Saturday, May 23, 2009

Flea Beetles, Aphids, Katydids, and Those Who Eat Them

It is quite rude little thief.
To sit and nibble my leaf.
Those bits I need,
To grow large from my seed.
Know I will feel no grief,
If crushing fingers make your life brief.

The flea beetles and aphids are out in force this year. I don't remember them being half this bad last year. I probably squished three dozen flea beetles over the past two days and thousands of aphids. My technique for killing flea beetles is to quickly grab them between my thumb and finger. A very fast pinch is key to getting them before they jump off. However, I do not really crush them to kill them. Instead once I have them trapped I gently roll them between my thumb and finger to the edge of the leaf and then crush/grind them once they are free of the leaf. This prevents damage to the leaf.

The aphids I've been managing to get before they hit critical mass on either my tomatoes or pea plants. At present I'm only finding the fly variety with maybe a handful of offspring, which are very easy to dispatch.

The black and red aphid varieties are the easiest to spot, and to my eye the fastest to breed. It is shocking how fast a flying aphid can pop out a half dozen or more baby aphids.

Luckily the plants have been strong enough that the aphids don't seem to have caused any damage. If left unchecked though I'm sure they would run rampant. I saw one twice-stabbed ladybug the other day in the garden, but no others. My kingdom for a nice pile of ladybugs!

I don't remember seeing any katydids in the garden until July last year, but today a juvenile was sitting on one of my tomatoes. The pests are bad enough this year that I'm contemplating using some soap spray to kill off all those my pinching fingers haven't been able to find. Still I haven't because of little guys like these.

I believe this is a baby orb spider. She was sitting on one of the pea tendrils floating on the breeze. This made it incredibly difficult to get a good picture because it was so small and moving rather quickly on the wind. It was probably about 3 mm long.

As I was grooming my tomato plants and removing aphids and squishing flea beetles I came across this little spider that had setup shop on a sun damaged tomato leaf. Its web was full of aphids, which made me so happy!

Munch and crunch them!

Often confused with spiders this Harvestmen of the order Opiliones is an Arachnida, but not a spider. They do eat soft-bodied insects like aphids and as such are always welcome in my garden.

In this photo you can see the cool eyes on the Daddy long legs and the fused together body which is also unlike a spider's separate abdomen and cephalothorax.

Lastly we have this little guy who had a delicate web spun between dried out basil stalks from the previous year. There wasn't anything in his web, and he looked kind of hungry. Since he was in a pot he's been moved into the garden away from the house so he has a better shot at some dinner.

1 comment:

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