Sunday, May 9, 2010

Attack of the Ladybugs!

My last post was about aphids. I tried soapy water, and it seemed to mitigate them, but it also turned the leaves of my plants brown. Next plan up my sleeve: LADYBUGS!!!

I bought these ladybugs at the Armstrong Gardening Center in Carlsbad, CA. $8.99 for 1500 ladybugs! I walked around the entire store looking for them, only to find that they were placed in containers in the soda fridge! They come in this little pint-carton. If you weren't paying attention, you'd think this was ice cream, and you'd be in for a nice surprise! :)

The ladybugs are stored temporarily in the fridge because it slows down their movements, and I'm guessing makes them expend less energy, and hence won't die as quickly. When I got them home, I put them in my fridge as well, since it's recommended not to release them until early evening so they won't fly away immediately. Here the are in my fridge:

Once the sun went down, I went outside to release them. Here is my homemade video capturing all the fun!!

The next morning (yesterday) I went to check on them, and they were everywhere!! On the fence, on my plants, on the patio, in my shoes... overall a good thing since most of them were still there, but there was a bit of a "ladybug orgy" going on. Here's some "ladybug porn" for you sick-o's out there :P! (Sorry about the poor quality of the video)...

Hope they actually laid some eggs in my garden! A few more pictures.

Today, most of them seem to have flown off to other places. Guess that means I don't have that many bugs in my garden. I still see a few lingering around my pots and vegetables. I don't know if I would do this again unless I had a huge aphid infestation. But the nine bucks I spent was certainly worth a try, and was overall a fun experience.

Next: praying mantis egg sacks!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Eww! Gross!! Aphids in the Rookie Garden!

Plant them and they will come. Typically, I am hoping that "they" are the fruits, vegetables, and flowers that sprout from my garden that I so adore. But today, "they" are the bugs in my garden that are eating all my plants, and frankly just give me the willies!

I've been noticing that my tomatoes and bell pepper plants in my side yard have been exhibiting signs of damage. The tomato leaves are getting spotted, and there seems to be something eating up my bell pepper plants. Well, yesterday, a closer look revealed, YIKES! APHIDS and other strange tiny bugs!! I found these suckers on my tomato leaves:

Any ideas about what the heck this is:

On top of that, I've noticed these little blue bugs on my mint plant... in clusters.

In examining them closer, I realize that they're not little blue bugs, but dark green YIKES! APHIDS!!!

How many do you see? I counted 6 above, and 7 below...

Ugh... I'm getting goosebumps just looking at these pictures and thinking about them. I'm also getting itchy all over... they're so disgusting.

So I went online to see what I could do to control these things without pesticides I found this great article from the Golden Harvest Organics website:

Ants "farm" aphids often keeping them in their nest during winter, then bringing them out in spring and placing them on the host plant. The ants eat the honeydew the aphids produce and move them from plant to plant spreading any diseases that are present. The honeydew favors formation of a black fungus known as "sooty mold." Control of the ants may often solve the aphid problem. Aphids abound in warm moist environments and will attack almost anything, favoring succulent new growth.

Predators: Green lacewings, ladybugs and their respective larvae have a voracious appetite for aphids. Larvae from the syrphid fly also consume aphids. Hover flies and praying mantis feed on aphids.

Repellent plants: Anise, chives, coriander (cilantro), garlic, onions, petunias and radish. Nasturtiums act as a trap crop. Aphids definitely prefer yellow flowers.

  • Squashing a few aphids around the infested plants releases a chemical signal that makes the other aphids drop from the plants and leave.
  • To foil aphids: flatten a square of aluminum foil around the base of plants to bounce light on the undersides of leaves. This also helps the plants in giving them more light.
  • Try a barrier of powdered charcoal, calcium dust or bonemeal to keep them away from your plants.
  • Stinging Nettle Spray: Aphids & Thrips - Cover 1 quart nettles with water, cover and ferment for 3 weeks. Mix 1 part nettle tea with 7 parts water. Spray.
  • Spread out a barrier of tansy around the base of the plant to stop those ants.
  • Use a spray made from a tea of tomato or potato leaves and water.
  • Chop 12 or so tomato leaves and 1 chopped onion in 1/2 cup of of 70% isopropyl alcohol for a few minutes. Apply the mixture directly on aphids with a cue tip or paintbrush.
  • A forceful spray of water is often enough to knock the aphids off the plant and may discourage the ants, well sometimes.
  • Put a bright yellow plastic pan in a strategic spot in the garden. Fill it a third of the way full with water. Aphids are drawn to the yellow color, land on the water, sink and drown.
  • A soap spray can be used to strip them of their protective wax coating, dehydrating them. Mix 1 tablespoon of Castile soap to 1 gallon of water, spray.
  • Garlic oil spray can kill aphids and other soft bodied pests.
  • A dusting of diatomaceous earth is lethal to aphids. Wear a mask when using DE.
  • Teas made from elderberry or rhubarb leaves can act as a deterrent. Oxalic acid is the compound present in these plants that makes a spray effective. It is poisonous.
  • Place banana peels at the base of infested plant. The peels give them a shot of potassium too!
  • Also See: Treatments: Horseradish, elderberry and yarrow tea.
  • For wooly aphids on apple trees: grow the trailing type nasturtiums training them to wrap up and around the tree trunk to ward off these pests. Very attractive too! Note: nasturtiums will specifically attract the black aphid while repelling others.
Yesterday, I tried the soapy water and it seemed to help. I saw the aphids falling to the ground. I think I'll also try the banana peels and the yellow pan. I've always thought ladybugs are cool... maybe I'll get some of those...

Interesting about the ants farming aphids. I've noticed ants in my flowerbed, and I imagine they have something to do with this!!

I'll keep you all posted on how the Battle of the Aphids at Rookie Garden comes along...