It's lonely at the top

Beans are sociable things. It probably comes from all that nestling together in the pod when they’re first born. I guess if the formative moments of your life are spent check by jowl with your siblings then it’s no surprise that you grow up prefering to hang out in the company of your peers.

So spare a thought for the poor darlings currently dangling off my tattered-looking borlotti beans. I raised them in the greenhouse and then planted out the beans a little bit early, and they spent a few weeks looking a bit sorry for themselves. But they recovered and slowly climbed their way up their poles.

But life is clearly hard for beans, at least on my allotment. Many of the leaves bear the tell-tale slime trails and jagged edges of slug attacks, and they don’t look as bushy as they should. That may be unfair on my beans, as this is the first time I’ve grown borlotti, but they don’t seem quite as healthy-looking as they did in my head when I ordered the seeds.

Aesthetics aside though, the most telling sign that the beans aren’t happy is the depressing lack of flowers, let alone pods like the one above. My seven plants have barely mustered the same number of pods between them, with not that many more flowers to report. That doesn’t feel like a great return.

Slugs apart, I may have found another possible cause of this scarcity.

I haven't the faintest idea what this is

While poking around the plants looking for beans I came across this little bug and about five of his mates. They were just sitting there nonchalantly, not doing anything offensive but certainly looking suspicious. It was a bit like coming round the corner and seeing a bunch of teenagers clutching spray cans next to a still-wet graffito. I didn’t actually see them doing anything wrong, but they look bloody shifty, don’t you think?

Now, being a bleeding heart liberal organic gardening type I didn’t feel I could administer summary justice with the ball of my thumb without having any concrete evidence. And short of checking their teeth for flecks of borlotti bean I couldn’t see anything conclusive.

So I felt obliged to leave them be, unharmed. A bit like the grizzled cop who knows a judge would have him for dinner if he actually arrested those pesky kids, I felt I should wait until they did something wrong before squishing them. After all, they might be good bugs simply protecting my beans from evil blackfly.

So my internet search to identify these mysterious bugs continues. All suggestions gratefully welcome. And then judgement day shall come. Will it be a quick and painless squishing or will I be laying out the welcome mat and telling them to bring their friends to the party?

On the ipod while practising a pincer motion with thumb and forefinger: The Clash / Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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