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ladybugs on fennel

Ladybugs doing their duty on a fennel frond in the greenhouse.   

On warm autumn days, they come out in droves—dive bombing, climbing, crawling.  They bite, they stink, they’re everywhere, and they’re not originally from here.  Yes, ladybugs have their charm (in storybooks) but mostly they are a nuisance in the Northwoods.  Not too many folks I’ve met actually like them very much.

There is a native bug of a similar appearance, and it’s an herbivore (a voracious one at that).  But the type we mostly encounter is the Asian Lady Beetle, imported in 1916 to aid in the aphid infestation that was consuming alfalfa crops nation-wide.  Voracious carnivores, these lady beetles will eat almost any other soft-bodied insect they can fit into their mouths.  But since we all call these half-orbs of reddish-orange with black spots “ladybugs,” I’ll use that name for this story as well.

Right next to Farmstead Creamery is our aquaponics greenhouse.  Within this greenhouse is an ecosystem teaming with life.  In four large blue tanks, schools of tilapia fish enjoy a full refreshment of water hourly.  The manure-rich water flows downstream to the clarifiers, where beneficial bacteria live.  These bacteria colonies break down the fish manure into the components that plants need in order to grow. 

The now nutrient-rich water flows to the plants, which grow on rafts in the water, in suspended channels, or in beds of clay media.  By the time the water snakes its way through the 5000-gallon system, these roots have acted as a massive bio-filter, returning the water fresh and clean to the fish. 

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