by Donna Torrey
If you have started a butterfly garden, then you have planted milkweed, the host plant for our beloved monarch butterfly.
Aphids come in many colors: yellow, brown, black and green; they suck plant juices, deform leaves and weaken plants. Once you have milkweed, aphids may take on new meaning. For some reason, milkweeds have their own lively yellow aphids that swarm the growing tips mercilessly. Some people mistakenly take them for butterfly eggs, but the monarch eggs are like tiny white pearls laid underneath a leaf—you really have to look for them. The aphids are bright yellow and quite obvious; here’s a clue: they move!
Now, there are a few things we can do about this situation. If you are the fastidious type, you can use soapy water and go out there on a very regular basis and squirt them around. If you choose this method, you may find yourself quite exhausted after about a week; they are breeding machines.
The next option is to do nothing. That’s right, nothing. This is what will happen: One day you will go out there and notice other insects getting in on the activity. They are red and black, and yes, they’re ladybugs!
This may seem cute to you, but in fact, the only reason that the ladybugs are there is because they eat, almost exclusively, aphids. If your milkweeds were not infested with aphids, the ladybugs would have no reason to come. By allowing your aphids to live, you have enabled ladybugs to live, reproduce and eradicate the aphid problem!
Watch closely next time you are concerned about those milkweed or citrus or whatever. Give it a week or so; the plant won’t die and you may get the chance to see Nature at work for you.
If they don’t come, and your plants seem to be floundering, you can buy ladybugs for release on aphid infested plants. However, you must have aphids available for them to eat or they will fly away in search of them.
A ladybug release is a great way to teach children and adults how Nature works. Everything has a purpose in Nature and if we work with Nature and not against, every creature wins, and that includes us.
Plants and seeds are always available at The Garden Gate, located at Sears, 2251 N. Federal Hwy., Pompano Citi Centre (corner of Copans Rd. and Federal Hwy.), 954-783-4283, DonnasGardenGate.com. See ad page 51.