Antonio Garden Aphids Update

A Lesson in I.P.M.

As you probably are aware, the Antonio Garden is a brand new garden, created from a vacant lot, and bordered by a condo complex on the west, by a retirement village to the south (both complete with chemical/pesticide maintenance) and an avocado orchard on the other. Our goal is to use Integrated Pest Management to keep our organic garden free from toxins and naturally controls pests. This is difficult with this brand new garden since there are no resident predator populations in the area.

A month ago, we had an invasion of aphids which attacked our broccoli and cauliflower plus a couple of other cabbage-family plants. Without predators in the garden, they were able to take hold and become established.

AphidsOnSaturday2Before 300x187 Antonio Garden Aphids Update

Aphids Infestation on Saturday

Some of the gardeners were ready to pull out pesticides and/or insecticidal soaps to eliminate the pests. However, I implored the gardeners to try the most benign solution first – water jetting the offending insects from the plants.

Aphids become atrophied and immobile when they have settled in and, once washed off, cannot climb back up your plant.

The reason we used a simple water solution instead of sprays is this: water will physically remove most of the pests and, just as importantly, it does not harm the predatory insects that may be hunting the pests.

Had we let the gardeners use insecticidal soaps, they would have killed some, but not all, of the pests. Aphids have a waxy coating, and many water-based sprays or mists will simply roll off their backs. Spraying would not have destroyed the pests, but would more than likely destroyed all the predatory insects, which lack the waxy-protection, in the process.

AvoidTheSpray 239x300 Antonio Garden Aphids Update

Yesterday, I was able to show the children and their parents, the aphids that were left in the garden. What was evident at that time was predation by tiny wasps and aphids dying from both predation and fungal diseases.

I took some photos, but all I had was a video cam that doesn’t do extreme close-ups. I pulled the still (above) from one of the videos. There were large areas, thick with aphids, primarily within the curled leaf margins. We also saw dead aphids and aphid ‘mummies’, indicating that predation was happening. The big tip: we saw wasps actively working the aphids.

What is most interesting is that no one had released wasps in the garden, and they probably do not come from the over-maintained condo complexes surrounding the garden.

But the wasp still found us, and they have come to the rescue…

I went back this morning, about 16 hours later, to re-take the photos with a macro lens, and what I found this morning was very different from what I saw just a half day before.

battlefield 1 300x187 Antonio Garden Aphids Update

Aphids Battlefield - They are losing

The aphids had been reduced by 75% to 80% – literally over night. In place of the mass of aphids was a battlefield, littered with skeletal remains of aphids sucked dry (possibly by roving ladybug larva) and ‘mummies’, aphids that have been parasitized from within.

You all saw the movie, “Alien”, right? Same thing…

This picture to the left shows the same leaf that is shown in the first photo.  Instead of fields of aphids, there are a few survivors, and the tiny wasps are at work, laying eggs in them for the next generation.

SceneOfTheCrime 300x187 Antonio Garden Aphids Update

Wasp Larvae exiting Aphids' carcass

This picture is amazing – it shows a wasp, which has pupated in the body of an aphid, emerging from the  Look for head and antennae exiting the body of the aphid. It is really had to see; click the photo for a closer view.

Battlefield 4 300x225 Antonio Garden Aphids Update

A wasp laying eggs in live aphids

In this photo, an adult wasp (almost transparent) is caught in the act of laying an egg for the next generation of predators that will protect our garden.

CloseUp 300x195 Antonio Garden Aphids Update

A Close Up View

The last photo, a close-cropped view, is enhanced to make the wasps more visible. Many aphids show the dark spot on their rear ends indicating they have been parasitized.

Our aphid problem is not at an end – we will continue to get these and other pest into the garden. However, if we refrain from whipping out toxins, we can help nature take its chosen course and have a productive, toxin and pest free garden.

The take-away here is that IPM is nature’s own way of managing pests and that it works. Like so many other things, Nature’s way of managing pests works best and it is in our own interests to learn how to work within this system.

One Final Update:

I went back again yesterday with my granddaughters to show them the wasps in action. The original leaf I photographed had 11 aphids left, and most of those showed signs of great distress – like they were being attacked from within…

To learn more about IPM methods visit our Gardening-Coaches web site, our Camarillo Community Garden blog or the University of California’s I.P.M. page.

Gardening Coaches’ Newsletter for February, 2010

Cool weather, Pests and I.P.M.

First off, “Thank you” to all the new subscribers. I am glad you  are coming along for the ride…

Our spring is here – maybe. We have been through a number of hot/cold snaps this year, with 25 to 45 degrees temperature swings. Our poor plants – they are so confused. There is fruit ripening on trees that should not even flower for another month. Our cold weather vegetables have gone through several hot and cold cycles, and many are going to seed just at the time they should be growing vigorously.

Some things we have no control over – like the weather – but we do have the ability to influence our garden environment in other ways and based on some simple, earth-friendly concepts.

One concept I believe in, and what I want to talk about tonight, is Integrated Pest Management, or IPM.

I.P.M. is a way of controling pests, based on natural predation and disruption of pest life-cycles. The ruling principle is to use the most benign, but effective, methods first, and only move to more drastic measures if (not when) needed.

