It’s a pity the internet isn’t scratch and sniff. The citrus flowers were splendiferous this year – the place was suffused with perfume for weeks. And now there are lots of baby fruit on the trees – not only on the lemon, mandarin, oranges and grapefruit down in the veggie garden but even on the limes and the kumquat suffering in pots by the back door.
But there’s a nasty smell taking over the garden these days. The stinkbugs are back.
I’ve spotted bronze orange bugs in the garden before but never quite got around to doing anything about it. I’ve gone for a bit of a Darwinist approach with insect pests in the past. Organic Tough Love, we might call it. “Deal with it! I’m busy!” has worked okay with the Eureka lemon and the Freemont mandarin (and the ruby grapefruit seems to be doing alright too). But the poor baby blood orange has only grown about 5 cm since I planted it, thanks to sooty mould and aphids (… okay, thanks to neglect). The one mature fruit tree that was here when we arrived has been smothered by potato vine, scratched by chooks, starved of water and fertiliser, permanently shaded and, of course, parasitised by the odd citrus bug. No wonder we’ve only seen 3 rather unpleasant oranges in the last 5 years.
So, bugs, it’s time.
There’s something of a 60s Bond film about these pics – I think it’s the Chromakey background. But maybe it’s also the general Bondishness of stink bugs. You can imagine a cable car zipping up to their citadel at the top of the lemon tree. And 007 would need any number of secret weapons from Q’s underground lab to deal with that nefarious blinding spray. There’s Sean Connery converting a dapper hat into an oxygen mask before fighting off the green and orange horde.
No fancy equipment for Uncle Harry and I when we set out on our mission this morning, just protective glasses, ill fitting rubber gloves and a trug of boiling hot water. No-one lost an eye, though by the time the bucket was filled with colourful corpses we both smelled atrocious and Harry had a mysterious brown stain on his beetle-pinching fingers.
Despite being a vegetarian for a quarter of a century, I’m not sure I’d make much of a Buddhist. Meat-loving Harry felt guilty about the citrus beetle death toll whereas I wielded the seccateurs gloating “Die, bugs, die!!”. While I was up a stool lopping the most heavily infested branches off the lemon tree (it needed a haircut anyway), I spotted a Halloween-themed scene which made me feel less unnaturally ghoulish. I particularly like the bit of fly viscera splattered on the right hand side of the frame: Spidey was obviously scuttling from the scene of the crime. We killed a lot of bugs today but at least we didn’t paralyse them, regurgitate stomach acid onto them and then suck their corpses dry.
Although strictly speaking, if you could face a meal of stinkbug entrails, this probably would probably be a more sustainable alternative to death by washing up liquid. On that funereal note, enjoy All Soul’s Day, folks. Let’s hope we don’t see any stinkbugs returning from the grave.