Friday, April 19, 2013

My Goodness, My Aphids!

Yard update! People not interested in yardthings beware!

The plants are doing well for the most part, meaning that my black thumb has not had its effect so far. The daisies are either dying or going through a bad patch but I don't mind so much since I just picked them up at Home Depot for $3.99 and called it a day. The nursery had been out of the desert-adapted ones that I wanted and I placed these in their spot as a filler.

The surprising joy-of-my-heart is the Hearts and Flowers, which is spreading spreading spreading and I love it. And then there is the Cleveland Sage. 

The sage is doing pretty well with some stalks shooting up and sprouting lovely purple flowers. Unfortunately new growth attracts little critters known as aphids.

Aphids are tiny little mindless bugs a little smaller than a sesame seed. They attach themselves to plants and leech out the good stuff, then secrete a honeydew substance that is like crack cocaine to ants. So the ants “herd” them, protect them and sometimes move them around. That…really creeped me out when I first read about it. Sure enough, whenever I go looking for aphids, if I see ants on a stalk, I’ll know that aphids are nearby.


I’ve tried some things to get rid of the aphids naturally. I boiled up lemon and garlic, let the solution sit overnight and then sprayed the plants. (The house reeked for a week.) I tried to manually pluck them off and smear their tiny remains around the base of the plant to send a "Ye Be Warned!" message to others. I tried sprinkling garlic powder directly on the plants and placing raw green onions at the base of the plants. Since the aphids still mocked me with their presence, I called in the big guns in the form of these lethal killers:


That’s right. Ladybugs. Or as they are called officially, Ladybird Beetles.

Turns out the aphids are like crack cocaine to ladybugs. And turns out there is a thriving black market of ladybugs out there (and by that I mean I bought them legally online from gardener.com). (This is only AFTER Michael and I went to look for them at Home Depot ON OUR DATE NIGHT, so much do these aphids bother me! Michael totally didn’t believe me that a place would sell ladybugs, and even though Home Depot didn’t carry them at the moment, I felt vindicated that they at least knew what I was talking about and claimed that they did sometimes sell them. Maybe ladybugs aren’t in season?) (More parentheses.)

Date night:

Ever wanted to know what 1,500 ladybugs encased in a mesh bag looks like?


BAM.

I followed my research instructions and put the bugs immediately into the fridge to put them into hibernation mode. The next day I watered down the plants (to make it inviting) and waited til dusk (to encourage them to stay in my lush, non-glaring environment) and loosed the hounds, so to speak. When I first took the bag of bugs out I was all, “Aw, cute. But they all look dead?” And then they started to move. Good Lord, they started to move. And then it was tough to keep my cognitive dissonance. “Cute…ladybugs…good luck… OMG THOUSANDS OF TINY BEETLE LEGS POKING THROUGH THE MESH.”

Gave me the willies.

“Michael, you want to see 1,500 ladybugs?”
“You need to get that thing away from me.”

Apparently I’m not the only one.

So I dumped a handful on each plant that has aphids. I physically placed several ladybugs on infested stalks and watched as they bugs gingerly crawled over the aphids in exploration. “WHAT GOOD ARE YOU, LADYBUG? YOUR FOOD SOURCE IS RIGHT THERE!”

I tried my best to seal up the mesh bag and place them back in the box and back in the fridge so I could release more today. I was not overly optimistic. But what did I see when I went outside this morning? At the top of each stalk where the aphids like to be was a bright, shiny ladybug. And that stalk where the ladybug had apparently ignored the aphids? Completely clear of all things buggy.

Ladybugs, my heroes! They aren't all gone yet, but it's already a lot better!

And speaking of bugging, listen to this. Last night while I was all nestled in on the couch, Michael went to the kitchen and opened the door of the fridge.

“JULIEJULIEJULIE LADYBUGS EVERYWHERE…THEY’RE EVERYWHERE.”

My heart jumped into my throat. Oh God, they’re going to be in all the food, how will we capture them all? They’ll fly into the house! They’ll establish a colony in the air vents! I made it halfway through the house at a sprint until Michael started laughing. He was just messing with me.

And now I plan my revenge. And I have 1,000 shiny red accomplices at my disposal. 

1 comment:

  1. Julie-Are the bugs still in the refrig? I get thee idea that Michael doesn't like bugs! I don!t like them either. Your new yard looks good. I love hearing about June.

    Grandma Helen

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