As high summer helps to reduce us to a languishing, fractious heap, our vegetable gardens are (hopefully) thriving. One of the many joys for the organic vegetable gardener, particularly at this time of year, is watching the enthralling microbiological-world proliferate and metamorphose, right before our eyes.
True, there is absolutely nothing on the television to watch at the moment, but who needs a TV drama, when, out the back door, we have our own alfresco drama, complete with territory battles, births, deaths, alien invasions, mystery, beauty and fornication, unfolding daily before our very eyes if we care to look.
Earlier in the growing season, I had noticed that some aphids were destroying my tomato plants at a great rate of knots. I had also noticed that the ladybug numbers were well down from the previous year (in fact, fire flies, dragonflies and praying mantis, too) . To spice up the ‘micro-drama’ somewhat, I decided to introduce some protagonists into the mix….I ordered a cavalry shiny little red ladybugs online from Home Depot (of all places).
We were all awaiting the arrival of this cute cargo of coleopteran angels as one awaits the arrival of a new baby. When they finally arrived via the UPS man, we could barely contain ourselves. The children ripped open the box, and found a seething mass of ladybugs, in a fine, mesh bag. The bugs had so occupied the bag, that every square millimetre of space was covered. Cutting the bag in order to release the poor creatures proved to be rather difficult. My daughters would scream every time I went to make an incision, as they didn’t want even one bug to lose a life. When a tiny hole was created, the ‘ladies,’ surged out.
Our hands and arms were quickly encrusted in ladybugs. The aphid infested tomatoes were soon covered too .We tipped some onto the wildflowers, some on the veggies, and some just into the air, but still there were more bugs in the bag (perhaps I had inadvertently bought a ‘farm pack’ rather than a ‘backyard pack’). We started tossing ladybugs out in the street like confetti at a wedding, hoping that they would survive despite the chemicals used on most gardens around here. A fellow organic gardening neighbor was also the beneficiary of a platoon of carnivores.
Now, a few weeks later, there is good and bad news about the ladybugs. The good news is that we no longer have any aphids in the garden. The bad news is that we also have no ladybugs, nor, as was promised in the ‘bug advertising,’ do we have any ladybug larvae, who could have continued to fight the good fight!
So the drama in our back yard continues … with an infestation of squash bugs on our zucchini plants! This time, I sent the chickens in as the protagonists, but alas, they were not interested in gobbling up the wretched bugs.
I guess, as ‘director’ of this whole drama, I will have to squash the little blighters out of existence myself … never a dull moment on this backyard microscopic stage!!