Why the Grocery Store Lady Thinks I’m an Alcoholic

No, my shopping cart wasn’t full of beer to drink away the sorrows of my withering artichoke plants. It was to wage war on one tiny, devastating insect.

by Cyn Cady

Earwigs: The Reason the Grocery Store Lady Thinks I’m an Alcoholic - Photo by Derek Parker/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)

It’s 9 o’clock in the morning, and I’m in line at the grocery store with a cart full of 20-ounce cans of beer. I have about three different kinds, the cheapest I could find. I’m clearly going for quantity, not quality. The checker gives me a wary but pitying look. The poor woman, she’s probably thinking. She’s going to go home and drink herself into a stupor while watching reruns of “Desperate Housewives.” I want to tell her I don’t drink cheap beer (I am a loyal Lagunitas fan) and that I never watch “Desperate Housewives.” I want to tell her I need all this beer because I’m at war.

The day before, I skipped down the path to the Fortress Garden, excited about my new artichoke plants. I had built four palatial planter boxes at the northern edge of the garden fence so that when they reached their full size of about 4-by-4 feet, they wouldn’t shade the other plants. Being perennials, I expected that my new babies would be with me for years to come, sprouting bagsful of delicious, thorny artichokes. Artichokes are one of my favorite veggies. They’re chock full of potassium, vitamin K, iron, copper, folic acid, antioxidants and all kinds of other goodies. Also, they are delicious with mayonnaise mixed with a dash of curry powder.

But alas! My darlings look unwell. No, worse than unwell … like death warmed over, drooping sadly and with large bites taken out of their lovely silvery leaves! One poor plant had most of the tender foliage chewed away, leaving a bundle of bare stalks. I nearly wept.

Earwigs: The Reason the Grocery Store Lady Thinks I’m an Alcoholic - Photo by Derek Parker/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)

Bending over, I parted the stalks and peered into the plant’s interior. Something moved. I pulled the stalks apart further and saw the earwig dart deeper. Earwigs! I hate earwigs. Next to potato bugs, they rank at the top of my list of Most Gross and Disgusting Insects. They have a shudder-inducing factor that’s off the charts. Those shiny shells! Those pointy pinchy things! The stories about them crawling into ears, for crying out loud. Ewww! I jumped back from my beloved artichokes in horror.

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This was war. I unsheathed my favorite weapon (the Internet) and planned my attack. Step 1 was to go into the garden at night and pick the nasty little suckers off by hand. Dragging my partner Danny with me for moral support, and just in case the legend of the Were-Earwig was true, we crept up on the artichokes and blasted them with our flashlight beams.

Earwigs were everywhere—and I mean EVERYWHERE. Hundreds of them, skittering around in that disgusting way they do. I had to hand-pick these things? But I love artichokes, so I started right in, pinching them off the plants and smashing them against the side of the planter boxes. It took about 30 seconds for me to fully embrace the hand-picking concept. In moments, I was yelling things like, “Die, you nasty mothers!” and “I will crush you until your ancestors feel it!” and “Feel the searing pain of my wrath!” as I smashed earwig after earwig.

It was somewhere around this point that I noticed Danny backing away from me nervously. “Um … honey?” he said, “You’re scaring me a little bit.” Reluctantly, I toned it down. After awhile, we appeared to have destroyed all the earwigs we could find. It was time for step 2: bait and drown.

According to my research, one of the best baits for earwigs (and slugs and snails, as a bonus) is beer. Take an old tuna can, twist it down until its top edge is flush with the dirt, fill it half-full of beer, and those party animal earwigs can’t resist diving in and drowning miserably. Hurray!

So there I was, the very next morning, loading up on cheap brewskis and jiggling excitedly in the checkout line. I’m sure the checker thinks I’m jonesing for my breakfast beverage, but I’m just eager to get my beer traps in before the Evil Earwig Empire does any more damage. I’m also thinking about designing a battle flag, maybe crossed beer bottles above the corpse of an earwig, with a garland of artichoke leaves.

Keep the bugs in your own garden at bay:

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