Aphids are probably the most successful - and as such perhaps the most hated - of all the garden pests. Commonly known as ‘plant lice’ or green/black and whitefly in the United Kingdom, aphids can rapidly colonise the soft tissue parts of many ornamental and edible plants reducing their vigour, and productivity. Aphids can also act as a host for transferring viral and bacterial disease.
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For those wishing to garden organically there are a number of ‘natural sprays’ that you can either ‘buy off the shelf’ or concoct yourself, but there is always the risk of killing off beneficial insects in the process. The truly 'organic way is to call to your plants defences those naturally occurring, native predators who would like nothing more than to get their pincer-like mandibles into a plump, and juicy aphid. The three most commonly occurring native predators are listed below.
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It is not just the adult ladybird that seems to have an almost insatiable appetite for aphids their larvae will also forage aggressively for aphids.
Adult Ladybirds lay up to 50 yellow Ladybird eggs per day on the undersides of leaves. This equates to up to 1500 eggs in their lifetime although some of the eggs are infertile, thought to be used as a food source for juvenile ladybird larvae.
Most ladybird varieties are excellent predators of pest insects and can usually be found in the garden from March to October.
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Lacewing larvae have unusual sucking mouth parts made up of a pair of extremely long, slender and conspicuous mandibles – jaws - that curve forward from the front of the head. These mandibles are tubular in structure, like a pair of hypodermic needles, and are sunk into their preys body and then used to suck out the bodily fluids.
Lacewings can be encouraged to remain in your garden by providing homes for their winter hibernation. That way they will be ready to lay their eggs and help to control your aphids when they emerge from hibernation in the spring.
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While the adult hoverflies will spend much of their life on flowers, feeding on pollen and nectar, their well camouflaged larvae will go largely unnoticed as they crawl over foliage in search of their aphid prey.
Over 250 species have been recorded in the UK, and in fact more than 85 species have been found in a single garden. You can expect to see adult hoverflies between March and early November.