A fully implemented IPM plan takes time to develop the populations needed – for there to be predators, there must be prey. Too much, or not enough, of one puts the system out of balance. In a well balanced environment, there are always some pests and always some predators. You may get some cosmetic damage to some plants, but the natural balance of prey/predators prevents any major damage.

I am perfectly willing to accept some minor visual blemishes in return for absolutely pure, fresh and toxin-free food…

One passive way to disrupt the life-cycle of a pest is simply removing over-wintering habitat. When I got rid of the wild mustard surrounding my garden plots, my problems with Harlequin bugs disappeared along with the mustard.

The other, more active, side of I.P.M. involves the use of predatory insects and other agents (like bacteria and fungi) to attack the target pest directly. One common biological agent is Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria that attacks the gut of certain worms, such as tomato and corn worms. The spores of this bacteria are sprayed or dusted on the plants, and the worms eat it as the graze on the plant leaves. The bacteria then blooms in and attacks their digestive system. They quickly die from starvation.

One of the last, and most active approaches, is to ‘send in the troops’.

Ladybugs are the most well known predator in the garden, although to most people they look like anything but a predator. Ladybugs are like Marines in drag – rather odd looking, but totally deadly. Ladybug larvae are voracious eaters and can account for 1,000 aphids per day. Ladybug larvae pierce to bodies of their prey and suck the aphids dry, leaving a hollow shell behind. Adult ladybugs will chew and devour the entire aphid.

Other allies in the battle against pests are tiny to microscopic wasps. The local insectary sells egg cases for various types of wasps (each for a different prey) and they are wide spread. They are released in orchards and fields, and are carried by wind and wings wherever there is food.

Camarillo Community Gardens’ “Antonio Garden” is a perfect laboratory for studying I.P.M. at work. This garden is brand new and without an established insect population. This last weekend gave me some great shots and insights that I want to share with you.

The attached report, “A Lesson in IPM” shows what IPM will do – just as long as we work with the system. Check out the pictures of before, after, and the predation in action. The pictures are hard to make out perhaps, but since the insect are about this big -> o <- they aren’t too bad.

A Lesson in I.P.M.

The Antonio Garden is a brand new garden, created from a vacant lot, and bordered by a condo complex on one side (complete with chemical/pesticide maintenance) and an avocado orchard on the other. Our goal is to use Integrated Pest Management to keep our organic garden free from toxins and naturally controls pests. This is difficult with this brand new garden since there are no resident predator populations in the area.

A month ago, we had an invasion of aphids which attacked our broccoli and cauliflower plus a couple of other cabbage-family plants. Without predators in the garden, they were able to take hold and become established.

Some of the gardeners were ready to pull out pesticides and/or insecticidal soaps to eliminate the pests. However, I implored the gardeners to try the most benign solution first – water jetting the offending insects from the plants. Aphids become atrophied and immobile when they have settled in and once washed off, cannot climb back up you r plant.

The reason we used a simple water solution instead of sprays is this: water will physically remove most of the pests and it does not harm the predatory insects that may be hunting the pests.

Had we let the gardeners use insecticidal soaps, they would have killed some, but not all, of the pests. Aphids have a waxy coating, and many water-based sprays or mists will simply roll off their backs. Spraying would not have destroyed the pests, but would more than likely destroyed all the predatory insects, which lack the waxy-protection, in the process.

Yesterday, I was able to show the children and their parents, the aphids that were left in the garden. What was evident was predation by tiny wasps and aphids dying from both predation and fungal diseases.

I took some photos, but all I had was a video cam that doesn’t do extreme close-ups. I pulled the still (above) from one of the videos. There were large areas thick with aphids, primarily within the curled leaf margins. We also saw dead aphids and aphid ‘mummies’, indicating that predation was happening. The big tips: we saw wasps actively working the aphids.

What is most interesting is that no one had released wasp in the garden, and they probably do not come from the over-maintained condo complexes surrounding the garden.

The wasp found us, and they have come to the rescue…

I went back this morning, about 14 hours later, to re-take the photos with a macro lens, and what I found this morning was very different from what I saw just a half day before.

The aphids had been reduced by 75% to 80% – literally over night. In their place was a battlefield, littered with skeletal remains of aphids sucked dry (possibly by roving ladybug larva) and ‘mummies’, aphids that have been parasitized from within. You all saw the movie, “Alien”, right? Same thing…

This picture above shows the same leaf shown in the first photo.  Instead of fields of aphids, there are a few survivors, and the tiny wasps are at work, laying eggs in them for the next generation.

The following picture is amazing – it shows a wasp, which has pupated in the body of an aphid, emerging from the body of the aphid.

In another, an adult wasp (almost transparent) is caught in the act of laying an egg for the next generation of predators that will protect our garden.

Here is a closer view, enhanced to make the wasps more visible. Many of the aphids show the dark spot on their rear ends indicating they have been parasitized.

Our aphid problem is not at an end – we will continue to get these and other pest into the garden. However, if we refrain from whipping out toxins, we can help nature take its chosen course and have a productive, toxin and pest free garden.

The take-away here is that IPM is nature’s own way of managing pests and that it works. Like so many other things, Nature’s way of managing pests works best and it is in our own interests to learn how to work within this system.

To learn more about IPM methods visit our Gardening-Coaches web site, our Camarillo Community Garden blog or the University of California’s I.P.M. page.

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