It’s been pretty miserable in San Francisco this summer. I haven’t seen the sun for more than an hour a day for almost a month, but I think things are starting to look up. It’s amazing how much it affects my mood. Sometime last week, I thought I’d brighten things up by getting some ladybugs to munch on the aphids.
I decided to buy local, and got a little tub of ladybugs for $6.99 at Flowercraft, my closest garden center. They kept them in the fridge, and told me to wait until evening to let them out. The ladybugs were all huddled at the holes at the top of the tub, about the size of a pint yogurt container. I watered the ground around the tomatoes and herb spiral, and let them loose. I was happy that they all seemed to stick around, and I had to watch where I stepped because they were everywhere! It’s been a few days, and I’m still seeing them in abundance, which makes me really happy. They do seem to like the tomatoes, peppers, lavender and motherwort.
I do feel like encouraging natural predators is the way to go, rather than spraying. I’ve pretty much abandoned my cayenne spraying strategy because I want to keep the ladybugs around. There were a few ladybugs in the garden already, but it’s nice to see so many more, this is the first time I’ve actually bought bugs. It fits so well with the lazy lifestyle, because they do the work of eating the bad bugs.
I’m also planting some alyssum seeds to encourage more natural predators, AND to bring some more flowers into my life. I love the smell of alyssum, and it’s so easy to grow.
I also noticed that my comfrey is getting eaten by leafhoppers, and also has some powdery mildew because of the lack of sun.
I just did some reading about leafhoppers, and found out that there are more leafhopper species worldwide than all species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians combined. It does look like ladybugs are leafhopper predators as well, so we’ll see if they have any effect.
The UC Davis ipm site says, “General predators of grape leafhoppers include spiders, green lacewings (Chrysopa spp.), minute pirate bugs (Orius spp.), lady beetles (Hippodamia spp.), and predaceous mites. The predaceous mite, Anystis agilis, is an important predator of first instar nymphs especially in the North Coast. Although many growers have experimented with releases of lacewings for leafhoppers, control of economic populations has not been achieved in university field trials.”
I’m looking forward to planting more flowers to encourage beneficial insects, now that the sun seems to be back!