Thursday, May 19, 2016

Aphid Armageddon

We have aphids.


This is a tragedy and a travesty and an emergency of epic proportions!

Which, again, might seem a little over the top but the thing is I’ve pretty obsessed with my garden.  I spend hours out there with the dogs every day in the spring and summer, fussing over the plants, weeding, mulching, composting, and satisfying my inner need to nurture. In winter months, when gardening is on hiatus, that need manifests itself in insane hours perusing Petfinder and sending Opie emails about getting more dogs.

If we didn’t have the garden, there’s a pretty good chance we would end up about 1 dog away from a really frightening episode of animal hoarders.

I have long suspected that this, more than anything, is the reason Opie got me a green house.

But I digress…

I was talking about aphids.

I discovered them the other day when I went out to the garden and realized that the lilies (which I have planted all around the vegetable garden as companion plants to draw bees and butterflies) were looking a little brown and saggy--unusual for spring. I took a closer look and saw this:

And then I took a closer look and saw this:

 And then, driven by some sick sense of horrid fascination, I got even closer and saw this:

Disgusting, right? I’m not too proud to say I jumped back and shrieked like the aphids were going to fling themselves off the lilies and attach themselves to my helpless body, sucking the lifeblood from me like evil insect vampires.

At this point, Sassy and Bubba came running over to see what all the ruckus was about and, of course, to add to the ruckus by jumping and barking at the top of their ridiculous lungs.  I suggested that they could be more useful if they would grub down and EAT the aphids but they were completely uncooperative.

Seriously, these dogs are so selfish.

In any case, I’m sure there are a ton of different things I could spray to get rid of aphids but I’m kind of a tree-hugging hippie so I immediately began researching the best NATURAL way to get rid of aphids.

A surprising number of sources assured me that all I really needed to do was spray the infected plants with a good burst of water.  The aphids would be knocked senseless, flung from the plants in an epic flood, and peace would be restored.

So I tried that...but the aphids were relatively unimpressed. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw them laughing and splashing in the spray like it was a day at the beach.


And then I read about ladybugs.  I mean, I already KNEW about ladybugs—they’re little, they’re cute, they’re good luck—and I knew they were good for the garden but I didn’t realize that, to aphids, they are like some horror movie killing machines. A developing ladybug larvae can eat something like 400 aphids and an adult ladybug can eat 5000 aphids in its lifetime.

Doesn't look at all like a horror movie monster, does it?

 “Etymological warfare!" I shouted to the dogs.  "That's what this situation calls for!"

The dogs were, of course, very confused by this pronouncement...possibly because I had said etymological instead of entomological. And they just couldn't see how studying words was going to affect the aphids' enjoyment of the lilies.

"Bugs!" I clarified. "We need bugs to fight bugs!"

It is interesting to note that all the guides I found said that the best way to draw ladybugs to the yard is to provide them a food source (the disgusting aphids) and plenty of pollen producing plants.

Which, based on the infestation level, means that we should have literal clouds of ladybugs hovering around the lilies like one of the plagues of Egypt.

But we don’t.  I mean, we have a few, maybe 10 or 15, but nowhere near enough to get the aphids under control.

"You know, that field by the park always has a lot of ladybugs in it," I told Opie later that night.

"Are you telling me you want to STEAL ladybugs from the park?" He countered.

"I really consider it relocating more than stealing," I assured him. "Besides, we pay taxes and that's a community park so they're community ladybugs. I'm a part of this community so essentially those are MY ladybugs too."

Believe it or not, he was unswayed by this argument.

"I guess you just don't care if the lilies DIE," I said. "And don't think they'll stop there! They're going to trash our tomatoes! Pulverize our peppers! Brutalize our beans!  It’ll be Armageddon!"

Opie's ability to stay calm in the face of drama is one of the cornerstones of our relationship.

"You know you can order them online, right!" he asked. "I just texted my friend Tom and he got a bunch from some place called High Sierra Ladybugs."

Which is way less exciting than a covert ladybug relocation mission. So, the long and the short of it is, 500 ladybugs are being delivered to the house this week and I am already dreaming of a horrible aphid massacre…and if you think releasing 500 ladybugs is going to occur in this house without drama, then you don't know me at all.

Stay tuned.

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