Urban Agriculture Pests- Mexican Bean Beetle

The new wave of “green” living has brought about so many positive changes to the environment. This is especially so in urban areas. The once grey landscapes are slowly turning into beautiful and resourceful places once again. Much of this is from the help of urban agriculture. However, the helpful farming does not come without negatives of its own, one of the most harmful being garden pests.

As one of the main influences of these up and coming green changes, urban agriculture and community gardening had made a large impact already. It has influenced so many positive changes, from teaching others how to garden their own food, to city restaurants starting their own gardens in order to serve the freshest food possible to customers.  More and more people are becoming a part of this important trend. In doing so they are not only helping themselves to fresher, organic foods at a lower cost, but they are also helping the community to become an overall healthier environment.

However, as with all positive impacts, there also come negative issues. There are still the natural farming problems affecting urban agriculture. One of the main problems is pests. There are harmful insects and beetles that infect gardens and could potentially destroy crops. One of the common pests is the Mexican bean beetle.

The Mexican bean beetle is a member of the ladybug family and attacks many different bean plants such as lima beans, soybeans, and other varieties.  Being as it is the Mexican bean beetle, it was originally found in Mexico and the southwestern United States, but because it is such an invasive creature, in recent years it has been found throughout the country, even here in the northeast (Horticulture 2006).

The beetle is often confused with a ladybug later in its lifespan. However, it begins as small yellow larvae on the underside of leaves. The females lay these eggs as often as every two weeks, so a large infestation could happen quickly (Horticulture 2006). Mid-spring is when they begin to emerge for feeding, and continue throughout the summer. They eat leaves of bean plants in a way called windowpaning. This creates a skeleton of the leaf and greatly hinders plant growth. The beetle can even move on to feed from stems and just developing bean pods (Country Living Gardener 2004).

Although the Mexican bean beetle is such a harmful pest, it can still be organically eradicated. In order to first get rid of the beetle, a farmer must crush the eggs that have been laid on the underside of leaves. This prevents any more growth and reproduction. This must be done quickly because the eggs can hatch in anywhere from five to fourteen days. The adult beetles as well as the larvae must be hand picked from the plants themselves. This is more difficult because the beetles must then be put into a container of soapy water to drown them (Horticulture 2006).

There are still other ways to be rid of the bean beetles, or prevent them altogether. Crops that are harvested early in the spring season can be free from beetles because the beetles have not emerged yet (Country Living Gardener 2004). There are also natural insects that prevent the beetles. Certain wasps and stinkbugs are natural enemies and keep the beetles away (Horticulture 2006).  Insecticides may be used, but should be avoided when keeping with an organic garden.

Urban agriculture is such a helpful part of greening cities that such pests should not be an issue to keep people away from gardening. The farms and gardens can be beneficial in so many ways that the good will out weigh the bad. It is better to be helping yourself and the community to live healthier lifestyles, than to worry about a few garden pests.

 

 

 

Sources:

Horticulture; Jun/Jul2006, Vol. 103 Issue 5, p18-18

Country Living Gardener; Summer2004, Vol. 12 Issue 2, p45-45

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/veg/bean/mexican_bean_beetle03.htm

http://www.temple.edu/gus/undergraduate/esmajor/index.htm

-Sarae Gdovin

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