Posts Tagged: aphids
What's for lunch?
If you're a lady beetle (aka ladybug), a good bet is you'll have one of those yummy, plant-sucking aphids. In fact, you'll eat your fill. Please do.
Today we walked behind the Life Sciences Building on the UC Davis campus and encountered scores of our polka-dotted, six-legged, dome-shaped buddies hunting for prey.
It was easy pickings.
This was a fast predator in a slow food movement.
Aphids were everywhere on the brittlebush (Encelia farinosa).
Call lady beetles what you will. Ladybirds. Lady beetles. Ladybugs. Coccinelles. Beneficial insects. All of the above.
Most people in America, however, know this insect as a "ladybug." It's actually not a true bug but a beetle. It's a member of the Coccinellidae family. Coccinelid is Latin for "scarlet," but not all lady beetles are scarlet with black spots. Some are yellow, orange and brown, and some with spots and some without.
You'll find coccinellids worldwide as there are more than 5,000 species, and of that number, more than 450 are native to North America, according to Wikipedia.
And they all "do lunch" with aphids, scales and other soft-bodied insects.
Lady beetle, aka ladybug, devouring an aphid. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Predator and the prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Saturated. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Where's the best spot for the new residents of my garden?
I acquired two ladybugs last Saturday during the 99th annual UC Davis Picnic Day. Background: as part of the campuswide celebration, the Department of Entomology annually hosts an all-out bugfest at the Bohart Museum of Entomology and at Briggs Hall. And keeping with the Briggs Hall tradition, the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program gifted picnickers with the treasured ladybugs.
Now ladybugs aren't really "bugs"; they're beetles. Neither are they all "ladies"; some have manly qualities. (Gender issues may confuse us, but not the lady and gentlemen beetles.)
A ladybug is a good beneficial insect. It can devour an estimated 5000 aphids in its lifetime (three to six weeks).
So, every year for the past several years, I've adopted two ladybugs, chauffered them home, and tucked them in our garden. "Please eat the aphids," I tell them.
And they do.
They're good at following instructions.
Last year they took up residence in a bed of red roses. This year, they're coming up in the world--a high rise. A tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii) is "home sweet home."
Life doesn't get any better than this if you're a ladybug (and any worse if you're an aphid).
Two ladybugs in a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybugs exploring the menu. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hmm, looks like an aphid over there to me. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The aphids know how to plan a family reunion.
Grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, mom and pop, brothers and sisters, cousins and more cousins--they're all gathering to feed on the lush growth of the spring roses, the juicy shoots, the tender buds. And they multiply. You think rabbits multiply fast? Try aphids.
A telltale sign of their presence: Crumpled white carcasses and leaves coated with sticky honeydew.
A strong blast of water and the aphids are gone.
Well, at least some of them.
We watched a sole ladybug, aka ladybeetle, feasting on an aphid buffet on Easter Sunday. So many aphids, and so much time. All the aphids on her menu were green, but they come in yellow, brown and black, too.
The aphids crawled along the rose stems, bumping their cornicles or tubelike structures into one another, unaware of the looming red predator in their midst.
Until it was too late.
Aphid reunion on a rose. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A gorged ladybug has just polished off a row of aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What's red and black with yellow all over?
Ladybugs, aka lady beetles or ladybird beetles, laying their yellow eggs.
It's a sure sign of spring when aphids emerge, and ladybugs feast on them. One ladybug can reportedly eat 5000 aphids in its lifetime.
That's a lot of aphids!
Meanwhile, the aphids in the fava beans at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, are doing their part.
The garden, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is teeming with aphids on the fava beans.
And teaming with ladybugs in the process of adding more ladybugs to the garden.
If you're looking to get involved with ladybugs as a citizen scientist, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., hosts "The Lost Ladybug Project" to spotlight the ladybugs of North America. On the website, you can learn to identify them, understand their biology, and upload photos.
And it wouldn't hurt to include a photo of a ladybug dining on a scumptious aphid.
Ladybugs mating; the female continues to munch aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up shot of ladybug eggs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Panoramic view of ladybugs, aphids, and ladybug eggs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
People aren't the only ones favoring fava beans.
Fava beans growing in a raised bed in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, are attracting honey bees, European paper wasps, lacewings, ladybugs, aphids and carpenter bees.
We saw all six insects on a trip to the haven last Friday.
While the honey bees and carpenter bees gathered nectar, the European paper wasps, lacewings and the ladybugs searched for prey. The ladybugs were also searching for mates.
The half-acre bee friendly garden, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus, is open year around from dawn to dusk. Admission is free. Visitors can conduct their own self-guided tours by following the signs and reading the plant labels. Groups that want a guided tour (the cost is $4 per person) can contact Christine Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, life is good in the fava beans.
A lady beetle, aka ladybug, prowling on a fava bean leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
European paper wasp on the hunt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on a fava bean blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Female Valley carpenter bee robbing nectar by slitting the corolla. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)