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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What is this turning all my asparagus into skeletons and has anyone gotten rid of them?
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Okay, web research has informed me that these are asparagus beetle larvae. Gee, of course! Asparagus beetles. I didn't know they existed, they haven't shown up in the last few years, but has anyone effectively gotten rid of them without using something nasty? They are devastating my asparagus in a hurry!
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Hmm, I'm not sure. That site says to cut the shoots below the surface, but our shoots aren't even up yet, it's the foliage they're desolating. Maybe we could cut off the foliage and hope they regrow from root, they sell asparagus that way, don't they? I wonder if we'd still get any shoots this year.
 

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There are 2 kinds of asparagus beetles. This is the one hardest on the asparagus. (It's been awhile since I grew asparagus, I remember black with red spots.) Before they lay eggs, you can find them on the plant and can plop them off by putting a container filled with soapy water under them and scaring them, and they will drop straight down. Check again for beetles a bit after the caterpillars so you catch the overwintering ones, too. I've also heard of running your chickens under the asparagus once you let it grow into "ferns". I'll try that once I settle down long enough! I've never tried cutting down the stalks, and I doubt it would kill it but I hesitate. Hmmmmm........

I used to squash these eggs off, then squash the tiny worms you will see soon and next year pick off the beetles and don't harvest the spears for a year. And get chickens!

The second beetle you might see, red with black spots, will lay eggs in the berries, so it's not a trouble to the plant.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I've had these asparagus now for 3 or 4 years, and only last year did they produce a few little non-fern shoots. They haven't yet put anything up this year other than the "ferns". So far I haven't seen any beetles, just the little slug like guys, I don't even see very many, but they're killing entire plants! I do have chickens, but will they eat the slugs? The asparagus is also very close to my broccoli and since the asparagus is in the back against the house, I won't be able to put the chicken tractor on it without including the broccoli, which I've heard they tear up. :)

Is it weird that I have only seen slugs, and that my asparagus has only put up ferns?
 

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What do you mean by only putting up ferns? That's all it ever does, in a way. The shoots, that you are used to eating, normally grow up to be big tall ferns. I harvest mine for a few weeks and then stop and let the rest grow up into ferns to feed the plant. So it's the first growth in Spring that is eaten. If you harvest ALL of the "shoots" then the plants will get weaker. If all of the new growth is small, so it doesn't look like edible asparagus, then your plants are not established yet and you shouldn't harvest anything yet. because they are not strong enough. A good rule of thumb is that when most sprouts are pencil-sized or smaller, you need to let them grow. I'm guessing that despite their age your plants need compost, water, and weeding, and no harvesting for a couple of years so that they can be more vigorous.

I've had my ups and downs with the asparagus beetles and now I just try to make my plants as healthy as possible instead of fighting the insects. Healthier plants are less attractive to insects and they recover more easily from the damage too. Things like using wood ash to make the soil less acid can help asparagus. I feel for you. Those little larvae can be really hard on the plants, there are so many that they leave even big plants leafless.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hmm yeah they are all really thin and I think there is only one per plant. I'm not sure what is wrong, though.
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The bed has had compost turned into it twice in the last few years, there are no weeds, and I would think they get enough water. Everything else in that bed grows fine... I wonder if it's growing near something that it doesn't like.. it is only growing all that close to kale, though. Had tomatoes in that bed near to them a few years ago.
 

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Sounds like the asparagus needs more time to establish itself, and these critters aren't helping! Seriously, put on some gloves and start squashing. I am assuming you didn't plant 50 feet, though. It seems like wasted effort, but you can really make a difference even if you don't get them all. I've seen some wasps munching on some of the caterpillars. That is somewhat random, but when it does happen, it's sweet! (Wasps are attracted to gardens for nectar from small-flowered plants, especially carrot-family relatives.) The adult asparagus beetles are super easy to knock off into a container, so keep at it.

Unless, of course you have that 50-foot row. I think I'd give up at that point and buy some asparagus!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The larvae were in such clusters that I just clipped off the bits of ferns they were on and toss them to the chickens. Still haven't seen any beetles, I've looked really hard, but there must be some, because there are eggs. I'm going to try to wipe those off a little later. I wonder why it is taking so long for the asparagus to establish? I must be doing something wrong.
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Maybe they are not getting enough sun? They are on the West side of the house, but they are against it and under the eves. The eves aren't that big, though, and I wouldn't think it cuts down on the sun too much. I only have a 10 - 12 foot row, so it's not too hard to check them all.
 
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