Friday, May 21, 2010

It's a bug eat bug world


Our little East Oakland garden has aphids. Lots and lots of aphids. The plum trees are being particularly hard-hit. The young leaves look really tortured.

I was struck by a particularly crazy idea, and harvested some rose leaves from my West Oakland garden, and pinned them on to various leaves in the corner of the garden with the worst aphid infestation.

The leaves were the home of lady beetle pupae. If all goes well, these will transform into the familiar ladybug. (The larval stage, which is the real aphid predator, is even more freaky-looking. They're like tiny alligators, or horny toads.) The ladybugs may feast on aphids, and establish themselves in my garden.

I know that you can buy ladybugs by the hundreds, but that somehow doesn't suit my temperament. It seems wrong (to my mind) to import bugs from who-knows-where to fight a local garden pest. There are so many stories about an animal being introduced to an ecosystem, and becoming a rampant pest instead of serving the purpose that Man had in mind. The mongoose in Hawaii is a good example. The rabbits in Australia. The eucalyptus in California. Kudzu in the American South.

I may be driving some ladybugs a few miles, from one end of Oakland to the other, but that's as far as I'll go. And for all I know, these are the invasive Asian lady beetles that have become a nuisance. If I've spread those across Oakland, I'm going straight to Hell, where I'll hang out with the other hypocrites.

There's lots to say about ladybugs (or ladybirds, or lady beetles), but I'm zonked out from seasonal allergies, and am feeling too indolent to write a treatise on them.

If you are interested in what's called Citizen Science, you should check out the Lost Ladybug Project. Using photos taken by interested Americans, it tracks the population changes of ladybugs in the United States.


thundercat175 said...

What a creative idea to try and solve a problem both naturally and locally without just throwing money at it. Let us know how it works out. Goodluck!

momverf said...

I don't know how you feel about organic insecticides, but my mom uses this soap in her herb garden...It is approved for organic use and really takes care of the aphids.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

I keep reading that garden pests will eventually attract beneficial insects. It sure worked that way in my West Oakland garden. Right now, I'm waiting to see what happens.

I'm disinclined to apply insecticides, because I worry about their effects on the bees and butterflies.

Anonymous said...

Keep on keeping on Lisa and Robb. I am learning plenty from you and you both are terribly creative.

camissonia said...

I must confess I'm one of those that buys the ladybugs by the carton every spring. They've done well by me so far by never failing to devour every little sap sucker in sight. For me it was a choice between organic pesticides or the ladies...and I chose the ladies. However, I concede to your point that this particular bio control is imported and may have unknown adverse effects on our native ladybugs. The answer is never easy, is it?

Marie said...

Nice post :)

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Camissonia -- I'm (of course) not telling anyone how to run their gardens.

My personal discomfort with mail-order ladybugs comes from the fact that there has been such a radical shift in the population distributions of ladybugs in the United States. I'm uncomfortable adding to this disruption of nature.

But, that's just me.

Christine said...

There's so many factors involved in pest management. Aphids typically are attracted to the weakest link in the garden, which around here usually means roses & other exotics that prefer different climates. Planting natives helps deter them, but I've also had luck just sitting back and watching the insect theater of local ladybugs finding their way to the aphids and leaving their larvae to do clean up. I've never had luck with the exotic store-bought ones. Sometimes a little damage is tolerable or made better by a shot with the garden hose.


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