Animals – Rancho Delicioso – Yoga Retreat, Surf Camp and Permaculture Center at Costa Rica Eco Village http://ranchodelicioso.com Costa Rica Eco Village with Yoga Retreat, Surf Camp and Permaculture Center Thu, 22 Jun 2017 22:28:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Insect Pests and Solutions http://ranchodelicioso.com/insect-pests-solutions/ Sat, 07 Mar 2015 00:41:11 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=2266 There are thousands of insects in the jungle here, and several of them like to feast on our plants. We’re going to try to catalog as many of them as possible to help our friends and neighbors in the area recognize them and know what to do. Aphids Every gardener and farmer hates aphids. They […]

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There are thousands of insects in the jungle here, and several of them like to feast on our plants. We’re going to try to catalog as many of them as possible to help our friends and neighbors in the area recognize them and know what to do.

Aphids

Aphids in three colors Every gardener and farmer hates aphids. They spread rapidly and take over plants, sucking their juices and stunting their growth. In the photo on the right, you can see that one spinach leaf had three colors of them. Usually we see them as small green bumps around the size of a flea.

Solutions:

    1. Yellow Sticky Traps: See below in “White Flies” for a link to a video of how to make one.

    2. Ladybugs. We have a few types of ladybugs here, so look out for them and never kill them. If you know a source for buying ladybugs to release in the garden, let us know. Most countries have this option.

    3. Lacewings. Another local bug eats tons of aphids every day. In some countries you can buy them to release on your farm to help you, but we haven’t seen them for sale in Costa Rica (yet). Read here for more about the lacewing: Lacewing

Caterpillar that eats Passionfruit Vine leaves

Passionfruit caterpillars These caterpillars start out tiny and black, from yellow egg groupings, and quickly grow into ravenous monsters. They can devastate your passionfruit vines. Once they grow to full size, they will eventually turn into a gorgeous “Juno” butterfly.

Read much more on this: The passion fruit caterpillar problem

Solution:

Tear off the leaves when you find the egg or family groupings. Leave a few of them on your plants to eat a bit of the leaves, because when passionfruit is stressed, it produces more fruit.

Caterpillar that eats Spinach and Arugula

Costa Rica caterpillar that loves to eat spinach and arugula This caterpillar seemed to greatly prefer spinach and arugula, while leaving alone the kale and collard family greens. We were surprised it like arugula so much because ours is very spicy. At times, we have serious infestations of these, and they’re difficult to control. We tried bringing in chickens to eat them, and the birds did give them a few pecks to taste them, but didn’t like the flavor and instead preferred eating grass.

Solutions:

1. Control with native wasps: We are encouraging a small wasp that loves these to live in large numbers near the farm. Click here to see our simple solution and how we do it: Article: Wasp that eats caterpillars

2. We’ve found that we shouldn’t let the spinach grow into huge groups or they’re more easily infested. So now we keep them in smaller bunches and trim them around the edges for our salads, pestos, and stir fries.

Cucumber Beetle

Cucumber Beetle - Acalymma vittatum “Acalymma vittatum” is the Latin name for this annoying little Striped Cucumber Beetle, that seems to hop/fly from leaf to leaf and infests many different types of plants, not just cucumbers.

More on this bug here: Striped Cucumber Beetle on Wikipedia They are so fast that they often out-run clouds of spray when we try to get them with neem or garlic/pepper sprays, so you really have to spray carefully.

A single female can lay 1500 eggs, and their lifespan is short – only 4-6 weeks, so these things can rapidly take over if not controlled. Their larvae live in the roots for two weeks and can weaken the plant.

Bacterial Wilt

The worst thing about this beetle isn’t the holes they put in the leaves of your plants but an INCURABLE bacterial wilt they can spread (Erwinia tracheiphila). This disease can affect cucumbers, squash, gourds, and zucchini, but apparently watermelon is immune. You can test for it by checking to see if the plant’s sap has become milky and sticky. Cut the stem near the crown and slowly pulled apart, the sap will make a viscous string if it has the disease.

There’s no cure, but some strains are more susceptible than others to the disease, so save your seeds from the plants that seem to be stronger against it.

Solutions:

We haven’t found a way to eliminate them, but we can keep their numbers down. The usual foliar sprays help. Squashing them by hand, when you can catch them helps of course but is a lot of work. They are slower in morning and evenings so don’t even bother to try during mid-day because they’re too fast. Check the insides of flowers carefully, and it was suggested to use yellow rubber gloves that have the fingers coated with petroleum jelly. Wearing a yellow shirt can attract them to you when they fly off the plant, where you can squash them more easily.

Birds, frogs, and many predatory insects eat them, so if they get into a sealed greenhouse they will multiply like crazy without their enemies around.

Yellow sticky traps are excellent to catch them.

Chickens love to eat them, if you can keep them focused, and they will even eat the larvae in the soil.

Lots of great info is here: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/pest-control/organic-cucumber-beetle-control-zw0z1304zkin.aspx

Leaf Miner / Tomato Leaf Borer

Tomato Leaf Borer This is a very tiny black fly that we thought was a hopping beetle until we zoomed in the photo and could see it was either a fly or a bee/wasp. They are very fast. When you try to spray them, many clearly can outjump/fly the spray to escape, and we found our usual sprays didn’t control them well.

This little fly is black with transparent wings, and it lays its larvae on the plant leaves, which bore through it leaving an irregular trail.

Thanks to Ed Bernhardt from The New Dawn Center for helping us to identify it. More about this bug here: Leafminer

Solution: Try your best to spray the adults with organic bug killers and be sure to get the undersides of the leaves.

Jogoto Larvae – Scarab Beetle

Scarab Beetle Larvae - Jogoto Killing Lettuce The Jogoto (Jogoto Phyllophaga sp.), as it’s called here, is the larvae of a very pretty metallic gold scarab beetle that come in swarms certain times of the year and are attracted to light bulbs.

We found these transparent worms eating the roots of our lettuces. It’s easy to see when a lettuce is being eaten because it starts to wilt, even though its neighbors are fine. We tried digging them out but had to kill the plant to get them.

Solutions:

    1. Long Fork: One way to get them is to use a long straight fork, like from a BBQ, and stab many times beneath the roots of the lettuce, which will puncture the larvae without totally destroying the lettuce roots.

    2. Calcium and Ash Mixture: This website (Spanish) suggests using “Cal y Ceniza” mixed into water: http://www.ruta.org/rediao/node/1783

    3. Detailed Study: This article has a detailed study of the lifecycle of this insect, with possible solutions: http://books.google.co.cr/books?id=8cM4jkoaJtYC&pg=PA50

Pickleworm

Pickleworms This horrible worm destroys nearly all of our zucchinis and many melons. At night, a moth comes to lay small eggs that hatch and burrow into the roots, flowers, and fruit/vegetables. They start out with small black spots and eventually turn all green. They’re especially hungry for the male zucchini flowers, which can make pollenization difficult.

