J. was in Houston and didn't get home until late, so I had to be a man and deal with the bugs myself. I knew I would lose sleep if I let them stay there until the morning.
I waited for a break in the rain and then I went out to the garden with a plastic shopping bag. The ones on the soybeans were fairly easy. I held the bag open underneath the leaf they were huddled upon and shook the plant until most of them fell into the bag. I saw a few fall to the ground and scurry away. "I'll be back," I said.
The tomato colony was trickier. The fruit they were congregating on is nestled in the branches of the plant so that I couldn't get the bag under it easily. By the time I got the bag situated, a lot of the bugs had left the green tomato and hidden under leaves. And these ones were holding on more tightly than the ones on the soybeans; they didn't fall when I shook the plant.
So I swallowed hard, took a breath, and started slowly picking the bugs off the plant with my fingers. After the first one I touched didn't fly into my face and start burrowing into my eyes, or jump on my arm and dig a hole and lay eggs, or even bite me, I became braver. They're not real fast, these bugs, so I was able to grab most of them and fling them into my plastic bag.
Then what? I didn't have a plan. When we've removed caterpillars from the bean plants or snails from the climbing spinach, we've just tossed them over to the other side of the yard, which is a chaotic, mostly feral garden of assorted perennial flowers and vines and ground cover plants, a cactus, and a few tropical tree-like plants that J. planted, which we haven't given a whole lot of attention after J. cleared the dead brush in March. A sidewalk up the middle of the front yard separates the two sides, and I'm sure eventually the snails and caterpillars can make their way back to the vegetables, but I guess we hope they'll find something over there to munch on, and, if they come back, at least the sidewalk will slow them down. But I wanted to get these black bugs farther away.
Eventually I set them free around the side of the house, almost at the back, in the grove of bamboo that shades my bedroom windows. I don't know if they'll find anything to eat back here. I also don't know that they won't easily make their way back to the garden. If they do, I'll have to take them on a longer trip next time.
The first season I spent in Utah, two years ago, I lived in an old RV that was parked on my friend's yard (when I moved there, she was just my boss and landlord, not a friend yet) under a stand of blue spruce trees. It was a little idyll, a perfect home for a long summer. The only problem was that all the ducts and storage spaces under and through this RV were the winter home of a city of field mice.
When I moved in, we cleaned the RV thoroughly which scared away most of them, but I moved there in March, and it was still very cold until almost June, so they weren't ready to give up their nice warm digs. They kept coming back. Every night I put out a live trap, and every morning there would be two or three mice in it. I carted them on my bike to a field about a mile away and set them free.
This went on until the weather was hot enough that they didn't want to be inside anymore. (I didn't blame them -- neither did I.) I wondered as I relocated mice every morning whether it was the same few mice coming back every day because they enjoyed their morning bike ride.
Anyway, this morning I went back out with my plastic bag and removed another dozen or so bugs from each location. I don't know if these were the ones that hid from me yesterday, or if they're the ones I moved and they found their way back.