July 2, 2006

A is for Aphid

Yesterday was a big day bugwise. I already knew I had flea beetles but, another gardener a few plots over mentioned that he had aphids on his zucchini, tomato and pepper plants so I decided to hunt for them on mine. Sure enough, I found a little nasty gathering of them on a tomato plant. You can see in the picture (look closely) that there is also some kind of white bug there too. Anyone know what that is? According to my excellent bug book they look a little like whiteflies but, I don't think whiteflies hang out on the undersides of leaves the way aphids do. I'm a little concerned that they are beneficial and were in the process of making a meal of the aphids and I ruined it. I hope I'm wrong.

Bug stuff is really interesting but, knowing what's good to leave alone is tricky. I tend to err on the side of leaving things alone unless I find it in a menacing cluster or know that its a bad guy. The superhero bugs seem to travel solo.

Speaking of which. I have hardly seen a single bee this summer and I haven't seen ONE ladybug. When are they getting here? Is it too hot? Has there been too much rain? What's the deal? In fact, I am a tiny bit worried now that killing the aphids myself makes my plot less attractive to ladybugs (they eat aphids by the way).

Anyway, I took out my spray bottle, filled it part of the way with water and then added a tiny bit of very mild soap (Dr. Bronner's Peppermint) and then spritzed the heck out of any leaves where I saw aphids.

In my search I also found what I'm pretty sure was a cabbageworm. It was hanging out on a brussel sprout leaf which gave me the tip off. I hesitated for only a second before I removed him from his hiding place BAREHANDED!

I still have those annoying flea beetles. They've mutilated the arugula and are now working on the kale and collard greens so...I spritzed them a couple times too. How much of this spritzing does it take? It seems to me that once the water dries all these bugs will happily carry on as they were. I might go spray again later today but, it might be an exercise in sysiphean futility.

Things still keep getting bigger though and despite the occasional aphid my tomato plants seem very happy. Oh and I now have a daylily!! Its even prettier than I expected!

P.S. All this bug identifying business makes me want a magnifying glass. Yes, I am a geek.


snappy said...

lovely post.you studied classical myths?Sysipheus who pushed the rock endlessly up the hill.I found water n washing up liquid works with aphids but not black fly on my nasturtiums.

Black Eyed Susan said...

Thanks Snappy! The aphids seems to be gone but, now I've got an issue with my pepper plants which are wilting for some reason. Man doomed to roll a rock up a hill forever? I can relate.

Carol said...

First time visit, very nice blog. Congratulations on picking up a bug "barehanded"! This skill will help you immensely as a gardener. I pick off Japanese beetles when i can, but I have to watch myself because I've reached for what i thought was a beetle and almost picked up a bee a few times. I'm sure had I made contact with the bee, it would not have been good! I have flea beetles on eggplant, and though they make the foliage look nasty, they don't seem to harm the actual eggplant. You should get a folding magnifying glass and wear it on an old piece of cord around your neck to complete the total "geek look"!

Christa said...

Great to find another community gardener! I'll be interested to see if you find a good solution to the flea beetles. They're feasting on my eggplants these days.

We've had tons of ladybugs here -- more than I've ever seen before. I'm not sure what makes it a good year vs. a bad year for them, but they definitely seem to be happy here in D.C. right now.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

Black Eyed Susan said...

Carol -- thanks! Barehanded is less a matter of skill and more a matter of not being completely grossed out. I couldn't have done it without gloves if it were a cutworm or a slug. EW! Perhaps I will evolve as a gardener though.

Christa - knock on wood the flea beetles seem to leave the eggplant alone. They loooove the collard greens, arugula and brussel sprouts though.

rachelle said...

aphids can be all different colors, including white i believe. but those look like white flies to me too.
you will most likely have to do insecticidal soap sprays for awhile, i did mine 1x per day for 3 days and it killed all the spidermites from my office plant. i think the suggested is couple times daily until the soap dehydrates the little critters. good luck!

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess I'll have to stop ignoring all the weird little critters I see on the tomatoes and basil. You have me totally freaked out!

PS If I grew garlic would it keep ticks out of my yard?


Black Eyed Susan said...

Biz - don't freak out. If the bugs don't seem to be killing your plant then they probably aren't. I don't know about the garlic but, there might be some other plant that would repel them.

rachelle - Thanks! I think the doc bronner's worked. They seem to be gone!! I'll check again tomorrow and maybe upgrade my soap if necessary.

rachelle said...

or attract them. i have nasturtiums and some weird weed growing in the border of my bed. nasturtiums are supposed lovely companion plants to tomatoes, luring aphids away from your tomato plants. the weird weed i have growing seems to be luring flea beetles from my herbs and tomatoes and peppers, as they just love to sit right in the stems all happy, and my herb and veggie plants seem to be free of them. i don't know if this is true, as i'm a novice gardener, but it seems to be working.