Friday, 13 December 2013

Ants, aphids and a rescue act by ladybugs

Growing a garden without any pests will be like a dream, a dream in which everything is picture perfect. But, it is never so for the gardeners, and pests in different form and size will always be there creating multiple problems for plants and their growers. Probably the most feared and common among the pests are aphids, dreaded by gardeners all over the world. And they are not alone in the act, as the partner of crime ants are always with them to help out in troubling the plants. 
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Winged black aphids on basil
Just like mealybugs, they are extremely dependent on ants. Ants acts as a carrier of aphids and help to spread the infection from one plant to another. In return, they feed on the honeydew secreted by the pests. 

While the fairly simple relationship between ants and aphids are beneficial for both of them, it is extremely adverse for the plants. Once this pest invade a plant and adequate preventive measures are not taken, then that can be the end of the plant and its neighbors. They multiply rapidly and in no time the nearby plants will be swarmed by these tiny terrors. Aphids feed on the sap, thereby draining the energy of the plant to cause wilting, yellowing, stunted growth and in some cases even death.

Aphids are also the main culprits in transmitting viruses from plant to plant. This type of spreading viral diseases is even more serious, and it is kind of impossible to regrow the plant or reuse the soil after it is affected. Our chilies and yard long beans were affected in this fashion and till this date we have tried numerous chilly and beans varieties (as both are quintessential in Indian cuisine) without any luck. The seeds germinates, attains the true leaf stage, and then refuse to grow (stunted growth), and in no time aphids will color the plants to black :(
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Ladybug on okra plant in the garden
Aphid control by ladybugs:
I have mentioned it so many times in this blog. The whole credit of controlling the aphid population in our garden goes to our favorite guest - ladybugs. After most of our efforts (like spraying water and adding neem oil) to keep these pests bit dust, we were almost wishing ladybugs to soon visit the affected plants. We don't think that bugs are yet available in India for sale as biological pesticides (please correct me if I am wrong in this). So it was a very pleasant surprise that one day we found out a small yellow and black bug on our okra plant. Soon more came and to our delight, they started to eat up the aphid colonies. 

But here one point should be noted. Aphids multiply very rapidly and favorable climatic conditions and the presence of ants add a boost to this. In this scenario, the number of ladybugs is very crucial as more the merrier. One or two won't be enough to keep a large population of pests in control. 

Also at that time we were using yellow sticky paper to prevent the white flies. Ladybugs were also attracted by the yellow color and  caught by the sticky paper. We lost a few bugs due to this.

If your garden also has aphid problem, pray to ladybugs for a visit and rescue act. They will do the job nicely, but meanwhile don't forget to properly sterilize the soil again if re-using. Try some tricks (baking soda, corn meal, cucumber slices, salt) to keep away the ants. Also keep faith in the handy organic neem oil spray with ginger, garlic and chilies.

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