One morning while wandering around the garden I noticed that one of the eggplant bushes was heavily covered in aphids, lots and lots, all over the leaves, and even inside the flowers.
A few years ago I would have done one or all of the following:
- tried to hose them off,
- used a gloved hand to wipe and squish them,
- sprayed the plant with pyrethrum.
These days, I have a much better understanding of the natural cycles between the insects that live in my now organic garden, and I knew what to search for next.
Sure enough, with a bit more looking around I found that the cavalry had indeed already arrived.
An adult ladybird beetle was sitting on a leaf, no doubt enjoying the snacks.
What I was really hoping for took a bit more searching, luckily the golden eggs really do stand out on a green leaf.
This little cluster are ladybirds waiting to hatch (remember gardeners, this is Ohhh not Ewww!). I tied a ribbon on this leaf so I could find it again – and sure enough later in the week the little black larvae had appeared. Ladybirds and aphids can usually be found together (not always when it is really cold) as the adults will come to feed on the aphids, and leave their eggs where there is a food source.
For the first few days after hatching the little creatures stay close to the egg casings, then as they get bigger they spread out right across the plant, feasting on aphids as they go!
Within two weeks, the aphid problem was pretty much gone – there were still a few around, but their numbers were definitely knocked back and they were not much chance of weakening my healthy plant.
Now, if you haven’t seen what ladybirds look like when they are at the instar stage – you’re about to get a surprise! Unlike us mammals, these guys start life looking a bit scary (like a crocodile!) and finish off very cute.
Yes, that really is a ladybird beetle and aphids should be worried. This guy will eat hundreds of aphids as they grow and develop into an adult.
Ladybird beetles and Aphids
Changing my gardening habits to organic has taken a few years, and one of the core skills I’ve had to develop is observation. It takes time to figure out what is really happening, and to see the bigger picture. In this case, I didn’t just have ladybird beetles and aphids, there were also beneficial lacewings and parasitic wasps enjoying the feast.
So if you see strange black and orange creatures that look a little like a crocodile crawling on your plants – don’t be alarmed, in fact, you should be very proud to be a “ladybird” breeder!