Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

The Aphid Infestation ... and a couple of other things.

One of the Clemson Spineless Okra plants developed an Aphid infestation. First I squirted the Aphids with fly spray (I use that to kill Asian Geckoes) and all I did was kill the leaves. The Aphids returned and thrived - what a surprise!


I assume that the little white things are the larval skins of the Aphids ... in the photos below, does anyone know what the cream-ish blobs are? Which butterfly the green caterpillar is? Does it eat Aphids too? Seems unlikely but you never know.

I am indebted to Joseph for alerting me to the look of and indeed very existence of, the golden Ladybird eggs. I would not have looked for them nor known what they were.

So I decided to leave nature take its course. And so it did ... the plant is still there and recovering well. It’s bigger than the other Okras I planted at the same time - do Aphids have some magic potion which makes plants bigger? - and none of the other 5 Okras are affected. Weird.

A couple of photos of the Ladybirds (and Gentlemenbirds) themselves, doing what they do best and the results of what they do best ...

Cleaned up now but the leaves are still distorted.

Turns out the above is the larva of the 26-28-spot Ladybird, thanks to Brisbane Insects and their Ladybird field guide.

This Winged Bean plant turned up all by itself. The original plant was in this place but I cut it down at the end of last season, leaving the roots. So perhaps the roots are getting busy again? Anyway, anyone know why it is mottled? Doesn’t look to have any pests. So far it’s growing away and I’m leaving it to see what happens.

The leaf Amaranths turn up when they feel like it and have been a boon for salads and green veges. These are the tiny flowers - such a big plant, such tiny flowers and seeds!

The Christmas lunch veges all came from the garden.

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Comment by Lissa on November 7, 2015 at 6:58

Nice to read this again and see your photos and story about the aphids and letting nature take it's course. Hard to restrain ourselves from interfering some times (I was running aphid infected leaves through my fingers only yesterday).

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on January 11, 2012 at 15:59

It was a serious mistake to grab the fly spray. I don't use fly spray on flies, just on Asian geckoes. Oh dear. Anyway ... the Okra plant is still with us, producing fruit and leaves still being shredded. Yet to give it some Seaweed. Usually I do squash Aphids ... mostly the plants don't get Aphids. Calcium, OK can sort that with Dolomite. I was thinking virus with the bean ... it's starting to look OK now so for the moment, will leave it be. Thank you all for your comments, they have been very helpful :-)

Comment by Scarlett on January 11, 2012 at 15:09

PS soap spray blocks spiracles in insects, literally with a soap bubble, so they suffocate, which is indeed effective, but will also knock out the good guys

it's a good non-poisonous way of knocking them back though

oil sprays do the same thing - too hot for those at the moment though

neem works, i used it once (ever) for aphids when my artichokes got waterlogged and stopped growing and i was about to lose them just before fruiting, but it would be expensive and kind of biocidal to use it all the time (takes out all the good guys as well). my common sense is-it-safe? jury is out on neem...(more studies please)

biocides aren't as good as selective remedies and diversity/ natural balance enhancement?

sprays that make the leaf taste nasty/ hard to puncture might be a better option as an aphid deterrent while you wait for the balance to right itself? e.g. spray with chilli or garlic or flour?

personally i'm too lazy to spray unless i absolutely must, another reason i love the squishing option. my sprayer bottle is almost exclusively used for watering seeds so they don't cluster, and for putting out our brazier! :)

Comment by Scarlett on January 11, 2012 at 14:24

Fly spray usually contains Piperonyl butoxide and other S6 and S7 poisons - it's a permanent, cumulative nerve poison for humans. A friend of mine's grandmother died of it - she used to put her head into the kitchen cupboards and spray them out regularly. It will eventually give you diseases like parkinson's, and possibly motor neurone or alzheimers. So at least be careful - and if you use anything like this you could be knocking out the good guys as well.