Solutions: Not really any so far. We pick off the zucchini flowers as soon as possible before they can bore into the zucchinis themselves. They seem to have few or no natural enemies here. Spraying various organic repellents hasn’t been effective.

More on pickleworms here: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/veg/pickleworm.htm

Stinkbugs

Costa Rica Stinkbug on Eggplant These are about the size of a dime, and come in various colors, which seem to be various stages of growth, not separate species. They fly, and are difficult to kill because they’re very strong and also because they smell so terrible when you squish them. Their life-cycle is a bit over two months, and in the tropics can run through 4 generations each year, easily multiplying to large numbers if left unchecked.

They are especially destructive to our Eggplants and Cucumbers, but are known to attack all types of plants, especially younger plants, young fruits, and stems. They puncture the skin and suck out the juices.

Solutions:

    Parastic Fly: Besides crushing them by hand, the best possible way to reduce their numbers would be to release the parasitic fly Trichopoda pennipes also known as the tachinid fly. They are native to Costa Rica, and in some countries one can buy them to release for pest control. I haven’t found a place to buy them in Costa Rica.

    Parasitic Wasp: These attack the eggs, but I don’t know what type or we could look for them and try to encourage them to live here in greater numbers.

    Other Insect Predators: Ladybugs and Lacewings supposedly will eat them, probably when they’re young.

    Night Trap: You can build a trap with an LED light and a 2 liter plastic bottle. See this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78GpAVr_uXI

    Decoy Plants: Supposedly they are very fond of Okra, which grows great here, so we could plant more Okra around the gardens and try to catch them.

    Damp Towel Trick: I read that you can hang a damp towel near to the plants during the night, and they will be attracted to it, and in the morning, you can put the towel and all the stinkbugs into a plastic bag and leave it in the sun to kill them. We need to test this.

Whiteflies

White Flies and Their Eggs Whiteflies are tiny (flea sized) flies that eat our kale, collards, broccoli etc. They like to land on the underside where it’s difficult to spray them.

They don’t destroy the plants, but they weaken them, inhibit growth, and make them less beautiful and not very marketable.

We use the classic “Garlic and Chile” sprays, but it doesn’t work well enough. A few always escape and they multiply quickly.

Solutions:

    1. Yellow Sticky Trap – These bugs are attracted to the color yellow. So you can smear a non-toxic glue onto yellow plastic and they will stick to it. Here’s a link to a video that shows you how to make one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vONXlePZ23U

    2. Ladybugs – Unfortunately no one sells them in Costa Rica that we know of, but sometimes we see them naturally here. Just not enough of them.

    3. Easy Homemade Spray – Madera Negro + Oregano leaves, 2 days in water – 3 parts water to 1 part leaves. Add rubbing alcohol as a preservative.

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Bambi, our deer friend http://ranchodelicioso.com/bambi-our-deer-friend/ Tue, 03 Feb 2015 21:11:29 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=2697 Meet Bambi our baby deer friend, this cute little animal became part of our community at Rancho Delicioso for a while. Animal care is a daily duty at the farm, and we all loved to take care of Bambi when she comes by and is hungry for her daily milk.

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Bambi & Jedi bambs

Meet Bambi our baby deer friend, this cute little animal became part of our community at Rancho Delicioso for a while. Animal care is a daily duty at the farm, and we all loved to take care of Bambi when she comes by and is hungry for her daily milk.

Bambi_smiling2Bambi appeared one day among our goats, apparently joining the only herd she could find, after her mom was most likely killed by local poachers (hunting is illegal in Costa Rica but still happens here sometimes.)

We started giving her raw cow’s milk from the neighbour’s farm so she could get all the nutrients she needs to grow big and strong. We were blessed to be able to take care of her for a time.

Eventually, she grew wilder and larger, and started to wander back into the forest from time to time on her own, nibbling on grass and bushes. Then, she learned how tasty our farm plants were, especially certain flowers like those of our squash and zucchini. At that point, we took her by car to a wild area where deer families were frequently seen, and let her go free.

In Costa Rica, it’s legal to have deer as pets as long as they aren’t chained or enclosed. In other words, if you let them free, and they stay with you on their own, then they are yours. But in our case, deer are too destructive to our growing efforts, so she needed to be relocated.

We imagine that now she’s part of a herd roaming around the Delicias area. Maybe we’ll see her again someday!

 
 

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Animal Challenges http://ranchodelicioso.com/animal-challenges/ Sun, 30 Nov 2014 22:16:45 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=2507 A tropical organic farm is a giant salad bar to wild animals I love jungle animals. Birds, bugs, bats, and beasts of all types. When I first moved to Costa Rica in 2004 I took the time to learn the life habits of every mammal in our jungles, and the names of every bird too. […]

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Green Iguana Attacks the Farm - 1200px

A tropical organic farm is a giant salad bar to wild animals

I love jungle animals. Birds, bugs, bats, and beasts of all types. When I first moved to Costa Rica in 2004 I took the time to learn the life habits of every mammal in our jungles, and the names of every bird too. Now, trying to run an organic farm that’s surrounded by wild animals, I feel like shooting a shotgun at any critter that moves. Why? Because after three years of solving the problems of seed varieties, fungus, soil dynamics, bugs, and diseases, when we finally get things growing well, every living thing in the forest comes to eat it!

My friend Terri Zacanti, who also has a small farm here told me she planted food for the wild animals along the fringes of their gardens, hoping that the animals would eat it and stay in their feeding zones. But alas, they often prefer to walk right through that food and go straight into her garden beds. She correctly pointed out that by planting more food for them, they multiply, and attack her farm in ever greater numbers. She also planted trees to connect a new wildlife corridor across her land, and the animals use that to more easily access her crops.

In permaculture design, a sustainable farm has wild zones that are useful for native medicinal plants, wood, mulch, habitat for helpful birds, bugs and animals, etc, but it also brings dozens of varieties of ravenous and relentless furry pests that raid nearly everything we grow.

So what solutions are there? In the “good old days” the solution was simple and easy: kill them! Guns, bow and arrows, slingshots, and poisons were used to eliminate any threat to a farmers crops. These days, that solution is not only illegal in Costa Rica, but goes against the grain of most people who are trying to live a permaculture lifestyle. The question remains, however, whether it’s realistically possible to maintain a sustainable tropical farm while living in harmony with jungle animals.

Solutions to Animal and Bird Problems

Here are a few solutions we are trying here at Rancho Delicioso:

    Cat wants frog Cats: – Cats are very good to keep away rats. Even if they’re too lazy to catch them, their scent and urine supposedly deters rats. It occurred to me to train our cat to use a cat box filled with sand, and then distribute the sand around areas where you don’t want rats. But this, like so many ideas, is very labor intensive and there aren’t so many hours in the day for this type of solution.

