Aphids…already!

Unseasonably warm weather puts strain on plants, welcomes pests

Here’s where I eat my humble pie. I’ve grown two big beds of ranunculus this year for the first time. It’s a stunning flower in the buttercup family, many-petalled, available in a wide range of colours (from deep burgundies to corals to white). The Italians specialize in the largest ones, and I imported my stock from the U.S., complete with phytosanitary certificate clearance from Ottawa. If you don’t know ranunculus, they are reminiscent of roses and later when they unfurl their petals, poppies. Adorable, 100 per cent. Ranunculus is grown as a cut flower: strong of stem and long of vase life, florists love them.

You grow it from corms, planted in the fall. They need warmth, so I grew mine fairly dry in a low tunnel, fed them in the spring, coddled them, vented them in the heat, protected the blooms from rain, etc, etc. I was entirely smitten with their whopping two-foot, multi-budded stems. That is until today, when I spotted the aphids.

I’m middle-aged and wear glasses, so truth be told I did not find the aphids without the help of a ladybug. Ladybug larvae – they look like tiny black and orange alligators – eat aphids, so the adults lay their eggs on infected plants. Which brings me to the question literally at hand: What can one do when aphids appear?

Just like humans, plants resist infections (err, infestations) when they are healthy and unstressed. Have you watered enough? Fed your plants? Before you reach for the spray gun, run through a checklist of what could be troubling them.

My coddled ranunculus (I think) were hit hard by the heat wave of last week. Climate-wise it’s a wacky world. My first aphid incursion occurred on April 19, after a record-breaking temperature of 24.6 celsius the day before. Weren’t all gardeners feeling a little stressed? And in that sudden heat, tender buds, luscious stems – what’s not to love if you’re a sap-sucking insect?

Aphids feed on plant sap, but their damage is also due to what they secrete: a sticky ‘honeydew’ that quickly breeds a black mould. You can wash the honeydew from plants (and you should), but it’s best to address the aphids directly. Heeding Orwell’s advice to avoid euphemism: I mean, kill.

Which I did immediately after freaking out. I popped a few on pure instinct. It’s gross, entirely cringe-worthy, making bug juice, but primal urges prevail in such situations. Then, I grabbed my Safer’s soap. It stinks, but works on contact. Dish soap diluted in water will work as well. The surfactants prevent the aphids from breathing (through their skin, as they do) and they die.

But back to that ladybug.

I needed more of them because after the ranunculus come roses and aphids love roses and it’s only April. So I researched a supplier in Canada, Natural Insect Control, and a nice woman talked me down from the edge over the phone. Soon, 4,500 ladybugs are on their way. The ladybugs arrive sluggish, but ready to rumble. And rumbling you want. Mating = eggs = voracious larvae.

With this weather I think we’re going to need all the help we can get. I’m calling in the cute troops.

 

Chrisitn Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener

and creative non-fiction writing instructor at the

University of Victoria.

 

 

Just Posted

Oak Bay High student selected for Canada Youth Olympic Team

Barbarians rugby player Lachlan Kratz heads to Las Vegas for Qualifiers

Man charged in suspected Greater Victoria bus assault

The Victoria Police Department has arrested a man for sexual assault aboard… Continue reading

Library’s French collection gets $15,000 boost

Provincial grant adds extra French-language materials to Greater Victoria Public Library collection

Cruise Industry Job Fair on Saturday

Nearly 900 jobs created by the industry

Celebrating the heroic dogs of Saanich past

Cedar Hill exhibit features great dogs of history

VIDEO: What you need to know today at the B.C. Games

B.C. Winter Games athletes work for gold in the last full day of competition

Cougars hold upper hand on Westshore in VIJHL South semifinal

Victoria leads series 2-0, games 3 and 4 go tonight and tomorrow

Looking back at the 1979 B.C. Games: Good memories, even better jackets

39 years later, Kamloops is hosting the Winter Games again, with some volunteers returning

OLYMPICS 101: Oldest and youngest Canadian’s to reach the podium

This year, Canada sent its most athletes in Winter Games history, here’s a look at record breakers

Snowboarding debuts at B.C. Games

Merren deBellefeuille was lone Vancouver Island (Zone 6) athlete in ladies’ snowboard cross

BCHL Today: Cowichan Caps play spoiler and Nanaimo wins 10th straight game

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Federal budget to unveil incentive for 5-week second parent leave: official

Goal behind the measure is to give parents more incentive to share child-rearing responsibilities

Notley says Alberta watching B.C. court bid closely, will get no free ride on it

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley ended the three-week ban on B.C. wine, calming the trade war

Trudeau ends troubled India trip in his comfort zone of hockey and youth

The players, 18-25, came to New Delhi from Ladakhi in northern India, as part of outreach program

Most Read