to peel, delicious, and sweet – what a great new crop! With a not-so-fun insect pest, as it turns out. Meet the Three-Lined Potato Beetle.
Every good farmer scouts regularly for pests, diseases, or other issues that might affect the health of their crops. Although the three-lined potato beetle is commonly found on nightshades, this was my first encounter with this particular bugger because it prefers ground cherries and tomatillos to more mainstream nightshade crops such as ironically, potatoes.
Good farmers also research new pests to find out about their life cycles, the level of damage they can inflict, and how to control them. Here’s where things get weird.
As it turns out, if you have three-lined potato beetles on your ground cherries, you really want to check the undersides of the leaves regularly for eggs and squish them before they turn into larvae.
Because three-lined potato beetle larvae COAT THEMSELVES IN EXCREMENT AS A DEFENSE MECHANISM! That’s right, people. Poop larvae. Of course, we got them.
They are easy enough to squish, but man, are they gross.
That’s nature for you. Glorious, majestic… and completely disgusting. And if you think poop larvae are bad, wait until you hear about spittlebugs!