A Closer Look at Some Garden Guests

This week I attended the Pest Workshop lead by Stasia Orkwiszewski, UM Dining Gardens Manager.

I got a lot of practical tips for dealing with pests. Even so, I got the impression Stasia doesn’t spend time worrying about pests, but spends a lot of time worrying about her soil. (Healthy soil is the foundation of a healthy garden.) And, for a gardener, Stasia is remarkably good at admiring pests objectively.

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Aphids

Stasia introduced me to how cool and complicated Aphid’s life cycles are. In spring, wingless females hatch from over-wintered eggs. These females asexually reproduce for most of the summer, giving live birth (wow!) to more wingless females, who give birth to more, and so on and so forth.

Prolific little creatures!

But it doesn’t stop there. In the fall, or when a plant becomes too crowded, some aphids develop wings and fly to a new plant host. In the process, some of these aphids will develop into males. The winged aphids sexually reproduce, laying eggs to over winter and hatch as new wingless females in the spring. Talk about adaptability!

For those of you with more of a visual brain, check out this graphic from Utah State Extension, which has a lot more info too.

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Ladybugs are a great combat against aphid infestations

Not only are they one of our cutest garden guests, ladybugs are a natural predator to aphids. When overcome with aphids, it can be tempting to buy some easily available ladybugs at your local garden center, but it’s better to provide and create ladybug habitat than to buy ladybugs. I’ve heard ladybug harvest can be unsustainable, and I’ve always found that released ladybugs fly off after a day or so anyway. Just like building healthy soil is key to a healthy garden, so is encouraging biodiversity by providing habitat for beneficial insects.

Do you think you could recognize an adolescent ladybug?

I unfortunately don’t have a photo myself, but check out these by photographer James Whitaker. They’re quite unexpected looking, but a good garden friend to recognize!

Whether we like it or not, pests (and beneficial insects!) are a permanent part of organic gardening. Author Gary Snider says recognizing local plants is “being in on the gossip of a place.” Maybe knowing these garden bugs a little better is being in on the garden gossip. :)

Happy Gardening Everyone!

PS—If you want to attend another great workshop by Stasia, don’t miss her talk on Tomato Care! Register Here.

Want more info on garden pests and how to combat them? Check out these blogs!

Pester Those Pests

Attack! Top Four Pests in Missoula.