Saturday, 17 June 2017

A Plague of Strawberry Seed Beetles

Sometimes things do not go according to plan.

Rotten Strawberries

My strawberry plants have been looking extremely healthy with masses of young strawberries on them. Last year we had problems with them all rotting, but I weeded them out and tended to them over the winter. However, an old farmer had said that my rows were way too wide.

A few days ago I began to notice that my strawberries had something very wrong with them. Even the hard green fruits were developing brown marks on them and many were rotting way before they were anywhere near ripe.
I searched and searched the internet for the cause, but all that I could come up with was leather rot, and this only featured on American websites. It didn't completely match what I was seeing either. However, it certainly seemed to be fungal in nature, whatever it was, so I decided there could be no harm thinning the rows to let more air between the plants.
I drove the rotavator straight through the middle of the rows, up and down, picking off any damaged plants and brown fruits. I enlisted the help of Sue and the dogs, as this was quite a big job. It was quite depressing too, for most of the fruit needed taking off the plants.

All I can hope is that the plants can grow new fruits which will thrive better with increased air circulation.
If not, I may have to move the strawberry patch which would be very demoralising. I have put a lot of work into creating it and have had very, very little reward by way of strawberries. I thought they would be coming out of our ears!

A Plague of Beetles
On a separate matter, we have been absolutely inundated with ground beetles for the past couple of weeks. They are literally everywhere, even in the house. Last night Sue left a jug of water in the front room and there were 15 beetles swimming around in the morning!
As far as I was aware, ground beetles are good. They eat slug eggs among other things.

HOWEVER, curious as to whether this plague of beetles was peculiar to our farm, I went searching on the internet. First step was to identify them, which was fairly straight forward as they have clearly orange legs. So I typed into an image search orange-legged ground beetle and up came a matching picture - the strawberry seed beetle.

And here the two parts of this story come together.
It didn't take long for my search to hit on pictures of damaged strawberries with the damage exactly matching what is happening to our strawberries.

Further research reveals that this species is widespread throughout much of the world. It is in the adult stage that it is a pest of unripe seeds, anything from strawberries to grains and sugar beet. It is also an important insect for controlling other unwanted bugs, though this is of little use when it has caused so much damage itself.

For the moment the beetles seem to have largely left the strawberry bed and headed en masse into the house! Every evening they literally emerge from the woodwork and I am catching 20 to 30 before I go to bed.
It looks like, with luck, we will manage to salvage some sort of strawberry crop but I am a little concerned about future years. My best hope is that this has been a bumper year for Harpalus rufipes and that in future a more healthy balance will be restored.

For the moment I'm afraid the strawberry seed beetle will receive no mercy.

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