Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Aphids and the Bees

Every year I battle aphids. Aphids feed on the roses. They feed on the flowering maples. This year they're feeding on the azaleas. I launched my assault on them. Since aphids only feed on the tender, new growth, I simply ran my fingers up the shoots, crushing all the aphids on each stem. It's a messy business, but within a couple of weeks, I've wiped out the majority of the aphids. (Aphids are born pregnant, so killing the first generation wipes out the subsequent ones. I've never found that insecticidal soap did much good, unless I used so much that I drowned the little beasties. And a strong spray of water with the garden hose, which is recommended by many garden mavens, would wipe out the aphids and the plants on which they were feasting. A few aphids probably survived Operation Aphid Storm, but the ladybugs do need something to eat.)

I have four cape mallows and the bees love them. We get all kinds--carpenter bees, bumble bees, little black and white bees, blue bees, and even European honey bees. And given the bee crisis, we have encouraged the bees to feed in the yard. The warm weather a couple of weeks ago brought them all out. I don't know whether bees are competitive, but the mallows provide so much food that there's plenty for everyone there. Then suddenly they all disappeared. All of them. I fretted. Bees are in bad trouble in North America and I've tried to provide them plenty of food. But they'd all disappeared. Then on Saturday they returned. Not in the numbers of a couple of weeks ago, but enough so that some had survived whatever happened to them.

Bees have been killed off by aerial pesticide spraying, but so far as I know, the county hasn't started spraying for West Nile virus yet. If they do spray again this year, it will kill off most of the insect life in the spray area. When they've sprayed here in the past, every insect in the yard was killed. It killed the bees, the flies, the beetles, everything--even the spiders (which aren't technically insects) died. And the first to come back--the mosquitoes, of course.

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