Aphids and beetles and flies, oh my!

The Derwood Demo Garden is not only a garden, but also a zoo! Or at least an insect zoo (though there are a few chipmunks and rabbits running around, unfortunately). Every week we discover some new critters, which are photographed by our esteemed co-leader, Darlene Nicholson. This week we found a whole little ecosystem on the cardoon plants.

First photo (by me) – the cardoons are forming buds already, but unfortunately they have attracted a multitude of aphids, along with the ants that feed on the aphids’ honeydew secretions.

When this occurs, we have a few simple solutions: a soap-and-water spray that will take care of some of the aphids, a good blast of water to wash them away, and/or letting nature take its course in the form of lady beetles and other predators. One of which we spotted on another cardoon plant:

by Darlene Nicholson

This is the larva of a syrphid fly, which eats aphids and other soft-bodied insects. The adults resemble bees, and are valuable pollinators in the garden. You can attract them by planting a wide range of flowering plants, especially those with multiple tiny flowers (this includes many herbs).

The cardoons were also hosting the larvae of tortoise beetles:

by Darlene Nicholson

which do feed on leaves but cause only minor damage. The larvae have the interesting habit of holding a shield of their own excrement, which they raise overhead when threatened, perhaps for a disguise or to make themselves less appetizing. Here’s an adult tortoise beetle:

by Darlene Nicholson

It’s a very weird-looking but also strangely attractive creature.

We’re just seeing the first Colorado potato beetle larvae on the potatoes, but for the last few weeks we’ve also seen some flea beetle damage (not sufficient to harm growth). Interestingly, the flea beetles seem to have a distinct preference for the leaves of the Austrian Crescent potatoes. Comparison:

Yukon Gold

Austrian Crescent

And on the subject of non-insect beneficial creatures in the garden, here’s a toad that we disturbed while picking lettuce:

Always good to see toads in the garden!

One Comment on “Aphids and beetles and flies, oh my!

  1. Great photos. Those frass-packers are pretty cool. It's amazing what you can observe when you slow down and look sclosely at the natural world.


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