Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Return of The Bees, Aphids and Ladybugs

Now the weather is consistently warmer during the day, we have lots of really good stuff going on in our Backyard Paradise. 

Salmon Porterweed
The salmon/coral, porterweed finally bloomed after a torrential rainfall. 
I discovered online, that this color variety is Stachytarpheta mutabilis; a native of South America. The native blue/purple porterweed is called Stachytarpheta jamaicensis. We have both varieties in our yard. The mutabilis variety can get up to 8 feet high. Porterweeds attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. In addition to being very attractive, porterweed is drought tolerant, and blooms all year. It doesn't seem to like cool weather below 50 degrees F and just retires from blooming until it warms up.
While I was composting,  I heard an warning buzz close to my head. There, busily investigating the hibiscus, was a gigantic bumble bee. I am so glad to welcome back the big bees  along with the honey bees, wild halictid bee, which are bright, neon-green, and mason bees. The proliferate sightings of bees and butterflies is testimony that not using pesticides works. As I have a wooded lot, sooner or later I will also see the black carpenter bees, with whom the bumble bees have an ongoing turf war. On many occasions I have seen a bumble bee chase off a carpenter bee, and the carpenter bee will hide in the porterweed. The bumble bee will "patrol" the edges of the porterweed until the black carpenter makes a break for it, and then the bumble bee leaps into action and tries to chase her off again. I say "her" because according to the information found the link below, the black faced carpenter bee is the female, looking for food and a nesting site.
Ladybug going to Work
Note Coral Colored Abdomen
The warmer days have encouraged aphid activity into my garden, and onto my mammoth jalapeno and mini sweet peppers. Nasturtiums are reported to repel aphids - see my previous blog "Cup of Nas'tea' Anyone?" To protect my little ecosystem, I am always looking for ways of making, non-toxic, "bug-off" water-based solutions. So, I came up with the following; a big handful of Nasturtium leaves and flowers, a 1/4 cup white vinegar and an empty quart container. I boiled the Nasturtium plant material in tap water, and, with lid tightly on, allowed it to cool completely. Then I added this "soup" to a empty jug with the white vinegar and filled it up with tap water. For 3 days I dabbed this solution on the underside of the pepper leaves and sloshed it over the flower buds. I did see a significant reduction but I don't know if it would have eradicated them. But I can tell you this, over the 3 days I sloshed this mixture around on the plants, they "greened" up and grew maybe 3 inches apiece. That's significant growth. On the fourth day we came back from the beach to find that nature has stepped in. The ladybugs and their larva had discovered my horde of aphids...yummy! 
Folks, I am reading a great book at the moment: "The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control "- Barbara W. Ellis and Deborah L. Martin. According to the authors' the black ladybug/bird, with coral head and abdomen - as shown in pictures - is a mealybug destroyer. I don't have mealybugs (yet), maybe they were just having lunch on the aphids on their way to a dinner date with mealybugs.
Lizard Defending Territory
While I was taking the ladybug close ups a lizard decided to engage in a territorial, stare down contest with me, complete with bobbing head (him, not me). You can see how close he/she was to me, a mere 2 feet away: very unusual behavior. 

Do you have an experience to share regarding a stand-off with a normally shy critter?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I'm determined to keep the chemicals out of my garden. I'll be trying some nas'tea this weekend on the peppers!


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