Friday, January 20, 2012

Hooray for Tiny Black Alligators!

Thought I'd share a little snippet of information I learned last summer.

In early June my celery plants and a few others bolted and started to put out flowers, since I didn't plan to collect seed from these plants I decided to pull them out to let more light get to the plants around them.  When I brought the celery plants inside to rinse the remaining usable stalks and put them in the fridge I noticed lots of tiny black alligators crawling around on the plants.  After getting severely weirded out by the creepy crawlies and washing them down the sink I figured I should look them up to find out if I had a pest problem that needed dealing with.

Luckily for me there are lots of websites with information on insect identification.  As it turns out the tiny black alligators are ladybug nymphs, the scourge of aphids.  And I had washed them down the drain!  These were not pests, they were beneficials who's home I had uprooted, and then drowned.
  Here's a link with some great photos of what these little critters look like
Well, I learned my lesson, from now on I will identify any and all bugs I find before I kill them. :(

As it turns out, ladybugs like to lay their eggs on Umbrelliferae species.  These include carrots, celery, queen anne's lace, and most other flowers that bloom in flattened umbrella-like clusters of small flowers.  This year, I'll let the celery flower, even if I don't need the seed.  I also plan to sneak into the empty lot next door and disperse some Beneficial Bug flower mix, if it's going to be full of weeds, they may as well be habitat for helpful insects.

Learn about the habitat and food needs of beneficials to keep a healthy organic garden. If you provide homes, food, and water they will return the favor with pollination and pest management.

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