    Dogs: – A large dog is good for a farm, but requires training to keep it from chewing on stuff, trampling seedlings and garden beds, or growling at our guests. We currently have a boxer puppy who will grow to 80-90 pounds. We will train him to chase away any jungle mammals like deer, coyotes, peccary, raccoons, coatis and foxes.

    Electric Fence: – An electric fence can keep large mammals away from your goats and chickens, while keeping goats confined to a particular grazing area. But they inevitably break, or the power goes out, or animals figure out how to jump over or crawl under them. Like so many other things, this takes work and maintenance, with a lot of trial-and-error.

    Nets: – A visiting permaculture expert from Australia told me that in the tropical regions of her country Queensland/Cairns, those who choose to do permaculture assume that they are going to cover all their growing areas with thin, inexpensive nets/screens that keep out these animals and birds. Unfortunately, nothing like that is sold in Costa Rica that I’ve seen.

    Overproduction: – The first two times we planted corn, the raccoons, rats, and bluejays ate almost all of it. On our third crop, we decided to try planting 10,000m2 of corn, hoping that if we produce a huge quantity they can’t possibly eat it all. It may backfire though because maybe they’ll just multiply or bring their friends, and then we’ll have even more of them to deal with.

    Scarecrow at the Farm Scarecrows: – We made our first scarecrow to keep away birds who were eating the corn. It doesn’t seem to work. One good trick however is supposedly to put a pair of sunglasses on both sides of its head, which will apparently give it a 360 degree effectiveness, since many birds are smart enough to sneak up behind a scarecrow.

    Stone Throwing: – For animals like coatis and raccoons, who come in families, we chase them, yelling, clapping, and throwing rocks and sticks. We can shoot slingshots at them too, with the idea to scare them into understanding that they’re not welcome in OUR territory. They can stay in the jungle where they belong.

    Traps: – We have some live traps, such as from Havahart, for catching smaller creatures like mice and rats, but generally they don’t work well.

    Walls: – In some areas we’ve made tin walls that surround garden beds and keep out rats and iguanas. They help with grasshoppers too. However, the animals often find a way to burrow under or find a weakness such as a gap or corner between panels, or an edge they can get a grip on to climb over.

Crazy Ideas that Just Might Work

They say that desperation is the mother of invention, and living on a farm you get plenty of time to stare into space and think up devious ideas for how to deal with our animal terrorist friends who defy all attempts to keep them out. So, these are a few things I have yet to try:

    Fake Predators – Perhaps it would work to get some of those fake owls and putting them around the farm on various branches, to keep away bluejays or other birds that might be afraid of them.

    Falconry Falconry – Wouldn’t it be cool to have your own eagle or falcon who you could command to pluck rats off your corn stocks and bluejays from your mulberries? Shooting bluejays doesn’t seem very PC but I think I’d be okay with feeding them to a pet falcon. However, I imagine the learning curve and expense of getting into a rare hobby like falconry wouldn’t really be worth it.

    Pee Party – This is the best idea ever. One of our volunteers told me that some animals such as coyotes don’t like the smell of human urine, and will respect urine-marked boundaries (see the great movie “Never Cry Wolf.”) So my idea is to lure a group of friends to the farm with the promise of free beer, with the caveat that they must pee in pre-designated areas to help us mark our territory as a no-animal zone. Not sure if it will work, but it sounds like a fun plan to try.

    Snake and Tarantula Habitats – I have already tried catching tarantulas around the areas and letting them free on the farm, but we never saw them again. So version two of that idea would be to build habitats for them to live in the farm, so they’ll have safe homes and stick around to help us. Tarantulas need deep holes and crevasses to burrow into. Snakes like rock piles or perhaps we could plant banyan trees and banzaii them so they don’t get too big. A banzaii tree the size of an upturned van could house a lot of snakes. Snakes eat mice, rats, cockroaches, lizards, and other pests. Banyan trees can also house bats, which eat mosquitos and other insects at night, and their guano is the world’s best natural high-nitrogen fertilizer.

    Ultrasonic Frequency Devices – You may have heard of ultrasonic devices that supposedly drive away rats and other pests. Apparently despite many dozens of varieties and companies making these things, there has never been any conclusive proof of them working as advertised. See this article: http://buginfo.com/article.cfm?id=58

    List of Jungle Animals Bad for Tropical Farmers

    Agouti AgoutisVeggies and Greens – Agoutis are rodents that look like a rabbit with small ears. They run around solo or in pairs, and will chew on almost any type of plants you have growing. They are really annoying in that they will often take a single bit our of something like a pineapple and just leave it to rot on the ground after knocking it off its mother plant. Unlike rabbits, they won’t multiply into large groups, but one or two can do a lot of damage. Having a dog around to chase them is probably the easiest way to handle them.

    Red Army Ants Army AntsBees – Army ants ravage through the jungle and generally aren’t too bothersome to humans. They can actually be very helpful by cleaning your house of scorpions and cockroaches. However, they will destroy any bee hive they find, both artificial and natural, and bees are very important for pollination. And, if you’re trying to grow predatory wasps, they will kill those too. After our first bee hive was destroyed recently, the next one we need to put with a moat of running water around it to keep the army ants off. Yet another expense and thing to have to take care of.

    Costa Rica Bluejay BluejaysCorn, Mulberries – These beautiful blue noisy birds, called the “white throated magpie jay” are a major nuisance nearly everywhere they go. They are ridiculously intelligent and fearless. I’ve been attacked by them while eating lunch in Montezuma, where they swoop down to scratch your head with their claws if you annoy them by not giving them your french fries or whatever else they want. Here, they eat our corn before we can harvest it, and they go after our mulberries. One of our workers just told us he killed one with a slingshot and mounted it on a stick to keep the rest of his friends away from our mulberries (he did NOT have permission to do this I should add) but it didn’t work anyway. We have a small orchard of 20 or so mulberry trees and like many intelligent animals, these bluejays discovered it and now come back in every larger numbers, so we get few of our berries for ourselves. Solution: a visitor to the farm suggested using sparkling “red mylar flash tape” that scares away birds (they think it’s fire.) A link to where to buy it: http://www.gemplers.com/product/R40703/Bird-Scare-Flash-Tape-Red-Silver-1-x-290 Some of the local Ticos use old cassette or VHS tape in the same way.

