Monday, November 17, 2008

Adios Agaves: Mezcal worm takedown

I know we've got lots and lots of agaves, many of them are large, and most of them are the babies of this big mama you see above. It was taller than us... and the centerpiece of our wild backyard.

I was looking forward to the flowering that happens at the end of the agave's life cycle, and thinking that this one was probably ready to do that. It sprouts a huge, towering asparagus shaft with a good-sized shrubbery on the top and sprouting out the sides. (See the example pics below)

The 2 plants had been leaning to the side, then the leaves got soft at the base and could be pulled off easily. The rest was like a horror movie in the daylight. BUGS!!! The core of each plant was crawling with hundreds of huge cockroaches. These were the big ones, the Texas cockroach (actually it's more of a Florida cockroach, but it's not good for their tourism to claim them, so Texas is happy to do it*... but they probably have more of them). They say they are up to 2 inches long, but I swear, most of these were 3 inches and dark brown. Some were more like an inch and red. They were scurrying and looking for a new home fast. Other than a few odd spiders, the rest of the horror were the hundreds and hundreds of the worms - the ones that end up in the Mezcal (tequila is NOT supposed to have a worm in it). The weevils were there too, I just didn't know what I was seeing at the time amidst all the other bugginess. Click here to see closeups of an agave snout weevil and its red-faced white grub. click to enlargeIn addition, there were the many flies that were attracted to the sweet, sticky rotten agave heart (which I would describe as smelling like rotting pineapple). We had to tear off each leaf, carry it to the compost or stuff in a sack, then the large heart of the plant had to be sawed into pieces (still filled with living bugs) and wrangled into a lawn sack. It was not only an ugly death, but I really feel the loss, especially of the big mama. I miss the view. I know that other things will grow there, but I hope that we never have to go through that with another agave (and I hate to say it, but another big guy in the yard looks like it's leaning).

The only green way to deal with this problem (and we are not going to put down chemicals) is to hope that resistant plants emerge. If they bloom, they are considered resistant.

More agave weevil and worm links and postings:

HGTV Agave Meltdown

Evil Weevils: Agaves under attack in Austin

*Texas tourism: Plano Cockroach Hall of Fame


Ptelea said...

Very sorry for your loss. Right now I can't bring myself to look at the bug links!! But my curiosity will get the better of me at some point. I have faith that something good will grow in its place.

Blueberry said...

It really does feel like a loss. It was like losing a tree.