The 2018 Great Aphid Apocalypse: Mother Nature Reminds Me Who's In Control

May 09, 2018 0 Comments

The 2018 Great Aphid Apocalypse: Mother Nature Reminds Me Who's In Control

One month away from being one of the featured gardens on the Botanical Garden’s Private Garden Tour, my garden has been attacked by aphids in APOCALYPTIC numbers.

At first I saw a few bugs on a Lithodora I recently planted. Mild panic. And then I saw more. And more. And many, many more. FULL-BLOWN PANIC.

My sister’s ash tree, overhanging part of my garden is infested. My other neighbor’s ash tree, overhanging my garden is infested. The trees’ new spring leaves, covered with aphids, are weakened by the insects and are falling like snow onto our gardens. But it’s not a pretty winter scene. It’s DEVASTATION.

I’m freaking out. I can’t sleep. All I can think about are aphids, sucking my plants dry, turning my garden into a wasteland of sticks.

And I thought having pocket gophers was a nuisance. But with those critters, there’s usually only one in the area. This season’s aphid count has to come close to several million.

The females are capable of producing 40 to 60 offspring. Less than a dozen aphid "colonizers" can produce hundreds to thousands of aphids on a plant in a few weeks. Aphid numbers can build until conditions are so crowded, or the plant is so stressed, that winged forms are produced. These winged forms fly off in search of new hosts and the process is repeated. 

INSERT HYSTERICAL SCREAMING HERE.

Something happened this year that caused the aphids to multiply exponentially. I’ve done some investigation, and it might just be the warmer winter we had followed by a wet spring.

Or Satan opened a portal into my garden and released his demonic minions.

Some aphid species inject a toxin into plants, which causes leaves to curl and further distorts growth. This is what’s happening to the ash trees. 

And because the aphid army is camping out in the Ash trees, our driveways and front paths are coated with the sticky residue the aphids release from their rear ends.

GROSS.

Last Saturday, between the two of us, my sister and I purchased 6,000 ladybugs—the primary predator of the aphid. And on Sunday, we released them into our yards. I hope, in some way, they caught the sense of urgency in our voices, as we gently tapped them onto the ground and encouraged them to make gluttons of themselves. Welcome to the aphid buffet!

Aphids on my Lithodora. 

And on my Sun Rose!

Later on, I pruned the neighbor’s tree whose branches overhang my shade garden. It was dropping thousands of aphids onto my newly planted bugle weed, onto my wrought iron garden decor, and everything lying below. By the time I finished pruning the tree, I was covered with aphids. Yuck.

I’ve also spread Diatomaceous earth on top of the numerous ant beds in my garden. A species of ant protects the aphids because they harvest the sweet honeydew the aphids release. So, my assault is two-pronged. 

On the Nextdoor Neighborhood site, I posted a notice to my neighbors. Many of them are experiencing the same aphid invasion. There’s been a run on ladybugs at the various garden stores.

As the situation gets worse, will neighbors sneak into my yard and steal my ladybugs?

Please don't poach my Ladybugs!

Here are other remedies for getting rid of aphids:

  • Spray dishwasher detergent onto the affected plants. Make it a hard stream so as to knock the aphids off the plant. The bugs won’t easily get back onto the plant. One-half teaspoon of detergent to 1 quart of water.
  • Periodically spray with just plain water at a force that will knock the aphids off. If you feel like it, stomp all over the bugs once they’re on the ground—defenseless.
  • Spray Neem Oil on the infected plants. DO NOT spray Neem Oil directly on bees. They’ll suffocate.
  • Spread petroleum jelly onto yellow cards and place them around the garden. Aphids are attracted to yellow. 
  • Buy some green lacewings (as eggs) and distribute them in the garden. Lacewings are fierce predators of aphids! You can also buy lacewing larvae, which will go to work even faster than the eggs!
  • Above all, make sure your plants are healthy to help avoid an aphid attack. Pest insects tend to target weakened plants that are already struggling. 

My sister purchased some lacewings after we bought the aphids and these mighty warriors are now in the garden ready to bring on the next assault. In the meantime, I've seen lots of birds in our yards fighting over all the bugs. We've got quite an army assembled here now.

For me, this aphid invasion feels like a near disaster. My garden was looking magnificent. I was ready for the Tour. Now, I fear that on June 10, the only thing tour visitors will see is a garden of wilted and dead plants, covered with little white dots. And me, on the porch, weeping.

But I’m not giving up yet. Hot, dry weather is on it’s way and to a certain extent, this situation is self-correcting. Mother Nature is, after all, in control, not me. In the meantime, I’ll have a good stiff drink each evening and try to relax. 





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