    Boa Constrictor in Costa Rica Boa ConstrictorsTilapia, Chickens – Boas are a beautiful snake that could be an ally on the farm if they stuck to eating rats. However, they are powerful swimmers and will get into your fish ponds to eat your tilapia. They also are relentless in breaking into chicken coops and will eat one if they can get in, and will return for more later. They are not poisonous, but can grow to a large enough size that they can eat cats, dogs, and baby goats. Theoretically they could grow large enough to eat bigger animals, but I haven’t heard of that happening in Costa rica. The best way to deal with them is to catch them (if you have a lot of them then buy a snake catching stick) and release them far away from your farm next to a big nature reserve.

    Ocelot CatsChickens – There are 6 types of wild cats that live in the Montezuma area, and they come in all sizes from smaller than house cats to 200-pound jaguars. You’re unlikely to ever see them, but people have had trouble with some of the medium sized ones, such as a jaguarundi or ocelot, getting their chickens. Another menace is feral house cats who terrorize your own cat, or come into your house at night through an open window and pee on things or eat your food. We have had problems with one who attacks bags of bread of we accidentally leave it out.

    Coatis - Pizotes CoatisEggs, Garden Beds – The Coatimundi, known here as pizotes, are probably the worst animal that comes to the farm. They are beautiful animals that are closely related to raccoons, and they will go after chicken eggs during the day or night. However, the biggest problem with them is that they will go to your garden bed and uproot all your plants, digging for grubs and roots. They love soft mulched beds, and will eat your carefully-grown and distributed earthworms. The males come by themselves, or family groups of 20-30 females and young visit and can do a lot of damage. A big dog can chase them off, and it’s a good idea to chase and attack them like crazy to keep them away before they discover the tender morsels in your farm. Be careful, they have very strong, sharp claws and can do a lot of damage to your dog if cornered.

    Wile E Coyote CoyotesChickens, Cats, Small Dogs, Baby Goats – Coyotes are large wild dogs that are extremely intelligent. They are meat eaters who will kill your chickens at night or during the day. They kill cats, and they are cannibals who will eat dogs too. I know someone who saw a coyote carry away her pet chihuahua in another area of Montezuma. A coyote once grabbed one of our baby goats and tried to carry it away, but was scared off by one of our workers (the goat was unharmed.) During the day, coyotes are known to send a female in heat to lure larger farm dogs away from the safety of a farm, and then they will kill them in a group (this was done to my australian shepherd when i was a kid living in California… he luckily escaped but had over 60 stitches from his wounds.) Coyotes are most likely to attack as the light starts going down at 4:30PM or so, or in the early morning. This is their main window of opportunity to grab some free meat off your farm before your animals are put away for the night. Killing coyotes just makes them multiply. If a pack loses too many members, then every female in the group will get pregnant, rather than only the alpha female. Most coyotes in this area were killed off from two dog-borne diseases: canine distemper and ericulosis, but have started coming back to the area and we hear them sometimes, howling at night not too far off. In many parts of the U.S. there’s a bounty on them, which doesn’t eliminate them, but keeps their numbers down to a manageable level.

    Deer DeerVegetables, Greens – Bambi is very cute in the jungle, but not cute at all when it’s just eaten an entire bed of just-transplanted vegetable seedlings of some kind. Rancho Delicioso borders a very large natural area of perhaps 800 Hectares or more, that goes all the way down to the Montezuma Falls river valley, and there are plenty of deer here, despite the illegal hunting that goes on. They come to the farm to eat our sweet potato vines and other seedlings from our garden beds. They are a major pest and we are going to train our dog to chase them away.

    Costa Rica Fox FoxesChickens – Foxes can climb fences and trees extremely well, and are adept at finding weak spots in a hen-house. Once inside, they will kill up to a dozen of your chickens, often tearing their heads off in a blood-lust frenzy. After the carnage, they will drag one away to eat and leave the rest for you to find in the morning. The best solution is to make sure your chicken coop is really secure so they can’t bust in. We also put out a light bulb that we turn on each night at the chicken house. It doesn’t bother the hens, but keeps away foxes and perhaps other night predators such as the many wild cat species. But, sometimes the light burns out, or someone forgets to turn it on, or the power goes out, or they get hungry enough they’ll come at night. We seem to lose a group of chickens 2-3 times per year to foxes no matter what we do. We’re hoping that our dog will learn to hear or smell them and keep them away.

    Green Iguana IguanasGreens, veggies – There are two types of very large lizards that are common in the jungle here. The photo on the right shows the green iguana, which grows up to six feet long and is vegetarian. The second is the cnetosaur, which is a bit smaller, but more common and eats just about anything. They are sometimes called gallina de arbol, or “tree chickens”, because they taste like chicken. So now you know what to do with them if they attack your farm. The other option is to put some type of slippery wall that they can’t climb around your garden beds. Don’t try to use any type of grid or mesh because they are smarter than they look and they’ll just climb over it. Corrugated tin does the trick, but is very expensive for large areas. A dog can chase them away if you have one.

    Kingfisher in my hand KingfishersTilapia – Kingfishers are an incredibly beautiful bird that’s an expert at fishing. They can and will kill tilapia fish. The solution many tilapia farmers use is to cover their ponds with metal grid that these birds can’t get through. There are more than one size of kingfisher, I haven’t ever personally seen a kingfisher kill one of our fish, but the potential is there. The kingfisher shown here in the photo hit a glass window in my house and I picked it up to keep our cat from getting it. It recovered and flew away after 3-4 minutes.

    White Faced Capuchin Monkey MonkeysCorn, fruit, animal feed – Monkeys are cute, right? The howler monkeys might be because they don’t cause trouble, but the white-faced capuchin monkey is common here and one of the world’s most intelligent species. They are aggressive and will fight with (and sometimes can kill) pets. They have thumbed hands and can open things to get into your chicken feed or goat food. They eat corn and fruit. They particularly delight in taunting you by taking a single bite from each and every fruit on a tree, and hurling each to the ground in apparent disgust. They are a menace worse than those in the Wizard of Oz. Solution? Perhaps throw sticks at them and hope they don’t throw their poo back at you.

    Peccary PeccariesVegetables and all Crops – At least as of this writing in late 2014, these animals haven’t been an issue for us even though there’s known to be a family of peccaries living nearby (also known as javelinas, which is a type of small intelligent wild pig.) If they find us, they will begin to raid our crops, uprooting and eating whatever they want. The normal solution for other farmers in the area would be to shoot and eat them, because they’re supposed to be very tasty, but that’s not an acceptable solution to us. We are hoping our large dog “Jedi” will chase them away if they ever come here.

    Rabbit Rabbits – Veggies and Greens – Although rare, jackrabbits are native to Costa Rica and somehow survive here despite all the predators. Once they discover your food is a consistent sweet food source, they can multiply like crazy and wreak havoc. We suspect a rabbit ate our entire plantation of 287 sweet potato seedlings (or it may have been a deer.) I have no idea how to get rid of them if a big family gets established in your farm. I think you’d have to find a way to kill them or forget about trying to grow anything on the ground.

