I like to think I’m a good person. I try to be kind to children and small animals. And I kind of believe in karma.
It was therefore highly distressing when I saw bugs on one of my zucchini plants this morning. Lots of bugs. The bugs were gray and black and were actually kind of pretty (bugs don’t creep me out), but I suspected they weren’t a good sign. Sure enough, they are, appropriately named, squash bugs.
Apparently there is no viable organic option to getting rid of them other than picking them off and killing them by hand.
I discussed the problem with Michael. I really don’t like killing anything, even bugs. I’m the woman who carries out spiders by one leg and flings them out the back door without flinching.
Michael’s solution: put the bugs in a plastic container and carry them down the alley and let them go. (Don’t worry, no one else around here is crazy enough to try and garden in Texas.)
I liked his idea. Donning latex gloves, I carried my small, clear container to the garden. It was worse than I thought. The bugs were on both zucchini plants and on three acorn squash plants. Even worse, some of the leaves had squash bug eggs underneath.
Nature is cruel. I’m a part of nature. The bugs were killing my zucchini.
I started squashing them.
I did the best I could but there were a lot of bugs–and a LOT of eggs, which I tried to smush off the leaves as well. The eggs were strangely fascinating, bronze colored and uniformly laid.
It only took about five minutes after the carnage for the guilt to set in. I had just killed, with my latex covered hands, living things.
My only justification is knowing that last year all three of my zucchini plants died within two days. Their deaths were swift and their loss was strongly felt in my kitchen. And my stomach.
Call it revenge if you must.
I have a feeling I haven’t seen the last of the squash bugs. I know I didn’t kill them all or destroy all the eggs. And though I write about this in jest, I actually do feel guilty for killing the bugs. I realize if I resorted to chemicals to get rid of them it would be the same thing, but there is something not right about smashing a tiny creature between your fingers and killing it, even if it is for the greater good.
Michael just laughs at my guilt and tells me we wouldn’t have anything to eat if we let the pests take over.
Who knew gardening could cause such guilt and a moral dilemma, forcing me to choose between the things I planted and the insects who depend on them for life, and turning my fecund haven of nourishment into a killing field of unwanted pests?