Underestimating the ladybug

This is a transition year moving my fruit trees to their new location. My plans were not to spray anything unless I thought it was absolutely neccessary. As soon as the goumi leafed out it looked like every leaf was full of aphids. I decided to wait a few days before taking any action. About two days later I saw a ladybug crawling around. I thought that she could never eat all the aphids. What I didn’t see coming was all the eggs that was deposited. A few days later the young ladys were crawing all over the plant. Then all the aphids were gone. Later I noticed an apple tree was coated with aphids but this time there was a few large ants with them. I thumped about 30 ants off and I noticed a couple of ladybugs. I was pretty sure the ant would protect the aphids so twice a day I thumped them off. The ladys are well on their way to wiping out the aphids. After awhile I got tired of propelling the ants so looks like a wrapping of tanglefoot is going into my plans.

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As a new fruit grower, I have wondered many times if, left to their own devices, nature’s critters will keep most pests in balance if you just provide the right environment for the beneficials to survive. Obviously scale, fungus, mold etc are harder than aphids but proper spacing, pruning, and picking the right varieties should help with that, right? Looking at you, recently potted apple bench grafts…

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At least the ladybugs seem to control the aphids. My opinion is that fruit damaging bugs like curculio will be very difficult to control without sprays or bagging. I bag.

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Yes , this is key .

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Nature does have a plan and it will keep things in balance though there is a problem which is us. We as humans bend things where they are beneficial to us. We do not even realize we do it. The ants , aphids, ladybugs in this story are all natures checks and balances like the diseases our plants get. Nature is trying to keep things in balance.

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After some quick research, ants appear to feed on curculio larvae. But they present their own set of challenges too. I think your strategy is more sound than hoping for ant pressure.

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I think a big part of that, Clark, is that we want a bigger piece of the pie than what we would get if nature is left to its own devices.

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Ants milk sugars from the aphids they are symbiotic in nature. As an example we as humans don’t know the rules. We raise cattle in a concentrated area which makes cows sick so we give them shots, antibiotics and so on. Nature tries hard to kill those weekend cattle with diseases but we keep countering nature. Manure keeps building up so we use it on our garden. Lambs quarter grows to balance the excessive manure we spray it down with roundup over and over complaining about the weeds and so on. We use the milk or meat from the cows. Why not eat the lambs quarter? Why not eat goat meat or drink goat milk who lives off trees and grass and just about anything? We don’t like goat, beef is richer tasting. We don’t like that lambs quarter as well as lettuce.

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I believe this is key, we put fruits in zones they do not normally grow and we grow multiple mass areas with mono crops which would not happen naturally. The good bugs needed to control the pests in these areas are soon outnumbered, and possibly, don’t have the ability to multiply at the rate needed to keep the pests in check, or in some cases, are not indigenous to the area at all.

Nature tries, but we sometimes throw a monkey wrench into her plans.

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Yes and much of the problems we are unaware of. When we plant an orchard we plant 100 of something but why not pear , peach, apple, so on different plants. When fireblight hits the pear it has a peach on one side apricot on the other. The disease stops. When canker hits the cherry there is an apple on one side pear on the other the disease stops. My spray needs are less.

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That is interesting, I will remember that when choosing where to put a new fruit tree.

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When I plant I plant weeds by others standards like autumn olives, blackberries, clove currents, gooseberries, pears, concord grapes , nanking cherries, don’t need spray at all. I’m healthier , my plants are healthier, nature no longer views me as as the enemy because I’m not. My autumn olive is fixing nitrogen in the soil correcting old imbalances from previous owners. I eat the berries that are rich in lycopene. Blackberries the same are correcting an imbalance , wild hazelnuts need no spray I grow them the results are the same. I grow to many pears guess where I’m starting to see problems. My fungi like morels and others fungi are returning. My pond is full of fish to eat. Insects and weeds are not the enemy they are natures way of speaking with us about the problem. Rather than listen we declare war and nature will win that war if she choses to fight it. We do not realize the danger of not listening like a small child with their parents revolver we do not understand there is a time a danger to our actions. We cannot in every location grow things spray free now because the imbalances are so excessive. Once upon a time we had 30 feet of rich dark soil at my location in Kansas but we now have zero to 2 feet it’s all that remains from excessive farming which caused erosion and others problems. Some farms have only clay remaining. States all over are declaring war on callery pear ofcourse not realizing they need to just thin the pears and graft them over. Nature has spoken it wants more trees times change say goodbye to the old days they are gone. Embrace the future or live in a world of tordon to control the trees. Once the old trees are dead as soon as the ground is no longer poisoned they will be back and nature is giving them stronger and stronger genetics everyday.

