Sunday, March 22, 2015

A lesson from the chickens or easy caterpillar removal

If you are squirmy about wormies, this probably isn't the blog post for you...

 I love to learn new things.   I am open to any teacher, be it 
my 5 year old granddaughter teaching me an art technique, a formal classroom learning opportunity, or
my chickens teaching me how to remove cabbage looper caterpillars from my lettuce leaves.

Last week, being so preoccupied with keeping my lettuce comfortable in the 90 degree heat we were having here in Southern California, I neglected to notice that the big, beautiful leaves of my Black seeded Simpson lettuce were looking more like doilies than vegetables.  I started looking for the culprits.  There was the frass evidence that they were eating and digesting my future salads.   And sure enough, and although their green color matched the lettuce perfectly, I spotted them.  
Cabbage loopers.  

 Being an organic gardener, I began picking the worms off the leaves.  I put them in a box to be delivered to my hens.  Some of the lettuce was so holey, I picked off an entire perforated leaf, with the caterpillars still attached, and added it to the Nellie and Amelia picnic hamper.  I picked 62 of the little gluttons off 18 plants.   (Yes, I counted the smooth, green inchworm-like caterpillars as I plucked them off.  I wanted to tell someone about how many had been on the plants and I thought an actual number made for a more realistic story. Plus worm picking can get boring, so I needed something to keep my mind involved.)  

I delivered the box lunch...
and watched as the girls enjoyed their delicacies.   I also observed that the hens would pick up a leaf and give it a shake before eating it.  The shaking caused the worms to fly off and then the hen would run to eat it before her coop-mate could get it.  This process surprised me, because when I pick cabbage caterpillars off plants they kind of grasp onto the plant and then cling to my fingers with their hairy little feet.  I didn't think a hen head-shake would dislodge them from the leaves.  And how did the hens know to do this?

I was out picking more loopers this afternoon.  I thought about the 
method the hens had shown me the day before.  I  gave the lettuce heads a  tap-tap with my hand.
 Sure enough, the gentle ruffling knocked the caterpillars off the leaves.  They fell off the plants and onto the dirt where they were both visible and easier to pick up.  Teeny-tiny caterpillars I would have never seen on the plants were easily seen on the soil.

I like the saying,

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."    Kalam

It is true and I hope I will always be a student open to all teachers.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol


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