Saturday, June 30, 2012

Turning over an old leaf (and more bugs)

Something I have noticed more and more is that the older leaves on my hop plants are becoming discoloured and even brown. There is a definite gradation from top to bottom, which is why I think it is associated with age. It is most notable on the Willamette:

but can also be seen on the Goldings:

and the Northern Brewer:

Currently I am happy to attribute this to general aging and being constantly exposed to the Texas sun. It is particularly noteworthy that the Willamette is sending out secondary shoots in the same region as the damaged leaves, which are a healthy green colour. This is the main reason I don't think it is a nutrition problem. The same is most likely true for an infection of any kind. The shoots are possibly also a natural reaction to the loss of these old leaves. All of the plants are doing really well so I'm not worrying about it.

On a completely different, more bug related note, I found this guy on our tomato plant not too far away from my hops:

I was told initially that this is a tomato hornworm. I've left my thumb in the picture to give you some idea of scale, not a small critter. Further reading seems to indicate that mine is in fact a tobacco hornworm rather than a tomato one. As you can see by this picture they look very much the same:

The most obvious difference is that the tobacco variety has stripes on its side whereas this one has V shapes. Also, the "horn" at the back (looks more like a tail to me) is black on the tomato version and red on the tobacco. If you look very closely on my picture you can see the red tail disappearing behind a leaf. The moths they turn into are even more alike. Here is the tobacco one:

And the tomato version:

Glad I don't have to tell these two apart. I haven't seen any indication that the larva has moved from the tomato plant and onto the hops. Somehow I think it will be a lot easier to spot on the hops than the tomato plant and so will quickly be dealt with.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cone today, beer tomorrow

I might be getting ahead of myself a little but I found these on the top of the Willamette:

Obviously this is my first year of growing hops, but these look a lot like hop cones to me. They're not big enough or plentiful enough to make a dent on a batch of beer yet but then it's only June of their first year in the ground. High hopes for the future. The Willamette is now well above the railings of the balcony:

One thing this means is that the part of the plant about the level of the balcony will be getting light all day long. It remains to be seen if this is a good or bad thing with the Texas sun. Also, I've had to consider what to do about further growth. I'm thinking what would be really nice is to have a hop canopy for the balcony. Would give us a bit of shade as well as a little more privacy from the neighbours you can see opposite.

In the middle of the balcony I've used a bamboo pole that we had elsewhere in the garden in the hopes that something would grow up it but that never happened. Think it was something we found lying around after Ike came through Houston. All being well and the Willamette will be making its way along rather than up.

The other two have also been doing really well. The Northern Brewer is nearly at the level of the balcony too:

Not only is it about to the clear the balcony but one of the secondary shoots it produced when I decapitated it earlier has now started winding its way up the tomato cage:

It may not be as tall as the Willamette but with two actively climbing shoots there may be just as much yield. I live in hope.

The Goldings are also starting to look like they might be making some effort. The main shoot has now grown enough to need some twine to grow further:

Not only that but I've just found the first evidence of secondary shoots:

I'm still hopeful that I will get at least some cones from all three but it's still early days for these last two.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Nightcrawler II. This time it's personal.

After reporting previously about finding a mysterious bug on my hops after dark I have come to the conclusion that it is really not welcome. I posted this picture on the pest ID thread on the Home Brew Talk forum (a very good place to go if you're having similar problems):

Along with this picture of the damage I think it's causing:

I was rewarded with and identification as a June bug (thanks Phatspade). This was confirmed by further research. I also got the impression that the best way of distinguishing between this and a Japanese beetle is that the segment immediately behind the head is brown on a June bug and green on a Japanese beetle: 

Not to be confused with a Green June bug which is all green:

What all of this means is that I will be eliminating them with extreme prejudice whenever I find them. Seems that they are more than capable of decimating hops. Their larvae are also pests. Apparently they feed on the root systems of grass and can destroy lawns. I think this is true of all three of these beetles.

Another pest I've found recently, that made the mistake of taking a stroll around the tomato cages, is this guy:

Further research leads me to think that this is some form of Hop Merchant. Although the caterpillars are not identical by any means they are both certainly brightly coloured and quite hairy. Finding eggs on the underside of my leaves previously, which were arranged exactly as they are described here, as well as rolled up leaves with small caterpillars inside leads me to believe that this is what they are or something very similar. Here's an example of a leaf that had a caterpillar living rent free:

I haven't noticed a lot of damage from them but certainly don't want to be encouraging them.

On a completely different bug note, I saw this brightly coloured fly and was lucky enough to get this pic of it (you might need to view it in larger form):

The colour doesn't come out as well as it does in real life (probably a combination of my camera and skill with it). While doing research on the June bug, I just happened to stumble upon a page that seems to ID this bug as a long-legged fly. According to this article these are beneficial insects as they eat others, rather than my hops. Probably here as a consequence of all the other bugs that seem to like it in my garden. Hope to see more of them.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Mystery of the Leaf Thief

Anybody who has cast even a sideways glance at hop plants will know that leaves from the main stalk come in pairs. This means that it is very obvious when some are missing. Imagine my surprise then when I looked up the other day and saw this:

There is also one missing from further up above the level of the deck (yes it has gotten that far up). Here is a close up of where it looks like it has been pulled out of the stalk:

As you can see it had just rained. Can't imagine it rained so hard that leaves were ripped out. It does rain like it means it here in Houston though. I found a leaf on the ground being consumed busily by woodlice and snails:

Maybe this one was just one too many to carry away for whomever or whatever fancied them. Another, slightly more prosaic, answer that was suggested by my other half is that one of our cats had been left out on the balcony and had jumped/clambered down taking several leaves with him. He has a history of jumping from the balcony if he isn't let in quickly enough for his liking. I have to say I still prefer the idea of some urban wildlife Raffles character snatching them in the night. Just hope they got all they came for.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Found this bug clinging to the Northern Brewer the other night, apparently with its mouth parts. Glad it didn't try to bite me:

Here's its underbelly in glorious detail:

Not sure if it was eating the hops or just about lay some eggs. Not welcome either way. Just hope it isn't something that would eat hop pests.