Friday, April 20, 2007

Animal drama in your own backyard

Ever watch those nature shows where the lion is eating the dead carcass of a wildebeast? Ever root for the leopard when she chases down the antelope on the dry plains of Africa? Well then you'd understand when I get excited about the struggle for life in my own garden world. Check it out this season- the predation of aphids by ferocious creatures.
In the spring, aphids come out of dormancy and seek the growing tips of new leaves and flower buds to suck out nutrients. They reproduce very quickly, are asexual, and can reproduce before reaching adulthood, where their plump globular bodies become sleek and they grow gossamer wings. They can decimate your garden with their voraciousness, so get out the bugspray.
That's what most folks do, is reach for the spray. But before you do, know that these tiny sucking creatures are the cows, the antelopes, and the rabbits of the insect world, and everybody else out there loves to eat them. Their predators are a group known as the beneficial insects- the ladybugs, lacewings, soldier beetles, syrphid flies, and parasitic wasps. These beneficials reproduce slowly and need a food source to be attracted to the plants, so if you kill everyone by spraying a pesticide, you give the aphids an unfair advantage, and create a lot of followup spraying time for yourself.
So next time you're out there in the garden and you see the tips of your roses covered in aphids, look a little closer for the predators, and let them do all the work!
Check out the Best Pest site I know- UC Extension IPM

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