    Raccoon RaccoonsChickens, Corn – These masked bandits are incredibly cute and a lot of fun when they’re babies if you happen to have one, but they grow up to be intelligent, vicious, potentially rabid furry monsters that will raid your farm. Besides killing your chickens and eating the eggs, they can kill and eat a house-cat. They even are adept at killing large dogs if they can lure it into water, in which case they will instinctively climb onto its head and drown it. If they discover your “milpa” (cornfield) they will come night after night, tearing down your cornstalks and eating your cobs. They only come at night and disturb your sleep with their many potential varieties of mischief. We are hoping our dog will be enough to keep them away and we will certainly chase them and throw stuff at them if we see them on the farm.

    Dead Rat Nest Rats and MiceCorn, Peanuts, Chicken and Goat food, Sweet Potatoes, Worms – Rats climb up corn stalks to get the kernels and the top. They get into bags of food for your goats and chickens. They eat your worms in your worm beds. They dig down and gnaw on the top of your sweet potatoes. In short, they’re awful and a huge menace to a farmer. They live in dry places under piles of debris, old wood, etc, and we once killed (using sticks and bats) more than 70 of them in one nest (see photo on the right.) They’re almost impossible to eradicate. Live traps don’t work. Baited rat traps and glue traps are awful and don’t work well enough anyway. Another solution to rats is to find a “Rat Terrier” dog, which was at one point the most popular dog in the United States, with tens of millions of them, populating every small farm in the country. We were unable to find this breed in Costa Rica, but apparently they are natural rat killers and don’t even need to be trained. One solution that does work is a special grey box that has a very weak and slow-working poison in it. The boxes are attached to walls where the rats run, and they enter the boxes and eat the food. It takes weeks to kill them. Apparently the rat-nest king won’t eat any food that hasn’t been taste-tested for over a week by his workers first. So any strong, fast-acting poison will not kill the rat king. This solution can be provided by various exterminators in Costa rica. Putting any kind of poison in an organic farm is terrible, but this is the only solution to rats that we have found. The poison is very mild and contained inside the boxes.

    Conclusions

    This is a difficult issue for those of us trying to live both in harmony with nature, and sustainably, since animals will inevitably come and attack your food and animals if you try to farm in a tropical jungle. The old-school method of shooting everything may work, but it’s not what most permaculture enthusiasts want, so we search for other solutions. This article contains details about all the animals that attack the farm, what they eat, and how we are trying to deal with them. Hopefully someone will find it helpful with their own farm adventures.

    Like the rest of this website, this guide is a work in progress, and I hope to add new and improved information over the years. If you have any constructive feedback or creative ideas to help out, I’d love to hear your comments.

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    ]]> Lacewing Insect – A Friend to the Tropical Gardener http://ranchodelicioso.com/lacewing-larvae/ Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:40:05 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=1272 An Insect Predator of Aphids and Caterpillars If you’ve lived in Costa Rica for a while, and you’re paying attention to the little things around you, then you may have noticed some tiny eggs on little hairs around your house or garden. I had seen them a few times and wondered what they were, but […]

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    Lacewing Eggs on Collard Greens

    An Insect Predator of Aphids and Caterpillars

    Green Lacewing If you’ve lived in Costa Rica for a while, and you’re paying attention to the little things around you, then you may have noticed some tiny eggs on little hairs around your house or garden. I had seen them a few times and wondered what they were, but wasn’t particularly interested until a friend came to my house and noticed them. He explained to me that they were mosquito eggs, and he promptly wiped them away with his finger to help me out. After being here for ten years, I’ve learned that almost everything that everyone tell me about animals, bugs, and plants is wrong, so I decided to do a bit of research with the help of the Google Image Search.

    As it turns out, these eggs are not from mosquitos, but from an extremely beneficial insect called a Green Lacewing. Here in Costa Rica, these insects grow to around two inches long. They are nearly invisible on a plant because their four wings are very lace-like and their green camouflages so well.

    The Aphid Wolf

    Lacewing Larvae with stuff on its back for camouflage Sometimes called an Aphid Wolf or Aphid Lion, the lacewing larvae are voracious predators of aphids and caterpillars, two soft-bodies bugs that typically terrorize organic farms. The larvae have hairs on the back of their backs that help them to collect debris, or sometimes the bodies of their dead aphid prey, and this camouflages them from birds and other predators that would take them as a snack. I’ve seen them several times in Costa Rica and wondered what they were.

    Reading about lacewing larvae has made me wonder if this is perhaps a solution to our mysterious ants that prowl so many of our plants. I’ve watched them for great lengths and they never seem to do anything but wander. Perhaps they are searching for lacewing larvae, because apparently some species of ants will protect aphids from predators, so that the ants can harvest the aphids for a liquid they use to grow fungal food in their nests. The next time I see one of these larvae, I’ll place it on a plant near these ants to see what they do.

    Biological Pest Control

    Another form of the green lacewing larvae, attacking an aphid.

    Another form of the green lacewing larvae, attacking an aphid.

    In some countries, lacewing eggs can be purchased by the thousands and the larvae will hatch to eat aphids and caterpillars on a farmer’s crops. I’m not sure whether it’s possibly to buy them in Costa Rica, but considering that a single lacewing larvae can eat up to 100 aphids per weak, it sounds like a great idea to me. If anyone knows where to buy them in Costa Rica, please let me know!

    One of the difficulties of living in a small country like Costa Rica is the difficulty of obtaining things like this. Obscure, niche products are just not available here, and Costa Rica is very strict about the import of living organisms of any type, wanting to protect its natural heritage. Of course that does open up an opportunity for someone local to develop an industry, and lacewings sounds like a good idea, since ladybugs don’t live in Costa Rica.

    More about Lacewings

    Wikipedia – Lacewing info

    Lacewing Eggs on Filaments 1200px

     

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    Caterpillar That Eats Passion Fruit Leaves http://ranchodelicioso.com/caterpillar-that-eats-passion-fruit-leaves/ Fri, 12 Jul 2013 17:50:38 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=1151 This beautiful orange and black butterfly looks sweet, but it lays hundreds of eggs on our passion fruit vine leaves. At first, the eggs are bright yellow, but after a time, they turn a browner shade before hatching. The tiny caterpillar babies favor these passion fruit vines leaves (maracuya) and will quickly grow much larger. […]

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    Butterfly whose larvae eat passion fruit leaves

    This beautiful orange and black butterfly looks sweet, but it lays hundreds of eggs on our passion fruit vine leaves.

    At first, the eggs are bright yellow, but after a time, they turn a browner shade before hatching.

    The tiny caterpillar babies favor these passion fruit vines leaves (maracuya) and will quickly grow much larger. We’re not sure if they eat anything else on the farm, and we haven’t seen a lot of these butterflies, but have discovered dozens of egg groupings.

