8.18.2008

Borage and ladybugs

Beautiful borage

My borage looked pretty for awhile. Quaint blue star-shaped flowers among the pebbly-textured leaves. But after the flowers faded, it went down the crack pipe and FAST. Now it's a skeleton completely covered in aphids. Aphids on the buds, on the stalks, more aphids than I've ever seen.

I was not always as you see me now

But phenomenally, the ladybug population it supports is almost equally huge. I've found ladybug eggs on almost every fifth leaf.

Orange Ladybug Eggs amidst a sea of green aphids.

The image above is of an adjacent plum tree leaf. I don't know why the green and black aphids seem to prefer different plants. The ladybugs however eat all aphids without prejudice.

On closer examination of the borage infestation, I realized the almost one out of every five of the black aphids is actually a ladybug baby. They're only differentiated by some white stripes on the insect's back, whereas the aphids are solid black.


Look carefully at the black aphids in the above photograph (if you dare) and you'll find the hungry baby ladybugs (white stripes on back) here almost outnumber the true aphids.

In the past, I've thought of ladybug larvae as rare, precious things. But here their numbers are astounding. That such density, such a crowd could be sustained, is eye-opening. I feel like I'm seeing New York City for the first time after spending most of my life in an Alaskan mining village.

I can barely handle the borage now without getting covered in brown insect goo. But after seeing such biomass, so much like a mature rain forest, I can hardly hack down all the borage and feed it to the chickens along with that parade of aphid larvae. So I carefully pick off the ladybugs, eggs and larvae and place them strategically among my nasturtiums, pumpkins and cardoons. And don't tell anyone, but I'm even seeding them with a few aphids. Just to make sure there's something for the adolescent ladybugs to eat.

A hungry adolescent ladybug and his mama.

4 comments:

Daisy said...

Aphids TOTALLY make my scalp itch.

John's Arts & Crafts said...

Great article! Recent research shows that yes Ladybugs do migrate at the end of the summer/early fall, but if the Do-it-your self farmer/gardener can improve the stay of their friendly Ladybug herd by providing them a nesting box, home or house. They eat other insects besides aphids like plant lice, whitefly and scale insects. Two years of research show that most ladybugs leave to look for a home they make home from a squirrel hollowed out hole in a tree where they become pray from birds. I have had good luck with a house designed for the Convergent lady beetle, Scientific name: Hippodamia convergens, which is native to California. The Best Lady Bug House takes in consideration of their basic needs: Location, Food, Shelter, Protection , and a nourishing Environment.http://www.thebestladybughouse.com

Ruud Van Den Akker said...

This is the nice post..looking great here..and well shared here..nice to see this here..thanks for sharing here with us.reiki

Ruud Van Den Akker said...

This is the nice post..looking great here..and well shared here..nice to see this here..thanks for sharing here with usreiki