Like a lot of people, we had a problem with aphids. Here’s a photo of our rose in front of our house.
We want to rid our garden of these pests, or at least get them under control. But how?
A lot of insecticides are an environmental disaster, and herbicides are even worse. Last year was one of the worst year on record for pollinators, with a record population decline of nearly 40% in honey bee populations last year. I am unwilling to contribute to this problem and I’m doing what I can on my own property to help the bees (more on that later). I also don’t want a bunch of poison in a place where my kids like to play. Spraying the flowers with toxic chemicals is not an option.
The right way to solve this problem is to introduce predators, which you can conveniently buy over the internet. The most popular choice is ladybugs. These insects are very recognizable and well loved by my children. The other choice is lacewings, which are easy to cultivate and can be slowly released via a bag of eggs. Lacewings feed on pollen and nectar supplemented with aphids, mites, and other pets. I decided to try both.
These came in a threaded bag. Per the instructions, I left them in the refrigerator and released them the next day. They slow down a lot when it’s cold and tend to fly off in the sunshine, so it’s best to release them on either an overcast day or in the early evening. I had my kids lean the bag up against the rose bush that was most infested and let them crawl up the bush.
They got to work on the aphid population. As a bonus, my two kids had a blast watching the entire process. They got a good 40 minutes of educational entertainment out of it.
Within a couple of days, the ladybugs had flown away (hopefully laying eggs all over the neighborhood), but there were still a lot of aphids on the rose. However, about a week later, they were gone.
Either the ladybugs had done their work at night or the lacewings were taking care of the rest of the problem.
One point here: this is a slow release bag, and the word slow is accurate. The instructions say to hang the bag for at least 10 days. It took 2 weeks before I began seeing lacewings in my garden, and after nearly a month, I would guess that less than half of them have hatched. They are small insects and blend in easily on plants, but they seem to do a good job keeping pests under control.
One more beneficial insect we’re trying to attract are mason bees. There are a lot of flowering plants in my garden and neighborhood, and these hardworking bees are one of the best species to host in your backyard. They do not swarm and rarely sting, and are very effective pollinators. I’m trying to start my own colony in a mason bee house, which I hope will be populated in the fall.