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Saturday, May 6, 2017

May Garden Updates

Schinus molle blossom Inspected By Ant

May Garden Updates

It's kind of hard to find things to write up in separate posts when most of the things in the garden are tracked by separate pages.  Pages are for perennials.  I guess we'll stick with insects and annuals for the postings.

That is quite alright.  I really enjoy getting photos of insects in the yarden as the seasons change.  I had no idea how many varieties of insects are in the home yarden until I started taking photos and trying to figure out if we have friends or foe.

Organic Control Milestone
Ramshorn willow with aphids

I hesitate to write this up.  As soon as I smugly post how great my organic non-pesticide garden is going I'm sure to be hit with a plague.  However, it was quite interesting to monitor some activity with bated breath... on the brink of using pesticide only to have a garden predator completely decimate the foe.  We have friends.

As the story goes, we have this adorable little ramshorn willow.  Little willow is coming along great this year.  April 30 comes and the top leaves are smothered in dark colored aphids.  I was not happy.  It was distressing.  I waited...  we had all these syrphid fly adults buzzing around everywhere.

Syrphid fly adult on fig leaf
The syrphid fly adults are quite cute.  They can fly like a helecopter - any direction and even maintain a hovering stationary position.  Syrphid flies are also called hoverfly or flowerfly.  The adults pollinate and look for the best places to lay eggs.  This is a good thing.  This is why we waited and did not spray plants.

As an aside, the best first defense is having healthy plants.  This is done by ensuring they are well watered, and receive all the proper nutrients to develop healthy roots, strong branches and delicious fruits or vegetables.

Anyway.  We waited.  The hover flies were all over the place at the end of April.  I haven't seen them all that much since then.

We have seen several different assassin bugs.  Assassin bugs are awesome.  I believe we have two
Zelus Renardii adult assassin bug
different types we caught with the camera in the yarden.  We have seen them in different stages of development.

We have had the adult and nymph versions of the Zelus renardii assassin bug (Leafhopper assasin bug).  These guys like aphids.  They can eat quite a bit and are pretty opportunistic.

Zelus Renardii nymph
We found a nymph version flailing around an aphid while trying to dodge the camera.

As the abdomen testifies, they are doing pretty well in the food deparment.  No shortages here.

Becoming accustomed to where these guys decide to play house, we started checking daily to see how the prey and predator are doing.

This morning, aphids and assassin were gone.  All that was left was this
Syrphid fly larvae
one syrphid fly larvae.  I did not see even one aphid on the plant this morning.  There was quite a population just yesterday evening.

Conclusion...  I really like the syrphid flies.  Hands down the absolute best natural aphid assassin.  The other great benefit of the syrphid fly larvae is that ants don't seem to care if it is around their aphid farms or not.  I've seen a couple of posts covering this, but no explanation why this happens.

Lacewing larvae or 'aphid lion'

Other Assassins

In April, we get a lot of the green lacewings flying around.  Then they lay the eggs on these long threads to prevent the eggs from getting eaten.

The eggs hatch and out come the 'aphid lions'.  Lacewing larvae and ladybug larvae look similar in shape, number of legs and the pincers on the heads.  The big difference is the coloring.  Ladybug larvae tend to be colors of browns, reds and blacks.  Lacewings tend to be beige and green.  Some lacewings even attach fuzzy things to their bodies including dead aphid skins, but ants deter them from intruding on their aphid farms anyway.

We believe we have a different type of assassin bug.  It looks much like the Zelus renardii but the
Assassin bug nymph
coloring was off.  I'm not sure if it was going to molt to the next instar or if it is really a different assassin bug.

We have another larger assassin nymph that housed itself up in the attar of roses plant.

I see it just sitting there, with the long forelegs folded up mantis style just waiting for a flying insect to show up.

The assassins tend to hunker down and try to find hiding places when the camera comes out.

Assassin bug nymph
Daily monitoring will continue.  We have seeded the planters with white and red clover seeds for a living mulch/nitrogen fixer.  Hopefully this will attract more pollinating adult predator insects.

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