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Garden Villain: Itsy Bitsy Spider Mites

August 1st, 2010

 

If you have beans, peas, squash and tomatoes in your garden then keep your eagle eyes peeled for the itsy bitsy spider mite, because this eight-legged arachnid—and more specifically, colonies of spider mites—will feast on plants, sucking the cell contents from leaf tissue.

What to look for:

  1. Plant leaves that look like they have light specks on them
  2. Gray, yellow or bronze colored leaves that eventually drop off of plants
  3. Fine silken webbing on leaves or branches

Life Cycle

  1. Adult female spider mites lay round eggs on bark, leaves or in webbing
  2. Once eggs hatch, spider mite larvae—which only have six legs during their first stage of life—can develop into adults in as little as two weeks
  3. With plenty of food and appropriate temperatures, there can be multiple generations of spider mites per year
  4. Female spider mites may lay 100+ eggs during their short four weeks of life

If you suspect that you have spider mites but cannot see any, hold a white piece of paper underneath plants leaves then shake or tap the leaves. Dislodged spider mites will fall onto the paper and appear as little moving flecks. Spider mites may be brown, cream-colored, green, red or yellow.

Natural enemies of spider mites include lacewing larvae, lady beetles, and minute pirate bugs. Instead of using insecticides in your garden, try implementing some of these natural biological garden heroes.

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Garden Hero: The Green Lacewing, AKA Aphid Lions

July 28th, 2010

 

Did you know that green lacewing larvae are one of the most beneficial tools for keeping pesky garden villains under control? While the adult green lacewing is quite lovely, lacewing larvae appear somewhat menacing, with their large mandibles, pincher-like mouthparts, and armored looking bodies.

The green lacewing life cycle is pretty simple:

  1. An adult lacewing lays her eggs on plants, and each egg is attached to the tip of a hair-like filament.
  2. After just a few days, a predatory, and very hungry, larva emerges from the egg.
  3. After a short two- to three-week growing period, the larva spins a cocoon to pupate.
  4. An adult lacewing emerges approximately five days later, and it will then mate and repeat the life cycle. An adult green lacewing will live for approximately four to six weeks.

When a green lacewing larva emerges from its egg it’s ravenous, and it will feed on aphids, beetle larvae, leafhoppers, mealybugs, whiteflies, and more. When the larva grabs hold of its prey it injects it with paralyzing venom then sucks out the body fluids. Gross, yes, but the lacewing larva means business, and it will seek out prey rather than waiting for prey to come to it.

During the larva’s very short growing period it can consume up to 200 eggs, other larvae, and pests. To take advantage of their short life span, it is recommended that you release green lacewing larvae into your garden in early spring. If you want to help control your garden pests with lacewing larvae, release new larvae regularly in order to keep a steady supply in your garden and on your plants.

Adult green lacewings prefer to feed on honeydew, nectar and pollen. Light green in color, with large eyes and two long, thin antennae, the adult green lacewing also has long, transparent wings that have a distinct veins running through them.

 

Green lacewings prefer humid conditions, and plants that benefit from having the lacewing near include peppers, sweet corn, and tomatoes. If you want to control villainous garden pests organically, the green lacewing is a great choice for your garden!

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