It was stripy and looked cute insofar a beetle could look cute. I had met my first Colorado Beetle. ”You don’t look like you could do much damage.” I told it.
My potato plants were still small but I felt a sense of pride. Planting had taken place under the watchful eye of villager J who kept telling me I was doing it all wrong. Keen to advise, everyone told me I had to use pesticides. I was planning to do it without. I wasn’t even willing to use copper sulphate like the rest of the villagers did.
I tend to tackle life in a I cross those bridges when I get to them way and I would use that same strategy in potato husbandry.
”But you can’t grow potatoes without pesticides.” villager C pointed out, chin in air for added even though you’re taller than me I can look down on you effect. “You really can’t grow potatoes without pesticides. You ought to listen. We know.”
“Only a few centuries ago people believed the world was flat, who says you’re right?” I mocked. “Just leave me to it.” He shook his head in dismay.
I enjoy experimenting. I also like opportunities to prove the impossible is possible, and I was adamant I’d show people I could beat the Colorado beetle without pesticides. And I might as well admit, not just for the love of nature and all that, but because I love being right.
“But you can’t grow potatoes without pesticides.” villager M pointed out when it was her turn. “You really can’t grow potatoes without pesticides. You ought to listen. We know.”
”Of course you know. I appreciate you all have knowledge which can be useful to me, and I do listen, but… have you ever tried though? I asked her. She looked at me slightly puzzled. No. She said. No, she hadn’t tried to grow them without. “Well then, just leave me to it. It’s worth a try.”
I watched my potatoes every few days or so and apart from a bit of mildew which I managed to control with pulling off the brown leaves all seemed ok.
Enraged Enrique’s mum came to warn me about trouble in Potato Paradise thinking the wild boar had entered the patch, but she had mistaken my efforts to earth up my potato patch for a wild boar having ploughed through it. ”It is a technique you don’t use here.” I explained.
The silly foreigner who knew nothing might in fact know something.
And apart from that one lonely beetle, there was no sign of his mates yet.
“No, Not yet. But when the beetles come you have to pick them from the leaves and collect them in pots of water so they drown. It’s what my mum used to do.” one villager advised me . “And keep them because they taste delicious in tortillas.” added another smirking, while they shared furtive glances in the hope I’d believe them. The pot technique was serious though. I’d already heard about that before.
And so when the first beetles eventually came I still managed to stay on top of it. There were a lot though, but I picked them off the plants.
By the time I had learnt via the internet that the beetles themselves weren’t the problem, but the larvae, it was too late. The beetles had laid their eggs underneath the leaves, patches of yellow clusters, out of which within a few days the larvae hatched.
To the unexperienced eye they looked like ladybirds. Except they’d swell up within days to the size of cranberries, full of potato leaf juice.
All those yellow clusters had been hanging underneath the leaves while I had been picking off the beetles. And the lot had hatched. It wasn’t cute. The potato plants looked like miniature cherry trees in mid summer with a gorgeous crop waiting to be picked.
I wanted to cry.
”We told you that you couldn’t grow potatoes without pesticides.” Villager C’s wife pointed out. “You really can’t grow potatoes without pesticides. You ought to have listened. ”
Close to defeat I wanted to admit to her that she was right. “But you used to deal with this. In the olden times before pesticides. There must have been a time when you didn’t use pesticides.” It was to be my last shot.
She thought for a moment. ”Come to think of it…my mum used to get some branches and sweep them off the plants. It always took the larvae a while to climb back up the plants.”
Now that was an idea. It also had occurred to me that those beetles used to drop themselves on the floor, on their backs , and their brown bellies made them difficult to spot. Their defense mechanism. I ought to use their defenses against them.
Armed with big bucket I tried. I quickly tapped a plant, and indeed, most of the beetles as well as larvae ended in the bucket.
And this method actually works.
I accept I’ll never get as big a crop as the rest of the villagers, as the beetles will always destroy some potatoplants, but at least the villagers taught me something. To always ask how their mothers used to do things in the olden times.