It's black blister beetle season again. When I watered last Friday, I saw 2, then I noticed a couple more this morning. So, I went back inside for my trusty peanut butter jar filled with soapy water and started looking seriously.
Wow. The potatoes are just covered. Using a conservative estimate, I picked off around 50 this morning and saw at least a dozen more that escaped my predatory grasp by dropping to the ground and scurrying into the mulch. (For insects who theoretically don't get eaten much because of their "blister" potential, they sure do have good predator-escape instincts. I have to assume that they taste better to some sort of animal than would otherwise be suspected.)
I blogged about the blister beetles last summer, so I won't repeat that information again today, but suffice it to say that I find them much more interesting now than I did before I learned a little about their biology! In rereading what I wrote last summer, I noticed that I was still quite squeamish about handpicking them without gloves. Well, I can't promise that everyone will be this way, but I've found that I don't have any problem with "blisters" at all, whether I wear gloves or not. In fact, I now prefer gloveless picking because I can feel whether I have them in my fingers so much better. I just keep in mind that I don't want to squash them, so I handle them very gently, and I seem to do fine.
I did find at least one predator chowing down on the blister beetles - a wheel bug female who looked very well fed indeed.
Another interesting note: while I was searching high and low in the potatoes for skulking beetles, I noticed droppings that I recognized as being from a horn worm. It took me 10 minutes of looking, but I finally saw the thing - about 4" long and fat as could be, about 2" from where I'd been looking the longest and hardest. Camoflage is a wonderful thing. (No, I didn't remove him. He was about ready to pupate, there was only one of him...and I love sphinx moths!)