Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Holey Smokes

I'd been seeing a really discouraging amount of this
around...which means I had too many of these.
Way, way too many.  Meet the Aztec Spur-throat, also known as Aidemona azteca.
I think of them as little monsters.  Most of the ones shown here are less than a quarter inch.  They may be tiny eating machines but they pack a huge appetite. Though Aztec Spur-throats reportedly prefer flowers, the ones around here seem plenty content to broadmindedly gnaw holes in the leaves of just about everything I have growing.

At their most colorful as youngsters in their various stages (referred to as instars) it is not known why these little tykes are so distinctive.  The best guess is to avoid predation by birds as their patterning mimics other common garden occupants that sting.  Because reportedly, birds think they're quite tasty.
"Order up!".   I tried to be patient and allow the birds around here to handle (read:eat) this problem on their own but honestly, my feathered friends weren't getting the job done.  I was forced to take matters into my own hands. Literally. I made multiple trips to every garden bed each day carrying along my inelegant Soap Bath of Death. Bent over like some oversized crane, I did my best to spot and then dunk every grasshopper I could, attempting to knock the population down to more manageable levels.

Not what I consider a pleasant way to experience my outdoor spaces.

Which is why I'm relieved to report, after several weeks of effort, that now when I go out and view my garden beds, every single plant is no longer riddled with holes. A few of the fastest growing plants even have a couple of leaf sets up top that are beautifully intact.
Many (many!) grasshoppers routinely escape my hunting expeditions so there is no worry I'm decimating a population. As attractive as they are - and I'll admit they are quite striking - these Aztec Spur-throats are considered to be "quite common where they occur".    I'm just helping them out a bit with family planning.  I won't get all of them and they won't get to eat holes in all my plants.  That's a fair trade as far as I'm concerned.


Linda/patchwork said...

I don't believe I've ever seen one o these.

That's not a complaint, by the way.

Glad you're getting a 'hand(le)' on the problem. :)

TexasDeb said...

Linda: If you haven't seen their damage then you probably aren't missing the culprits either. I'm going out at least once a day until I don't find any more of them, front or back. I was willing to let them have a few bites here and there but then they attacked my Datura out front. This means war!

Tina said...

You have to admit though that they're pretty. Is that any consolation?? I realize from your excellent photographs that I've probably misidentified one in a post of mine some weeks ago. Drat. I have it as a Rainbow grasshopper. I haven't had that many (at least that I've seen) though I have a fair amount of hole-ly leaves--maybe I'm not paying enough attention. Thanks for the correct i.d.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: They are very pretty. I admire their bright colors even as I despise the damage they inflict. If I only had one or two in one area I'd let them go. But they seem to be occurring in numbers in every area front and back, and as I mentioned earlier to Linda, they ate holes in my single slow growing Datura plant out front. That is an affront I will never ignore. These pests must be banished!

Rock rose said...

I have never seen those grasshoppers. I can see why the birds might keep away from them. That coloration probably means something. I have damage similar to that but I found the guilty parties the other day. American goldfinches-picking at my chard and leaving a lacework leaf behind them.

TexasDeb said...

Jenny: I know it is prejudicial of me but if it was finches picking at my plants I think I'd be fine. Oof. I suppose that means I ought to reassess my stance but when it comes to birds eating things I don't worry about their numbers increasing to the point where a garden might get pretty much eaten to pieces.

With grasshoppers? I've probably watched too much TV but I see very many grasshoppers around here and I start to think "swarms!".

Cathy Thompson said...

Not only a great photographer, Deb, but also a very, very committed gardener! I'm so pleased you had a result for all your persistence (sometimes we don't get one, do we? - or at least only after a while). The grasshoppers are very beautiful, but it would be war for me as well if they were damaging much-loved plants like that. Here's to your success!

TexasDeb said...

Cathy: Thank you! I'm not taking what seems to be a temporary respite from new holes appearing daily as a complete "win" yet. I spend several minutes any time I'm out looking for the telltale jewel tones of these dreaded little munchers. With so many appearing this year I'll need to be vigilant next year as well! But forewarned by golly and my capture technique is getting better all the time.

Debra said...

Wow. I have never seen a grasshopper like that before. And they can eat datura? How rude. Grats on getting their numbers under control even if they are pretty. I was once caught in a locust storm and it was one of the most frightening things I've ever experienced. Not that you had a storm or anything close. But after that experience it would take some convincing for me to ever believe grasshoppers could ever be in danger of extermination. =)

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Better safe than sorry is my take on the situation. And yes - I was surprised too - Datura! I thought it was totally safe to be obsessed with such a toxic plant - one that nothing would eat. Ha! The grasshoppers are not phased in the least. I think I have their numbers low enough to prevent massive problems but I won't rest until days go by without seeing a single one!