    Our solution has been to just tear off the leaves when we find the eggs and then step on them, simply squishing them, or we toss the leaf into our tilapia fish pond.

    It may actually be best to leave some of them to eat your passionfruit vines. The passionfruit tends to produce more fruits when it’s stressed out, so having a small infestation may produce a more plentiful bounty and dutifully eliminating all of these caterpillars. Turn your enemy into a friend by hiring him!

    Passionfruit caterpillars Butterfly laying yellow eggs

    Josh, one of the owners of the butterfly garden in Montezuma, has identified this butterfly for us as a “Dione Juno” http://tolweb.org/Dione_juno/72863. He also alerted us that the following other species use the passion fruit as their “host plant”:

    Nymphalidae Agraulis vanillae
    Nymphalidae Dione glycera
    Nymphalidae Dione juno
    Nymphalidae Dione moneta
    Nymphalidae Dryas iulia
    Nymphalidae Eueides isabella
    Nymphalidae Heliconius besckei
    Nymphalidae Heliconius ethilla
    Nymphalidae Heliconius numata
    Nymphalidae Heliconius sara
    Nymphalidae Philaethria dido

    Video of Butterfly and Caterpillars

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    Goat Milk http://ranchodelicioso.com/goat-milk/ Mon, 08 Jul 2013 19:40:11 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=1129 Before I came to Rancho Delicioso, my boyfriend Roland and I had begun to experiment with making our own dairy products…yogurt, feta, and cream cheese.  While they were great tasting, without a cow or a goat, they were actually far more expensive than to just buy the item at the store.  But now I have […]

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    Mo Milkin

    Before I came to Rancho Delicioso, my boyfriend Roland and I had begun to experiment with making our own dairy products…yogurt, feta, and cream cheese.  While they were great tasting, without a cow or a goat, they were actually far more expensive than to just buy the item at the store.

     But now I have a goat!  Okay, the goat isn’t mine but Julio has taught me how to milk the goat, so every morning around 7am I take my bucket and get to milkin!  At first I couldn’t get through the entire milking as my hand would be screaming in pain, but I’ve gotten a lot better and now I’m working on perfecting the two-handed milking.

    We get about a quart of milk each day, so after 2-3 days it’s time to make some dairy products.  We first tackled yogurt making, which is actually quite simple, something Dannon and Yoplait hope you don’t discover.

    image

    #1 Heat the milk (goat, cow, nonfat, whole) up to 185 degrees

    #2 Let the milk cool to about 110-115 degrees.  You can submerge the pot of hot milk in an ice bath, or just let it sit, stirring it to help it cool.  It’s important that the yogurt cools properly before adding your culture as if it is too hot you will kill your culture and be left with a big pot of warm goats milk.  Cooling the Milk

    #3 Add the yogurt culture, which is just plain yogurt.  That’s the amazing thing about yogurt, as long as you save a little yogurt from your last batch you have all you need to start a new batch.  Although eventually, you may need to buy a fresh batch of yogurt from the store as over time the culture can weaken, but that only results in thinner yogurt so it isn’t the end of the world.  You add about 1/4 cup of yogurt for each quart of milk you are using.

    #5 Stir the yogurt into your warm milk mixing well.

    #6 Let sit at 100-115 degrees for 8-12 hours. The longer you let it sit the more tart the yogurt will become. There are many ways to maintain the proper temperature, we put it in the dehydrator at 110 degrees and forget about it, you can also wrap a heating pad around it, put it in a warmed oven with a pilot light on (if the oven has a light turn it on as it will help warm the oven just a bit), put it in a cooler filled with warm water.  Anything that keeps the temperature at roughly 100-115 will do, if the temp drops for a little while its not a big deal, but the cultures won’t be working, just be careful about letting the temp get too high which can kill the cultures.

    #7 After your desired tartness has been reached – you’ve got yogurt!  Pour off any whey (liquid portion) that has separated, take a big spoonful and enjoy.  It will thicken a bit as it cools in the fridge.

    image

    # 8 (Optional)  If you are like me and enjoy thick yogurt then line a colander with a clean (best to have not washed with fabric softener or dried with drier sheets as the taste will come through) dish cloth, butter muslin, or layered cheesecloth.  Pour your yogurt in and let additional whey drip out, which results in thicker creamier yogurt.  There is no set amount of time but I find that after 4 hours it reaches a good consistency, but it is up to your personal preference.  This step should be done in the fridge which slows down the cultures and stops your yogurt from getting tangier.  The whey that drains off is packed full of additional protein, calcium, vitamin B-2 and amino acids and can be used in soups, cooking pasta or rice or any other recipe that calls for a liquid, or if you have chickens they love it!

    There are lots of variations and different ways to make yogurt, this is just what I have found to work, Google homemade yogurt and you’ll find all sorts of different ideas.

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    Artificial Wasp Nest for Caterpillar Control http://ranchodelicioso.com/artificial-wasp-nest-caterpillar-control/ Sun, 02 Jun 2013 14:23:26 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=974 There are hundreds of species of wasps in the jungles of Costa Rica. Many or most are predators of other insects, and we’ve learned that they’re already being used in other parts of Costa Rica to control flies. A Plague of Caterpillars that Eat Spinach and Arugula We have several types of small caterpillars that […]

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    There are hundreds of species of wasps in the jungles of Costa Rica. Many or most are predators of other insects, and we’ve learned that they’re already being used in other parts of Costa Rica to control flies.

    A Plague of Caterpillars that Eat Spinach and Arugula

    Costa Rica caterpillar that loves to eat spinach and arugula We have several types of small caterpillars that bother our plants. One in particular is black with stripes, and comes by the hundreds, singling out our arugula (#1 favorite) and spinach (#2 choice). We don’t know what they’re called or even what type of moth or butterfly they turn into. But none of the organic sprays such as garlic and chili powder, seem to deter them. So far, all we’ve been able to do is try to squish them by hand once they get large enough to see them.

    So, what if we can encourage these wasps to live in greater numbers around here so they’ll help us out? Such an army of wasps could act as a constant deterrent towards all forms of caterpillar species coming to the farm, and perhaps keep the quantity of caterpillars that menace our farm down to smaller numbers. Or in a fantasy world, one could imagine a box that I could open, releasing hundreds of wasps, which would kill all the caterpillars on a particular plant, and then fly back into their box for later use. This instant “cause and effect” would be very satisfying, but is obviously not the way it would work. Instead, the wasps would need to be part of a continuous cycle of life, interacting both with the farm and the surrounding jungle. Their numbers would fluctuate with the amount of food they find and the natural seasons. If they killed all the caterpillars around, I’d expect that their numbers would drop, and more caterpillars would come, and then their population would swell once more. The hope is that we can find a balance, a way to encourage more of them to live near our plants. They would forage in the jungle when food is scarce on the farm, and when the caterpillar swarms come, they will target this more local food source.

