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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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Garden Hero: The Lovely Ladybug

July 16th, 2010

 

With their richly colored orange-red wings and distinct black spots, lovely ladybugs often conjure up childhood memories of placing one on your hand or arm then intently watching it with fantastical awe. This beautiful bug is adored by many children for its calm nature, but it’s also adored by gardeners for its beneficial pest control behavior.

Ladybugs have colossal appetites and not only consume aphids—lice that feed on plant juices—but also eat other insects and larvae, including leaf hoppers, mealybugs, mites, whiteflies, and the eggs of the Colorado potato beetle, just to name a few. One ladybug, in its lifetime, can consume more than 4,000 aphids, their preferred meal.

In addition to consuming aphids and other insects, ladybugs require pollen as a source of food, in order to mature and lay eggs. Some plants that attract ladybugs include basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, pepper, thyme, and tomatoes. If you want to be extra considerate of your little garden heroes, consider planting bell-shaped flowers, such as lilies or tulips, which capture drinking water for ladybugs and provide a cool, relaxing oasis for them to inhabit. With the garden protection that ladybugs provide, they deserve to be pampered!

If you’re interested in using the heroic ladybug to help combat the villains in your garden, it is important that you not use insecticides—which you should try to avoid regardless. Insecticides will not only eliminate most of their food source but also discourage ladybugs from laying their eggs in your garden.

If purchasing ladybugs for your garden, do not release them during the heat of the day. Keep them in a cool place, such as the refrigerator, before releasing them in the evening after the sun goes down. Placing your ladybugs in the refrigerator will not harm them but simply slow them down. Ladybugs do not fly when it’s dark, so this is your best chance at giving them the opportunity to get comfortable in their new living environment. Also, before releasing the ladybugs, water the areas that you will be placing them in so they have plenty of water to drink. Think of ladybugs as house guests; you want them to feel welcomed and comfortable. If your ladybugs are comfortable in their new home, chances are they’ll stick around. You can’t fence ladybugs in, but should they choose to stay and live in your garden they’ll be great heroes in combating those villainous aphids and their sidekicks.

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Garden Heroes and Villains

July 12th, 2010

Did you know there are heroes and villains in your garden that come in all shapes and sizes? From villainous whiteflies, which feed off of plants by sucking the plant’s juices, to heroic lady bugs, which enthusiastically eat aphids, learning the difference between good and bad garden animals, bugs, and even bacteria can help you maintain and preserve the healthy foods you grow.

If you’re a current Humble Seed Facebook fan then chances are you’ve seen the questions posted from other fans about some of the heroic and villainous creatures and critters they’ve dealt with, along with our suggestions. Every garden needs insects, because many insects pollinate plants, so one of the best things a food grower can do is to have a better understanding of how to work with the good guys and manage the bad guys.

Starting this week, we’ll be featuring a garden hero and villain every week and posting to our blog and Facebook page. If you have not become a Humble Seed Facebook fan then we encourage you to do so, because we’re here for you, to make your food growing experiences the very best they can be.

Check back soon!

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