“This is the weather that makes farmers happy,” The Granville Sentinel reported.
Corn and flax crops looked promising, but “vigilance and perseverance is to be the price of potatoes.”
That was because of the plague of the dreaded potato bug, a frequent topic of reporting in the June 14, 21, and 28 issues of the Sentinel.
“The potato bug is ravaging the fields up north to the Canada line including the wildest sections of Essex County.”
The “potato bug” most likely referred to the Colorado potato beetle, a 3/8-inch flying insect first observed in Colorado in 1859.
The insect attacked potato fields and gardens in swarms, destroying potato and other vegetable plants.
The Shushan correspondent paraphrased a Biblical Proverb to apply to the local infestation.
“Go to the potato bug thou sluggard and learn what constant labor will accomplish. It is only a matter of time, and any desired result will be brought about where such indefatigable labor is bestowed.”
The Putnam correspondent was optimistic. “The potatoes are pronounced freer from bugs than they were early in the season.”
Likewise, there were few bugs in Hampton. Elsewhere in Washington County, the struggle was greater.
“Our farmers are having considerable skirmishing with the potato bug, but have not yet crossed the Danube,” the West Hebron correspondent reported. “Annihilate a division and there will be another in its place before the news can reach headquarters.”
The Shushan correspondent warned against over confidence.
“When we look over the broad acres of potatoes in Washington County, we say, at first thought, impossible that bugs enough can be propagated to destroy them,” the correspondent wrote. “The, farmer, however, will find that he has many a hard battle to fight or the seemingly never tiring bug will beat him in the end.”
The agriculture muses inspired “Potato Bugs and Paris Green,” an editorial poem.
“How doth the sweet potato bug, unruffled and serene, smile as he nips the tender plant, and leaves the Paris green.”
Paris green was a highly-toxic emerald-green insecticide powder.
The Sentinel warned that gloves should be worn when spraying the powder.
“Paris green coming in contact with wounds or sores is apt to create a great deal of mischief.” The Rev. J. Phillips of Granville earned extra money selling a less caustic insecticide.
“Unlike Paris green, it is harmless to those who use it, but sure death to the bug. It can be had at a cost of 25 cents (the equivalent of $6.20 in 2020 dollars) per acre for quantity used.”
A Saratoga gardener discovered a natural remedy.
“A resident of Ballston says he keeps down the potato bugs in his garden with very little trouble by simply pasturing therein several active toads. He noticed that the bugs were disappearing, and upon investigation, saw a toad climb upon the vines haul down the bugs, flag an all.”
The outlook was still bleak at the end of the month.
“The dreaded potato bug is still the dread of the farmer, as their gnawing propensities seem not to abide in the least,” the Shushan correspondent reported. “They appear determined to ‘hold the fort’ with the farmers by storm and siege seemed to be determined to prove victorious. As in all battles, time will tell.”
Photo of Colorado potato beetle courtesy Scott Bauer, USDA.