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I have had success in the past wrapping duct tape around the trunk sticky side out. This keeps the ants off the tree and leaves aphids defenseless.

I do this a lot on trees with new grafts. I’ve had grafts completely killed by aphid infestations before.

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That sounds wonderful and beautiful, your own personal oasis, and your health benefits in the process.

I have masses of dandelions on my farm lawn and I keep them simply for the bees. I started looking at them in a whole new way when I started raising honey bees. Now instead of an unsightly mess I see yellow beauty bursting with pollen and buzzing with bees. I often wander thru and watch them work, they are fascinating. I never used insecticides before and with hives I certainly don’t now.

I know for a fact, because he teases me, that my farmer neighbour is itching to direct his sprayer over the whole lot. One persons weed is another persons flower.

I am tossing around the idea of buying some ladybugs, or catching and releasing some, into my greenhouse to keep some of the bugs in check.

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The dandelion honey turns to sugar quickly it’s delicious. People kill off the sweet Italian bee in many locations and nature replaced them with the more aggressive africanized bee. I know people raise 100, 000 colonies at one site but would tell me the varroa and tracheal might killed the bees. It’s ok nature will give them another chance with more african bees and the lessons get harder the more people try to win against nature. I typically don’t say a word about it to anyone because it’s not my place to. It’s a self correcting problem. When I was a little kid there was a huge problem in my area called raccoons. The farmers raised corn to eat and chickens. That’s a raccoons 2 favorite foods. I killed lots of raccoons for farmers but there were always more which were clearly winning. When I got my own farm I used an electric fence and shocked the racoon leaving him alive so he could remember. Farmers kill the racoon which is quickly replaced by another. Who do you think had no racoon problem? The old timers said I was soft and I said it’s true sometimes you need to be soft where has hard got You? They lost 70 - 90% of their corn and replaced chickens every 2 years. I’m thankful to the old timer who taught me not to kill your adversary. The truth is most realized they were wrong eventually and I was not soft at all.

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I disagree on dandelion honey being ‘delicious’ (it’s one of the yuckiest honey flavors…although creeping charlie and peach and redbud can give it competition for ‘yuckiest’)

One thing you omitted in the earlier post about nature taking care of things…
‘nature’ doesn’t do hundreds of acres of MONO-CROPPING.

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@BlueBerry
Would you think it was yucky if it was the only honey? Your right nature does not do that i think I pretty well said that but not directly. Again it’s not my place to say anything people can do what they want. I’m 1/16th Cherokee I have my own way I look at things.

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No, I’d still use some dandelion honey if no other choice. But, more in cooking and less honey/biscuits/butter!!!

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@BlueBerry
Exactly it’s pretty delicious! Given a choice of it versus blackberry flower honey I would prefer the blackberry flower honey. BlackBerry honey is delicious and more of an orange color and I can taste a mild hint of BlackBerry flavor like from blackberry stem tea. It certainly beats aster flower honey. Most people are not aware every flower makes a different honey because in the store they are all mixed together and it’s called honey. The really dark stuff like sunflower goes to the bakeries and breweries. The white stuff from clover or alfalfa goes to the supermarket. The irony is the dark honey is much healthier than the water white honey in the store. Dandelion is a medium yellow honey. Thistle is water white honey. Soybeans honey is orange brown. Don’t get me wrong clover, tupelo , leatherwood or orange blossom honeys are known as speciality honey in some parts of the world.

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To my taste buds, aster honey is distinctive, but not at all obnoxious.

Still, best to leave aster honey on the hive for the bees.

Sourwood honey is my favorite…but I like most (but not dandelion).

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