It's a progression: usually too much soft lush growth (high nitrogen and water in the fastest growing plant) attracts the aphid infestation. The aphid infestation attracts its own predators. As long as the predators arrive (healthy, diverse garden) and the plant continues to grow strongly all should right itself. If you want to tip the balance in favour of the predators earlier, don't use any poisons at all - run your hands over the affected plant parts and squish the aphids (hopefully avoiding eggs and larvae of the good guys) - it takes 30 seconds. If you even squish 20% of them you've made a big impact. The squished smell attracts more predators - and possibly is a big turn off for the remaining aphids. It might even spread aphid disease. Anyway, it definitely speeds up the reduction of the outbreak. Okra doesn't need much food - it will grow in very poor soil - you probably over loved it with fertiliser. It does like calcium - blood and bone might help with a strong cuticle which is a turn off for aphids :)

That bean looks like it has a virus to me - e.g. mosaic virus. That interveinal mottling pattern is usually a virus - nutrient deficiency usually manifests fairly uniformly in the spaces it hits (e.g. the entire interveinal area would be hit the same if it was manganese or iron deficency).

Comment by Lissa on January 10, 2012 at 8:23

Good and bad in the Syrphid fly family then - like the lady beetles.

Interesting to find out the variety that attacks native bee hives Ceriana ornata are related to the regular little hover flies.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on January 10, 2012 at 5:52

Great info Anne and Joseph! Aphid-killer - how cool ;-) The Winged Bean is staggering on by itself and looks to be recovering, all I've had time to do so far is water it. The aphids have gone and the grasshoppers have moved in shredding leaves. Seaweed spray it is, asap.

Comment by Joseph on January 9, 2012 at 21:18

I'm sure that's a syrphid fly larvae in your photo. See here

Comment by Joseph on January 9, 2012 at 21:16

Great photos, Elaine!

There is a type of maggot that feeds on soft bodied insects. I think it is the larvae of the syrphid fly aka hover fly. The adults are pollinators. The larvae is similar in shape to a caterpillar but moves quite differently. I've seen them on the rockmelons during the aphid infestation.

Wow, I've never seen such heavy infestations on okra. Aphids tend to congregate in the flower buds but I don't let them spread. A simple soap spray (soap not detergent) will kill the aphids within a day. I save the neem for stubborn pests like mealybugs and thrips or when I need a dual insecticide-fungicide.

I've never seen that type of amaranth before. The red amaranth I'm growing as a leafy green has extremely tiny black seeds too. Painful to collect and sort.

Comment by Anne Gibson on January 5, 2012 at 9:35

Thanks for great photos Elaine. There should be more like this!

I'm with you in the aphid department, I usually leave nature to take its course although I do use a few strategies when things get out of control: plant nasturtiums nearby as a longer term solution (black aphids are attracted so they act as a catch crop); use Eco-Oil sprayed on the affected areas of the plant to suffocate them or just hose them off to see if they return.  This sometimes is all I have to do and gives the ladybirds enough time to take up residence as it delays the return en masse.  The only plants I regularly have attacked are garlic chives. Everything else seems to get left alone.  It also tells me I need to look at the soil the plant is growing in because something's not right. I've tried moving the chives to different locations and this usually fixes the problem.

Re your bean plant - from the pic it looks to me like a possible nutrient deficiency of some kind if the plant seems healthy otherwise. If this was in my garden, I'd probably firstly check soil pH and moisture - if these are OK, then foliar spray with seaweed to deliver trace elements quickly. If the soil has adequate organic matter and doesn't need more added, I'd probably add some rock minerals (NatraMin) to the soil with a balanced powdered or pelletized fertiliser like Organic Xtra, Nutri-Store Gold or Organic Link and water in well with more seaweed/molasses. This would kick start the remediation process. Then I'd watch what happens. If it picks up in a week or two, it is probably a correct diagnosis, if not, then I'd wonder if it could be a disease. That's how I problem solve - a step at a time.

Comment by Lissa on January 2, 2012 at 9:54

I have about 5 different varieties of eggplant seed. I really must get around to growing some.

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