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Monday, April 2, 2012

Aphids & Ladybirds

My eggplant bushes are being devoured by aphids. They are absolutely covered in them. Which is a bloody pity because I've only managed to harvest two eggplants and there are still flowers and growing fruit which I was hoping would eventually get big enough to cook up before the cold sets in.

Naturally when the aphids first appeared, I did my usual trick of completely ignoring them in the hope that things would fix themselves. Only to discover a week or so later that the aphids have been sucking their way through my crop and killing the plants off one by one. And they're moving on to my capsicum plants.
Aphids
Now it may not just be aphids that are doing the damage because I do have some swarms of teeny white flying insects that have been hanging about my beans and have migrated to the eggplants too. I don't have a clue what they are but they don't seem to be up to mischief. So I've been ignoring them as well.

Fortunately, there are a few ladybirds there too. I spotted about eight while I was taking these snaps. Different sorts too - black ones with white spots and completely black ones with one yellow spot and your regular orange ones. I even spotted what looked to my untrained eye like a bit of ladybird hanky panky. Which pleased me immensely. But I reckon it'd take a swarm of ladybirds to make a dent on these aphids.
Ladybird
Ladybird Hanky-Panky

Now the eggplants and capsicums are at their end and I would probably have pulled them out to make way for some winter veggies anyway, but now I'm not sure what to do. I have thought about giving the aphids a squirt with a garlic solution or neem oil or something but I've heard that this would kill the ladybirds too. And who doesn't love a ladybird? It'd be nice to attract a few more to my garden - and a feed of aphids will surely do the trick. So I'm tempted to let the ladybirds feast and breed and see what happens. But I'm a bit frightened of all those aphids and their potential damage.

I even looked into buying some ladybirds and setting them free. That would be a lot of fun for me and the monkeys. But I'm not sure if that's the right thing to do. And it is autumn - soon those ladybirds will be going into hiding.

What do you experts in blogland advise?

16 comments:

  1. I'm no expert, but my heart bleeds for you, VG! Those little white flys are exactly that 'White Fly'. They have been the bane of my life this gardening year, smothering my tomatoes, zuchinni, eggplants, EVERYTHING! They have truly been in plague proportions and despite all the research I've done, nothing seems to control them, they continue to spread disease and kill off my vegies. Lace Wings are their enemy and I've had lots of those but they make hardly a dent. I think only the cooler weather will see a decrease in numbers.

    The cooler weather should decrease your number of aphids, too. At least they are a sluggish bug and you can squish them between your fingers (an effective control) but with white fly - there is little squishing possible, they just fly off in a cloud, only to settle again and suck the life out of yet another precious crop.

    I really enjoy your blog, by the way!

    Regards, Nina

    p.s. I garden in Gippsland, Victoria

    p.p.s. If anyone knows how to control white fly, I'd be forever grateful!

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  2. Oh dear. I guess it depends if they are the good lady bugs or bad ones? I am currently having issues with Scale so i know your pain.

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  3. I found ladybirds on my eggplants today, including what look to be a young couple in love. I haven't noticed that many aphids but I'll have a look in the morning. For those green aphids one thing I find that does work quite well is squirting them off with a hose. If you wave the ladybirds off first and then blast the leaves with the hose the aphids fall off and usually don't come back. You lose the occasional leaf but thats about it. Unfortunately the same thing doesn't seem to work for the black ones. I find that by June/July pretty much all the green aphids disappear from the garden. I've had white fly as well this year and I too have ignored it and the damage doesn't seem to have been too bad.

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  4. Great blog, informative and up to date. Bookmarking your page. Thanks and more power!

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  5. Whitefly is one of the most difficult pests to cope with. Fortunately it is not hugely destructuve - more repellent than damaging. Some people advocate growing French Marigolds (Tagetes) to dissuade Whitefly, but I'm not convinced. I usually get plenty of Ladybirds in my garden, but I still get loads of aphids, so I reckon that Ladybirds probably need to eat more!

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  6. I'm not sure if it's too late in the season for you to try this, but this year I grew parsley in between all my eggplants and I haven't had any trouble in that bed. Could be a complete coincidence, or maybe the strong parsley smell repels the nasties... not sure...not very scientific I know, but might be worth a try!

    Do you think the current small eggplants will ripen? I've been contemplating whether or not to pull my plants out, or give them a bit more time to try to get some more fruit off them.

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  7. City GCG I do love parsley so it's worth a try - next time. I'm no expert but there might still be time for your eggplants. Apparently eggplants can be kept as perennials. No hope for mine now though unfortunately.

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  8. My eggplants up here survive for a couple of years normally, and this year I have seen lots of those white flies. If there was a little collection of white flies I cut that branch off and carefully carried it to the bin (not the compost). I have been spraying with chili garlic (for the bugs) mixed with a little milk (for fungus. Looks as though the plants are doing better. I think that now the ladybugs have moved in it would be a waste to remove the plants. good luck.

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  9. a little dishwashing liquid and water in a squirty bottle works really well on aphids. I found this to be the safest and friendliest way of getting rid of the. Am usually a pacifist except when it comes to aphids and wasps...no one is perfect. Home grown eggplants are delicious....good luck!

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  10. Thanks for the advice Mark, and sorry to hijack your blog with my question, VG - one day I hope to start a blog of my own. :)

    I should say, (keeping in mind my whitefly were in plague proportions) that I'm convinced that they did indeed suck the life out of my green beans (and weakened other crops). I had a lovely initial crop of beans but once the whitefly took hold, the beans languished, looked diseased, and I had to pull them out. Similarly with the zucchinis (and more recently pumpkin and cucumber).

    Gardening. It's a challenge, isn't it??

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  11. Ninaschen, since your comment I have done some investigating and it does look like i have whitefly. And they have sucked the life out of my eggplant which are dying.

    I look forward to reading your blog when you get round to it.

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  12. I am a believer that all diseases and pest, including those in humans, are the symptoms not the problem. Just like when I am experiencing poor health I concentrate my efforts on my diet, I would concentrate my efforts on the soil.

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  13. Thanks for indulging me, VG. I've only been seriously learning how to grow veggies for a couple of years, in preparation for my 'retirement' which is not that far off! I reckon if I learn how to grow my own food, I won't have to starve when I'm on the pension. :) Also, my daughter is vegan and her partner is vegetarian so I like to grow healthy, pesticide-free produce for them (they are Uni students and always poor!). My son, on the other hand, will eat anything!

    Whitefly have always been around and they have just been a nuisance up until now, rather than a real problem as they are (for me) at the moment. I think my namesake, La Nina, is behind all this - I've gotta blame something!

    Jason, you have a good point but I do look after my soil well - it is very healthy, in my inexperienced opinion.

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  14. Defintely try to put your capsicums into pots over winter. If you keep them sheltered they will survive and be more productive next year. That way you can have your beds back too.
    About the lady bugs, I've found the water squirt method pretty effective too. Soap spray just on the aphids should also do the trick.

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  15. I have found planting nasturtiums intermingled with climbing beans seems to keep whitefly away.

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