Thursday, May 19, 2011

7-spotted and Asian Multicolored Ladybugs

While transferring ladybug larvae to our fruit trees this morning I noticed something. There were two distinctly different kinds of larvae! Well, upon further investigation I found that we have (at least) two different kinds of ladybugs in the 'nursery'. One is the 7-spotted from western Europe and the other is called the Multicolored Asian Ladybug. Just yesterday one of the kids was looking at the 'nursery' plant and said, "Wow! That ladybug has a lot of spots!". Well, she was right.

So, the larvae I showed in the previous post belongs to the Multi-colored Asian Ladybug (Harmonia axyridis). The larvae I found today belongs to the 7-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata). These are not as spiky. They look more like little gray alligators with orange spots.

Here is the adult 7-spotted Ladybug.

The fruit trees are now full of ladybug adults, eggs, larvae and pupae. It's an amazing site to behold!

Here are some ladybug eggs on the underside of a cherry tree leaf.

Here is the in between stage from larvae to adult.

Watch out aphids! These kids are voracious!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Aphid Infestation or Ladybug Nursery?

There is a Fava Bean plant in our sidewalk bed that is covered with aphids. It looks awful! There are LOTS of other Fava Bean plants in the front yard without aphids. One plant has them. Why not pull it out? Well, there is good reason....

On closer look one will find an entire ecosystem in action. All of it existing on one plant. First to show up were the aphids. They started sucking the juices out of the plant and excreting a syrupy substance on the leaves. Then, lots of different aphid-eating insects appeared and went to work gobbling them up. At one point little yellow eggs appeared on the undersides of some leaves. I had seen adult ladybugs among the other hungry insects so I waited to see if the eggs belonged to them. Ladybug larvae eat aphids in large quantities so that plant would be a perfect spot to lay your eggs if you were a ladybug!

Sure enough, little prehistoric looking creatures appeared all prickly in orange and black dots. Those colors are these babies protection. Even though they look prickly they are actually quite soft-bodied. In nature the colors orange and black represent something that is inedible. The Monarch butterfly is the best example of this. They taste horrible to birds so many, many other butterflies use those same colors for protection even though they might be quite tasty.

So, if you see these little larvae do not be alarmed. Be happy! They are important helpers in your garden. Each day I transfer some to the fruit trees in the back garden to eat the aphids appearing on the new leaves. It's working!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's Honeybee Time in the Neighborhood!

Last week I posted our need for a swarm on our neighborhood Yahoo! list. I did the same last year and we got two hives from within a two block radius of our house. One was an extraction from our friend's front porch and another was a swarm in a neighbor's tree.

The swarm was easy to gather. I backed the truck up right under the tree with an empty hive box in it. We shook the branch and the bees just dropped into the box. We put the lid on it and sat back to watch. The remaining bees slowly flew into the hive box and that night I drove it home (a block away) and we set them up in the back yard.

Today, a neighbor had his backyard hive swarm into a tree in his yard. He called me up and I went right over. He had a cardboard box which he shook the bees into and added the last remaining ones left on the branch by cutting a piece off and putting in the box too. We were both suited up so he handed the box down the ladder to me and we walked the box of bees the one block back to the homestead. We were quite a sight in our big white suits and hoods walking down the street carrying a box of bees. I had a hive box ready in the garden and we dumped the bees right into it. Immediately, they began to work the flowers in the garden. It was amazing! The irises were loaded with bees and so were the blackberry blossoms and fava flowers. Tonight they are tucked into their new home. You can hear it humming when you put your ear to the hive box. I love that sound.

The front porch hive extraction was not quite so easy.... The bees were very tolerant of all the hammering and cutting it took to get to them. It was a strangely cold day and so they were moving slow. Lots of filled honeycomb was in that little front porch.

My husband Paul was able to fit the natural comb into hive box frames using rubber bands. Eventually the bees filled out these frames and chewed off the rubber bands.

We were able to fit them right into the hive box, load them into the truck and take them out to a friend's farm three miles away. They stayed out there for a few weeks and then we brought them home. Had we just brought them home a block away they would have all flown back to our friend's porch!

It will be warm again tomorrow. I better get another hive box ready!