(Mis)Adventures in Gardening - Bronze Orange Bugs

When I bought my first home, I had no real understanding of ‘garden’ as a verb. For a long time the garden managed without me, and an Orange tree in particular flourished.

My orange tree produced big, tasty crops, and I turned into a veritable Martha Stewart. Freshly squeezed juice and sticky orange upside down cakes were the order of the day. So good were these oranges that I even busted my mother, who lives nearby, filling up a shopping bag with fruit stolen from my tree.

Then one day, no fruit. No flowers. The tree was looking kind of sad and had lost some leaves. Due to my habitual neglect, I have no idea how long it was in this state for. I went over to give it a piece of my mind.

And came face to face with a Bronze Orange Bug.

Bronze-orange-bugAt first I thought there may be two different bugs on it, as some were bright orange with a black spot on them, and the others were a very creepy, prehistoric looking black with hard looking shells.
Some Googling explained that the orange ones were younger versions of the black but that’s not their most distinctive quality. Disturb them and they will turn around, take aim and squirt a foul smelling, eye-searing liquid at you!

These things were covering my tree, and apparently hostile. I eyed them from the verandah, imagining them swarming over me if I tried to disturb them, coordinating to squirt weird bug chemicals into my eyes.

I headed into Flower Power for some advice. Apparently these bugs suck the tree’s sap, causing new growth and flowers to wither and die. No flowers, no fruit. If you don’t want to spray them, some people vacuum them off the tree into a disposable vacuum bag. I pictured my bagless, pristine Dyson full of creepy bugs and decided I was happy to spray in this particular scenario.

Whithered-leaf-damaged-by-bronze-orange-bugThe best way to deal with them is to use their filthy, sap sucking habit against them with a systemic insecticide. It’s a bug poison that gets into the plants sap, so that it’s ingested by the bugs as they feed, and there is no need to worry about it washing off when it rains.

I got my sunnies on to protect my eyes, and attacked with the spray bottle. I’m not sure how much of the famous squirting actually happened, because they started to fly off the tree into my face, and I ran across the yard squealing like a school girl. My husband was trying to bat them away and keep spraying, but these things were angry! Like armoured cockroaches, they took to the air, swarming around the tree until they spotted a new target – the cat. He was watching interestedly from the grass a few metres away, but when they headed for him he did what cats do and chased them.

Foreseeing an emergency trip to the vet in which I had to explain that a poison addled, enraged bug had sprayed him in the eyes, I ran into the line of fire, snatching him up and legging it into the safety of the house. We spent the afternoon peering out the glass door to the verandah, mistrustful of the calm that had settled over the backyard.

The next day dawned on a much reduced bug population on the tree. Regular spraying is required though so it’s set to be an ongoing battle, but I’m determined to win!