I don’t spend a lot of time wondering what the average entomologist is thinking from one minute to the next, and I doubt if entomologists spend much time wondering about my thoughts.
But recently I did see something in a New Hampshire newspaper that got me to thinking. Only an entomologist could somehow find a link between cold winter mornings and fresh, tasty, sun-ripened summer tomatoes. I suppose I could make the same link if I was willing to spend the time thinking about it, but I just don’t have the time.
To be honest, I have no idea how many entomologists we have working among us in Maine and New Hampshire at this time in our development or how many entomologists we really need, for that matter.
But this article I read the other day said that some of our region’s entomologists are concerned that the above-average temperatures we experienced earlier this winter could lead to an upsurge in the dreaded tomato bug. Even the recent spate of bone-chilling temperatures may not be enough to protect this summer’s tomato crop from these little buggers. We’re told they can eat your average tomato plant right down to the ground and then move on to the next plant for more.
These are the kinds of things that entomologists think about at work at the department’s laboratory in Augusta and New Hampshire’s lab in Concord. I’m sure glad someone is thinking about protecting next summer’s tomato crop because I’m quite fond of tomatoes. I just don’t give the subject much thought, to tell you the truth, at this time of year.
Not only are future BLTs and spaghetti dinners at risk because of mild early winter weather, but tomato bugs have been known to wolf down eggplants, pepper plants and potato plants as well, which means that our fine Italian restaurants could have menu problems next summer. The consequences could be staggering.
This article said it’s best to have cold temperatures followed by a January thaw so these bugs in their larval stage will start to stir and think that spring has sprung. Then the little buggers need to be hit with a real bitter knock-out deep freeze to kill as many of the little critters off as possible. I know it sounds rough, but it’s the protection of our tomatoes we’re talking about here.
Before I learned all this I was selfishly thinking only of myself and the money I was saving this winter on heating oil. Now I realize that the homegrown tomatoes that are so much a part of our summer experience could be eaten out of existence by critters that our mild weather is coddling.
So, as it turns bitter cold outside and you turn up your thermostat, pile more quilts on the bed and throw a few more logs in the woodstove to try and stay warm, start thinking like and entomologist.
Remember that the bitter cold is bad for larval insects and what’s bad for larval insects is good for future fresh tomatoes.
John McDonald writes books about Maine, and his latest is “Moose Memoirs and Lobster Tales.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 899-1868.