Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beneficials Wage War on Aphid Army


After losing nearly our entire squash crop to a blanket of squash bugs in the summer of 2011, we here at the Public Health Garden always keep an eye out for "bad bugs" and work to manage their populations quickly and carefully by hand.

We've learned that the sooner you see these little buggers, which at this time of year in our garden are mainly aphids, the better chance you have at keeping them under control. We've also learned that we have quite a few allies in the war against aphids.

One is our dear friend Jon Traunfeld, State Master Gardener Coordinator, Director of the Home and Garden Information Center and Extension Specialist. When we sent him some photos of our aphids, he shared his expert advice on how to cope with the infestation and put up this informational blog post.  

Another ally in the management of aphids are the beneficial beetles commonly known as Ladybugs (Coccinellidae). The Grow It Eat It blog recently posted a few interesting factoids regarding the Lady Bird Beetle, one of our most beneficial insects. During their larvae stage they are very focused on gobbling up aphids! See one in action in the photo above.

So how do you get beneficial insects in your garden? For starters, if you have aphids, they will come! According to Traunfeld (and our own observations at the garden) the ladybugs will find their own way:

"Several species of lady bird beetles are native to MD. There is no need to buy them; they will come find your aphids. Plus, purchased beetles often disperse from your garden instead of making it their new home. Adults and larvae eat aphids but adults also feed on nectar and pollen so plant a bed of some of these beautiful flowering plants to attract and conserve the lady bird beetles in your area: mountain mint, anise hyssop, thyme, oregano, basil, dill, yarrow, aster, marigold, zinnia, alyssum, phlox, bee balm, milkweeds, borage, salvias."

Read the full post here. And come on down during volunteer hours, every Thursday from 4:00-6:00pm to witness this exciting battle of the bugs!

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