Sow There! Tips to remove bugs from leafy greens 4-20-2017

A lady beetle and aphids.A lady beetle and aphids. Jack Kelly Clark — UC Cooperative Extension

Brown armorated stink bugs eggs, and nymphsBrown armorated stink bugs eggs, and nymphsDavid. R. Lance — UC Cooperative Extension

The bugs in my gorgeous, lush green patch of spinach, kale and broccoli have been working overtime, as if they have a deadline to procreate. A few weeks ago I bragged on Facebook about my leafy green abundance. Two friends immediately asked me to drop greens on their doorsteps on my way to work. I was glad to oblige. It made me feel like the Great Garden Provider.

I love tasty greens. Yet, there is a limit to how many times I can choke down iron-filled goodness. When I have more greens than I can chew, I cram them into a plastic zip-bag and store them in the freezer.

My friends aren’t alone in wanting to nibble from my garden.

This week I spotted a stink bug sunning itself on an eight-inch spinach leaf. It must have recently gorged itself, because it moved slowly enough for me to fold the leaf and smash it without incident. A few days earlier I found a stink bug in the house. It flew from the lace curtain toward the living room globe light, doing a solo impression of the Blue Angels fighter jets. I didn’t care if my living room smelled like sulfur. I stopped that bug in its tracks.

Stink bugs aren’t the only invaders taking up residence in the raise bed. As I snipped leaves Wednesday I removed slugs, which I prefer not to smash with my bare hands. I also spotted the “mystery cluster” of tiny, tiny white eggs, oddly beautiful in the spring sunshine. I wish I had taken a picture, but I instinctively pinched between the tips of my fingers.

Are these eggs of the dreaded brown marmorated stink bug? Some sources describe the eggs as white to light green. My unwelcome eggs were as white as a game show host’s teeth.

The trusty UC Cooperative Extension Integrated Pest Management website described the stink bug eggs in clusters of 12-21, as was the case on my spinach. I wish I had taken a picture to send to the Master Gardeners, but I was too hasty in destroying the evidence.

Brown marmorated stink bugs are here to stay, according to all I have read. They’re fairly tough against any kind of insecticide control. The critters scurry when you start jostling the leaves. The IPM website suggested using a vacuum to suck the bugs from under the canopy of leaves. I don’t know about you, but that’s not going to happen in my yard, not unless I bought a dedicated stink bug shop vac.

In the meantime, I just want to get through the spring and harvest as much of this green stuff as I can without adding bug protein to my diet. So far, So far, I’ve had good luck rinsing the greens in a bowl of water, swishing around, and repeating the process twice more. If I’ve been eating bugs, I haven’t noticed so it doesn’t matter. From here on out I’ll check each leaf after it is snipped.


Another recent arrival are aphids. I should have know they were in the vicinity when I started spotting lady bugs in the tall grass.

A rather lively discussion about aphids on leafy greens was included on a website called Paleohacks, My garden also has aphids. I find them in the middle of a leaf that looks strange and curled. When I open the leaf, the bugs are clustered together like an aphid slumber party.

A few of the paleo gardeners said to just eat the salad, bugs an all.

I may resort to that, but only if it is due to oversight.

One gardener said she adds some apple cider vinegar to a bowl of water and soaks the leaves for a few hours. The vinegar will kill the bugs.

“It might not completely remove them, but that ensures that you won’t be eating anything other than some shells.”

These paleo folks are tough, tough cookies.

Another woman inspects each leaf and wipes away the hangers-on with a paper towel. Yet another said she soaks the leaves for 20 minutes in warm water, allowing the bugs to float to the top.

In the meantime, I’ll try my trusted technique of spraying the leaves with a diluted solution of Dr. Bronner’s dish soap and water. The aphids turn black, which is a beautiful thing to behold.

Contact reporter Heather Hacking at 896-7758.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.