The War is On –

It happens day and night. They are watching for the moment that I let down my guard. Well, really no – they could care less what I am doing. They are silent in their approach and do not give up easily.

Everything looks good from a distance. The wind is gently blowing and the sun is shinning. People wonder by smiling and nodding.  “It looks good!” they say.  They don’t know. They don’t see the war that is going on right in front of them.

Each morning a member of our team has been lost or injured in this war. I have kept the newer members that will fortify the family under cover. I will not let them be in the first line of defense. They remain hidden. It does mean that the old work horses have to step up and do their duty. They are tough and bigger. There is just more to them. I know they can make it.

If everyone can just hang in there another week we will have outlasted them for there is no winning this war unless I chose to play dirty and bring out the chemical warfare.

It is not a choice I wish to make!  I know it is not their fault. It is part of their life cycle and we must find a way to make it through this attack. It lasts about 2 and 1/2 weeks and then we can relax and let the new members out into the sun. At this point the enemy will have gone into the second stage of life to re-emerge as a moth.

Yes, my enemy is the Inch worm. They hatch each spring in my elm tree and once hatched they are hungry beyond believe. They eat and eat and eat. Most times they are happy up in the tree but at night some of them will swing down on thin threads of “silk” to find the cherry bush, the garden plants, almost anything that is green. There they eat to their stomachs content -usually eating the whole plant.

This year they have a group of aphids that have join them to suck out the juice of the plants the inch worms are not chewing on. So it is all out war each morning. I storm from my door grab my trusty water sprayer and go to town. I am blasting those bushes to rid the aphids.

Other times I walk quietly up and just start pulling inch worm after inch worm off of my plants and dumping them in the bag of mowed grass. They can have the cut grass just not my new veggies and cherry bush.

It is a dilemma. The world needs moths and butterflies. We need insects. They provide food for others, they pollinate plants, they rid us of other pests but in this case they have become pests themselves.

So each day we engage in small, simple warfare until the Inch worms have moved into the pupae stage of life. At that point any plant who has sustained damage has a chance at repairing itself. They can grow new leaves and begin again. Our goal right now is just to stay alive for a few more days so we have that chance to heal.

Welcome to life in the garden!

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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5 Responses to The War is On –

  1. I thought for sure you were talking about the all-out war we engage in at the end of the year. They can’t help themselves. In about 2 1/2 weeks it will be all sun for them. Sounds just like the students, right?! Thanks for an engaging and surprising piece.

  2. Tara Smith says:

    Such a little critter…and so much damage!

  3. You are so understanding of your little pests, even as you deter them from eating up your plants!

  4. Not what I was expecting…good luck in your battle!

  5. carriegelson says:

    I thought this was going to be a battle with weeds! My ongoing war with weeds is a huge part of my gardening life! Enjoyed this 🙂

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