The pretty pest eating your garden right now

Now that the strangest summer in living memory has ended, many new gardeners are still enjoying the food produced by their COVID victory gardens. The summer pests faced by all gardeners are also enjoying the bounty. One, the cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae), is fluttering about in many a garden on these foggy or sunny early-fall days. Non-gardeners often find them charming, but if you are growing food crops, you will want to learn a bit about this butterfly in order to save some of the crops you are harvesting now as well as the ones you plant for fall and winter.

Very few butterflies damage plants we eat, but the larvae of this one will chow down heartily on all crops in the cabbage family. That includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards and kale (known as “cole crops”), as well as turnips and radishes — all crops that Bay Area gardeners can plant in the late summer, and, in some locations, into fall. The caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies, known as cabbage worms, will devour the leaves of these plants. While they will feed on plants of any age, young plants are particularly endangered, since one caterpillar can devour an entire seedling in just a couple of days.

During World War II, victory gardens in England suffered so much from this pest that people called them “Hitler’s allies.” Gardeners who know what these caterpillars do to crops are often irate to the point of wanting to chase and kill butterflies. However, besides not being good for your blood pressure, that is not the best control method. To reduce damage, we need to learn a little about this pest.

As a butterfly, it has a four-part life cycle. The adult flutterers mate, then the female, (identifiable by the two black dots on her forewings) lays pale yellow eggs on the undersides of the leaves of preferred crops. (The eggs look like tiny rockets ready for launch.) In five to seven days, these hatch into tiny velvety jade green, very hungry caterpillars. After they have eaten for a couple of weeks, when they are an inch long or a bit longer, they form a chrysalis (a cocoon), often on the same plants they have been eating. This can last from about 10 days to the entire winter season before new adult butterflies fly forth.

This little green caterpillar is the larva of pieris rapae.

The most susceptible stage of this pest is the egg. If you have only a few plants to protect, your best bet is to examine leaf undersides every few days and brush off the tiny eggs. While you’re examining the plants, if you encounter any caterpillars, remove them, too. Also, while you’re at it, brush off any other tiny eggs you find on the leaves, as they will mostly hatch into something that is up to no good, and crush or wash off any aphid infestations. If you have too many plants for frequent examination, inspect a few of them for a while to monitor them, and

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Miss Manners: Eating at friend’s house is distressing

I couldn’t think of any way out of a recent invitation, so I accepted and had a meal with her. Inevitably, I got sick. What would have been the polite way to avoid eating at her house? She rarely goes to restaurants, and especially not now.

Etiquette exists to avoid confessions like, “I value our friendship, but your food makes me throw up.”

This should be relatively simple: You express disappointment that you are — for no specified reason — unavailable; your buddy accepts this answer gracefully.

Miss Manners realizes that, in reality, your other friends are urging you to be honest, while your would-be host will not stop asking what you will be doing at that time. When everyone sees staying the course as a virtue, without regard to oncoming traffic, collisions are unavoidable.

You have two good options: Get used to hearing yourself say how sorry you are that you cannot attend — or find something among the food provided that you can eat.

Dear Miss Manners: When and how is it polite to tell a casual contact that there is a glaring typo on their business card, website or other promotional materials?

Here are just a few examples I have seen: “Family RESOURSE Center” on a business card from a mass-networking event; “We Provide EXPEREINCED help” on a proudly displayed banner in a temp placement office; “Estimated Texas Population in 2040 — 50 BILLION” on a PowerPoint presentation.

I figure people might want to know so they can correct it, but I don’t want to sound pushy or arrogant. Also, some of these are people who might hire me, so there’s the added question of, “Will this be a positive indicator of how conscientious I am, or a negative indicator of how nitpicking I am?”

Most people will assume the latter — or worse. They may tack on “rude” (when they remember it is impolite to correct another person in such situations) and “superior.” (The latter will not be about your spelling — which is superior — but rather an invented crime to hide their own embarrassment.)

Miss Manners says this to convince you that, in most cases, you will simply have to look the other way (or “weigh” or “whey”). The exception is if you can find a non-insulting way to offer your services as an editor — and to have that offer willingly accepted. “Oh, I just looked up some of those figures in my own presentation. Do you want me to look over yours?”

The misspellings can then be fixed as part of the larger task. This will demonstrate not only that you know how to spell, but also that you are adept at saving a potential boss from her own mistakes without embarrassing her.

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Melbourne mum left fighting for life after catching flesh eating bug

A green-thumbed nurse and Melbourne mother of two was left fighting for her life when she caught a flesh-eating bug while doing the gardening. Now, after a life-changing battle, she has fought her way back to the garden.

Jodie Wylie, 50, suffered a migraine and found a large bruise on her right thigh after tending to her plants. Like anyone would, she initially dismissed it.

But the mum was soon rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed with Necrotising Fasciitis, a severe infection which saw bacteria release toxins into her blood. The flesh-eating bug affects the tissue beneath the skin and surrounding muscles.

In an effort to save Jodie’s life, surgeons were forced to remove a large part of the skin, muscle and tissue on her right thigh and hip before carrying out 13 more surgeries to scrape away the disease.

Jodie Wylie, 50, almost lost her life in the freak diagnosis. Source: Caters

“I felt like my head was going to explode and I’d gone to bed exhausted and I wasn’t responding to medication,” Ms Wylie, who works as an intensive care nurse, said.

“My throat was sore and I was vomiting. I thought it was just a bad migraine …I can only go by what my friend and sister told me because I don’t remember much.

She remembers going to hospital and wondering what she had suddenly become afflicted by.

“They called a doctor and he thought it was a virus and a migraine. My gut was telling me it was more severe than a migraine because I’d never felt like that before but I prolonged going to hospital until it was almost too late,” she said.

“I had a bruise on my leg which was so painful and mottled and dark. I couldn’t even walk into the hospital, I had to use a wheelchair.

“I had a feeling it was Necrotising Fasciitis and I told my sister I thought I was going to die.”

Freak diagnosis puts her in same ICU that she worked in

When Ms Wylie’s blood pressure dropped and her heart rate soared, she was rushed into surgery where medics cut open her leg and diagnosed her with the disease.

She spent the next two weeks on the same intensive care unit she worked on, as she’d also been diagnosed with septicaemia.

Ms Wylie ives with daughters, Charlotte, 10, and Madeleine, 8, in Melbourne and the family were told to prepare for the worst.

“My throat was swollen to the same size as my head. It was touch and go,” she recalled.

The mum caught a flesh-eating bug after doing the gardening, where she suspects she caught it. Source: Caters

Jodie had hyperbaric oxygen therapy where she underwent 100 per cent oxygen in a pressurised environment to help kill the bacteria and spent a further two months recovering in hospital.

She has now lost a lot of skin and muscle in her leg but is able to walk. She says

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