    But first, can I find a wasp that targets the caterpillars eating our plants?

    Discovery of a Wasp that Kills Our Caterpillars

    Small Black Wasp Attacking Caterpillar If you live in Costa Rica and you have a house that’s open to the elements, you’ll probably discover that there are various types of wasps that collect mud to build small nests in your home. I had one type that was obsessed with building its nests on the backside of one particular hanging cast iron pan. Something about the shape was very attractive to these wasps.

    Recently, I found that there’s a type of wasp that favors the small round hole in electric outlets. You know, that third hole in grounded plugs. We always have a window open at our house for the cat to go in and out, and these wasps will fly in and stuff mud into the holes of our outlets.

    Upon closer inspection when I cleaned one of these out, I found that the wasp would place its egg inside, and then stuff it with food for its larva to eat when it hatches. What food? This wasp had stuffed 7-8 small caterpillars/worms into the hole! After leave a cache of nutrition inside for its baby, the wasp plugs the hole with mud, and flies off. I don’t yet know the complete lifecycle of this wasp, but I’m assuming the parent wasp never comes back and a few weeks or months later, a baby wasp that has changed from egg to larva to adult wasp, or perhaps a pupa, will emerge from behind the mud wall, to leave the hole and seek food, a mate, and continue the life-cycle of its species.

    So this got me thinking…

    A Lucky Day

    Immediately after writing the above, I went outside to check through the gardens, and found another infestation of caterpillars in a group of spinach plants in our mandala keyhole garden. This is a kind of caterpillar that favors spinach and arugula, and a plague of them decimated our arugula a few weeks back in the shade structure. We were nearly helpless to stop them. When they’re small, they are so well camoflauged in the plants that they’re nearly invisible. It’s only after they’ve eaten a large amount of our plants that they turn blacker and larger so we can see them and crush them by hand.

    So today I discovered a small black wasp buzzing around the spinach, and I filmed it with my I-phone camera. To my delight, it attacked a smaller green caterpillar hidden on the underside of the plants, and I was able to get this on film, which you can see below.

    The following video is embedded at 640px, but a much higher quality one at 1080×720 is available at youtube here: Wasp Attacking Caterpillar Video

    Wasp Attacking Caterpillar Video

    How can we get more of these wasps to live nearby and help us with routine cleaning up of smaller caterpillars from our plants?

    Artificial Wasp Nest Design

    Artificial Wasp Nest Design My design for the artificial wasp nest is hardly a work of architectural genius. It’s basically just a two-by-four with a bunch of holes drilled in it. in later versions, we plan to have a painting party with our volunteers and decorate them beautifully. Hopefully our garish and possibly psychedelic colors won’t turn off our waspy clients.

    We can take pieces of scrap wood, and drill holes that are perhaps one inch deep, with the same diameter as the prong hole of the electric outlets that these wasps seem to favor. We could put these around the farm and inside the shade structure to see if the wasps will start to use them, and hopefully each new wasp grub will mean a whole lot fewer caterpillars on our vegetables.

    So now we must put the idea into action and see if we can find the right type of material, hole size and depth, and position of these artificial nests, to see if the right type of wasps will start using them.

    Results

    Artificial Wasp Nest The design works! The first wasp houses we made filled up with mud wasp larvae very quickly, and still seem to be working almost a year later. We plan to put more of these around the farm and do some experiments about where to place them. We’ve been putting them covered areas, or under large tree branches, and that seems to be successful. A photo of the wasp house being used is on the right.

    You may notice that there are 2-3 sizes of holes and all of them are being used. I think it would have been beneficial to sand the hole edges a bit to try to remove the splinters. Some of these you can see have already been used and then vacated.

    NOTE: There’s another type of larger wasp that builds mud nests, usually placing them vertically as tubes on the side of your house or in my case, they loved hanging frying pans. Opening up these mud tubes revealed they were filled with spider! Not good! Each was larvae is killing spiders that may eat dozens of harmful insects on the farm. So, I recommend removing these types of mud wasps, but leave the little ones that place their larvae in mud-filled holes.

    Other Caterpillar Eaters

    Lacewings: The larvae of the lacewing insect loves to suck the life out of caterpillars. Read more about this bug so you can recognize their eggs and larvae to help them do their job in your plants. They love aphids too: Lacewing article

    Chickens? I wanted to mention that we carried eight chickens into the shade structure to let them loose on the caterpillars, hoping that their sharp eyes and beaks would decimate our wiggly green enemies. However, we were very disappointed to find that after a few trial pecks, our chickens ignored the caterpillars, even when we put them in a pile on the ground, hoping to train them to recognize them as a food source. The chickens seemed to favor, above all other things in the garden, the grass that was growing on the ground.

    Bats? Since we haven’t seen the butterflies that these caterpillars turn into, I’m guessing they may be a type of moth, which will only be flying around at night. So, if we encourage more bats to live on the farm, will they eat more of the moths that come at night to lay their eggs on our spinach? This seems like a great solution to me. They might eat the wasps too, except that the wasps would be asleep at night when the bats are active.

    Birds? Chickens don’t like these caterpillars, but perhaps some native birds will. Supposedly, one way to attract birds is to attract lots of butterflies. So, we will be planting types of flowers to attract them, such as Lantana and Alacran. I just hope those butterflies that are attracted aren’t the same ones whose caterpillar form eats our plants!?!

    Wasps that Kill Flies

    At Leaves and Lizards eco lodge in Arenal, they are able to buy, at their local cooperativa (agricultural products store) small packages with the eggs of wasp larvae. These are produced in Colombia for farmers like them who have pigs, chickens, etc. These wasp larvae hatch and will kill the grubs/larvae of flies/moscas that live in the poop of farm animals. The owners told me they think they reduce the number of flies buzzing around by 80-90%. We have tried to find these to buy them, and haven’t been able to locate them. We heard that the company who had them stopped importing them.

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    Natural Predators as Allies on the Farm http://ranchodelicioso.com/natural-predators-as-allies-on-the-farm/ Sun, 02 Jun 2013 13:47:36 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=963 Here I’m creating an ongoing article exploring the symbiotic relationship between our farm, and the natural creatures that live in the jungle around us. How can we help each other? What can we do to encourage the right type of critters to come to dine on the bugs and beasts that bother us? The following […]

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    assassin-bugs Here I’m creating an ongoing article exploring the symbiotic relationship between our farm, and the natural creatures that live in the jungle around us. How can we help each other? What can we do to encourage the right type of critters to come to dine on the bugs and beasts that bother us?

