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Beet Leaf Miners–The 2010 Insect Of The Year–”Hide n Seek”

Posted Nov 13 2010 9:21am
I usually regularly rotate vegetables from one area one year, to another area another year. This keeps insects and plant diseases from finding a continuous favorite plant to feed on. This year I grew a batch of beets in an Earth Box planter near an area where I have broken my rotation rule and grown Swiss Chard for a couple of years.  Beet leaf miners were my only insect problem.  You normally can’t see the larva. I split the leaf and coaxed them out.
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A small fly lays a batch of small white eggs. You can see them on the underside of the leaf. The tiny eggs hatch and the larva works its way in between the leaf. It mines the leaf as it grows. It separates the layers of the leaf, then it goes back into the soil to again start its life cycle. Beets and swiss chard can be attacked by several generations.  Wood ashes are recommended to add to the soil to make it inhospitable to the larva. I also tried diatomaceous earth. Row covers are also used to keep the fly from finding the newly planted beets. But I avoid row covers since I do not like how they look. Its like not wanting to wear a hat because it will mess up your hair.   But here is my aha moment and observation!
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This swiss chard is growing in my window box with nasturtiums and marigolds. They were never found by the beet leaf miner fly. I like to put the upright tropical looking swiss chard in with flowers.
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Here is another view of the self-sown marigolds and swiss chard.  I removed all the beets except 1 beet from the Earth Box planter. The one beet was not attacked. Maybe the insect needs several beets to find its target. So this brings me to what I got done this week in the garden: I dug up the raised bed that I used for beets and swiss chard and turned it into a flower bed. I had a bunch of Iris that needed separating and this is where they went. It should be pretty. So next year I will play “hide n hopefully not seek” with the 2010 insect of the year: Beet Leaf Miner
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