Please Don't Bug Me

I feel the need to state the obvious at least one more time: weather-wise, this has been one strange year.  Yesterday, we topped out at 96 degrees with what meteorologists were describing as "desert dry" dew points and wind.  If ever there was a day that you could actually feel how dry things are here, it was yesterday.  Adding to the strangeness of this year, is an abundance of little garden dwellers, not all of which are particularly helpful.  This big grasshopper isn't going to do much damage hanging out on this dry bean, but all of his friends had quite the feast of snap beans earlier this summer.  
Last week I mentioned a little fruit fly problem that I've been trying to manage in my raspberries.  In reading up on the suspected culprit (Spotted Wing Drosophila or SWD), I learned that they are also attracted to tomatoes, so I guess I shouldn't be that surprised when I pulled this photo off my camera and noticed all of the little fruit flies stuck to the stem (and one little guy on the tomato itself).  Fortunately, they don't seem to be causing any damage to the tomatoes. I wish I could say the same for the raspberries.  
Two garden pests in particular have been the bane of my existence this summer: the squash bug and the cucumber beetle.   At the community garden plot, both were in no short supply, probably in part to the high density of Cucurbits growing in one area, but several gardeners have mentioned that they have never seen a squash bug problem quite this big in previous years.  No matter how diligent I was at trying to control them in my garden plot, there were plenty more to move on over from one of the other plots to take their place.  It was a constant battle, but I was able to limp my vines along as long as possible before I had to pull them up.  Now that the vines are gone, the little cucumber beetles are showing that despite their names, they are most certainly equal opportunity pests and enjoy invading just about everything in the garden.  
If there's an upside, it's that the pollinators seem to be enjoying a bump in population as well.  There has been a constant buzz coming from the garden all summer, with a whole lot of activity happening around the a variety of blossoms.  Most encouragingly, I have seen a lot more honey bees than usual this year.  Right now, most of the activity is focused around the raspberries and the blackeyed peas.  They may not always be the kind of garden helper you want to encounter up close and personal, but they are at least keeping things growing and producing!
The connection between the insects and weather is an interesting one, and one that we will no doubt be paying close attention to as we see what winter has in store for us.  Last year's exceptionally mild winter may be partially to blame, but we can't overlook that our overall warmer weather certainly has an effect on overwintering pest populations, as do changes in weather patterns (one theory is that the SWD fruit fly population surge was caused by strong winds that carried the pests with them this spring).  But above all, careful garden clean up is in order as we transition into fall and winter to remove any debris that might provide safe harbor for garden pests.  I'm also looking into some preventative measures to battle the larvae on the (literal) ground level in the form of beneficial nematodes and milky spore bacteria, especially in light of our exceedingly high Japanese Beetle population this summer.
I sure wouldn't mind seeing fewer of these guys around the garden next summer!

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