    The following are my notes and perhaps crazy ideas:

    Bats: Bats eat huge quantities of mosquitos and bugs. Plus their fertilizer is better than gold for a farm. So far, our only interaction with bats is the VAMPIRE BATS that have been terrorizing our goats. I’d love to make some bat houses… that’s a good project for some volunteers to work on.

    Wasps: There seems to be a type of wasp for everything. Ryan from the Mariposario told me that every type of caterpillar has a type of wasp that preys on it somehow. What can we do with wasps? More on wasps here: Using Wasps for Pest Control

    Small Birds: Small birds can move at lighting speed through the bushes, eating insects and caterpillars. Perhaps we should find out what types of birds eat caterpillars and build some houses that they’ll live in.

    Large Birds: Bird of prey, such as owls, hawks, and falcons, eat mice and rats and other unwanted vermin. They can also eat small chihuahaus and kittens if you’re not careful.

    Snakes: Snakes are not only incredibly cool but they are the best friend of farmers because they don’t trample plants and they don’t eat anything we grow. They do, however, eat rats and mice. They can also eat small iguanas before they get too big. And unlike cats, they never get fat and lazy or cause allergies. The only problem with them is that if they get TOO big they’ll start eating your chickens, and they are relentless and unbelievably strong when they want into a cage. They can break into a chicken coop that can keep out just about anything else.

    Assassin Bugs: The small red bugs shown in the photo above are very aggressive predators of just about any other type of insect. They look harmless enough, but they can snatch a wasp larger than themselves right out of the air. They can also deliver a painful bite to humans, as Yasmin once discovered. There are many of them here, and perhaps they’re already helping us every day, all the time by controlling bugs that would be eating our plants.

    Ladybugs: The most obvious one is ladybugs, which are used to control aphids in the U.S. and other parts of the world, but they don’t live here. I’ve seen very similar bugs around, more yellow/gold in color and without spots, so perhaps a ladybug cousin is around, but I’ve never heard of anyone selling them in quantity, and am not sure if they even eat aphids. Plus, I haven’t seen any aphids either so maybe they’re not even an issue here.

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    Rhinoceros Beetle Larvae http://ranchodelicioso.com/rhinoceros-beetle-larvae/ Sun, 02 Jun 2013 12:36:56 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=967 Friendly Transparent Underground Monsters We discovered these large, transparent grubs living in the earth near the roots of our bananas. They look thoroughly vile, and with their large sharp mandibles, they seem to be able to deliver a painful bite. They are about the length and thickness of a man’s thumb. No one knew what […]

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    rhinoceros beetle larva

    Friendly Transparent Underground Monsters

    We discovered these large, transparent grubs living in the earth near the roots of our bananas. They look thoroughly vile, and with their large sharp mandibles, they seem to be able to deliver a painful bite. They are about the length and thickness of a man’s thumb.

    No one knew what they were, but our workers were convinced that they were destroying our banana plant roots (although the plants seem healthy enough) and they said they were killing these pests.

    But were they really the enemies of our bananas? I took these photos and video to help identify what they were. A Google Image Search didn’t turn up anything useful. I tried searches such as “large transparent underground insects” but was only coming up with photos of cicadas and dragonflies with their transparent wings, plus the usual assortment of unrelated junk that Google Image Search delivers.

    transparent underground insect / grub Then I remembered that many years ago, my friend Michael, a conservationist who used to live in Montezuma, had told me about the huge transparent grubs we might find underground, which were larva of some type of beetle. Quickly I was able to discover that they were… rhinoceros beetle larvae, a.k.a. “escarabajo rinoceronte” in spanish.

    What do Rhinoceros Beetle Larvae Eat?

    I was unable to determine, searching on the internet, whether they were eating our banana roots or not. Various sources describe them as eating “rotting wood and roots”. I’ve learned that in the Costa Rica jungles, one must not judge a book by its cover, and that everything has its place here. I suspect that these beetles are actually helping us. Bananas trees grow in groups, with each large stalk giving a single bunch of bananas, then dying, leaving roots underground that have spread out to form new plants. Perhaps these larvae are eating those dead roots, helping to process this material into soil, and creating space underground so that more bananas can grow. That would make them friends to the jungle

    Rhinoceros Beetle Larvae Video

    Hercules Beetle at Anamaya

    This is what a hercules beetle larva grows into, although the larva in the photos I think grow into a smaller species than the one in the video. The hercules beetle is a type of rhinoceros beetle, which is a a type of scarab beetle also.

    Further Reading

    Hercules Beetles in Costa Rica – info on the rhinoceros/hercules beetles of Costa Rica
    Dynastes Hercules – Read about the Hercules beetle species
    Wikipedia Hercules Beetles

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    Frog Versus Cat http://ranchodelicioso.com/frog-versus-cat/ Tue, 28 May 2013 22:48:39 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=954 Every night now, these cute green tree frogs gather at the swimming pool and make an incredible amount of noise. We’ve had a lot of rain, and the salinity of the pool has dropped considerably. So much so that the frogs are now swimming around in it freely, laying their eggs, and we even see […]

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    Frog and Cat

    Every night now, these cute green tree frogs gather at the swimming pool and make an incredible amount of noise. We’ve had a lot of rain, and the salinity of the pool has dropped considerably. So much so that the frogs are now swimming around in it freely, laying their eggs, and we even see happy tadpoles! Who would have thought this is possible in a salt water swimming pool?

    The frogs normally come every year to visit ponds and swimming pools in the area. Most pools are chlorine and the frogs who lay their eggs in them will never be parents. I doubt salt water breeders have much luck either.

    We had no frogs last year, and I feel that’s because we’ve added so much LIFE to this place during the last year. Dozens of truckloads of cow and chicken manure, plus hundreds of varieties of seeds and trees are now growing on the 20 acres of Rancho Delicioso, and all this fecundity is being noticed by the wildlife here. That’s not necessarily a good thing for a farmer… we’ve had problems with iguanas, deer, coyotes, foxes, and now possibly a rat or something like it is taking bites out of certain plants. We’ve had invasions of caterpillars too, such as a monstrous horde that had a penchant for arugula, leaving us nothing but stalks.

    The jungle will try to reclaim this land, and organic or not, we have to prevent it. I don’t see it as a war against nature, but more it’s more that we must come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. We will allow a certain amount of colonization of medicinal herbs. Many weeds are nitrogen fixers that will help us repair the soil. Other deep-rooted ones will reach down into the earth and help to bring up minerals to the surface. Birds will eat bugs we don’t like, and bats eat mosquitos. Both will fertilize everything here.

    There’s a certain amount of temptation to take easy solutions such as using poison, but so far we’ve opted for the more clever methods, such as using planting biodiversity, or simply doing everything we can to coax our plants to simply outgrow their hungry enemies.

    We’re only a year and a half into this, and so far it’s working, outshining all our expectations.

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