Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Posts tagged ‘benificial insects’

Where was I?

Yes I’m still here…but thinking of changing the name of my blog to ‘A Yearly Post from a Gippsland Garden’.  It would be more appropriate perhaps.

To be honest the joy of a trip overseas was followed up by a very melancholic few months. It took me by surprise, but thankfully I’m feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed again now 🙂 Thanks to those lovely bloggers who dropped me a line to say ‘Hi’…it might have taken until now to get a response out of me, but I appreciated it very much!

Well, it’s heading into late spring in the Gippygarden and it has been a wet one! The pattern seems to be four days rain then a day or two of blazing sunshine, so you can imagine what the garden is like. The weeds have never been happier. Thankfully some of the intentional plantings are pretty happy about it too and the garden is lush if unruly.

My personal bane the Harlequin Bug (dindymus versicolour)  is also pretty chuffed about all the lush new growth. So my post work relaxation routine seems to consist of carrying around a bucket of soapy water and picking off the bugs to drop into it. I can be heard muttering darkly to them as I find them clustered on my roses. Yes it’s a bit gruesome, but it is the only thing that seems effective without using toxic sprays that will equally hurt the good bugs (the soapy water that is, not the muttering).  It is requiring quite a bit of vigilance. Every day there are plenty of new bugs and my ultimate aim is to keep the population down before my tomatoes grow and produce ripe fruit.

No precious tomatoes for you, nasty little buggies...

In other garden news the garlic I planted in the garden bed has stunned me by growing better than what I potted up, which is a surprise, particularly when it has been so wet. None of it is growing fantastically, but it is all still alive and growing reasonably well.

Some garlic around Christmas...perhaps.

Lately I’ve been focusing on digging some more vege beds and planting for the bees, but more on those later. I’ll leave you with a couple of current bee favourites for now…

Bees love Borage and so do I. Who could resist that colour?!

Not a good perspective shot, but this is a tiny native bee. It is about a third of the size of a honey bee and is clearly enjoying our callistemon!

See you soon,

Heidi

Blissful Bees

Given I wandered off for a few months, you might not know that we now have a hive of honeybees.  They are the familiar introduced european honeybees.

The bees arrived at our place just before Christmas and have settled down to being incredibly industrious. I guess that is the way of the bee, but they can be quite funny in the morning before the sun is really warm on their hive. They seem to give a good ‘I’ve just out of bed and haven’t had my first coffee, so leave me alone!’ look.

Anyway, we were pretty fortunate, even before the hive arrived, to have lots of regular pollinating visitors  (no spraying). I was a little worried that the honeybees, known for being aggressive when food is scarce, may cause a problem for our native buzz pollinating blue banded bees. But if anything I think I’ve noticed more of them around this year too – resulting in lots of pollinated tomatoes too!

Lately I have been having great fun watching the pollen dusted honey bees blissfully hop from flower to flower on our Crown Prince of Whangaparaoa pumpkin ( I hadn’t realised until now is a variety from New Zealand which is probably a bit daft on my part given its name).

Not surprisingly it looks like we’re in for a bumper crop!

Ladybird Love

Last year I was bemoaning the absence of Ladybirds (Ladybugs) in my Spring garden. They did arrive for a short visit in late Autumn to  help deal with late season aphids on the roses, but we missed seeing them turn ‘Mother maple’ into their springtime nursery. So we were very excited when early last month we spotted this little creature…

I must remember that their arrival came with the early emergence of  the new leaves and tiny flowers of the Japanese maples (which the bees and hoverflies love too) in early October.

Japanese maple flower buds, we might miss noticing them, but the bugs don't!

Anyway the little ladybird soon had some close *ahem* friends…

Which led (eventually) to setting up home in the nursery tree. This ladybird is in the process of laying her eggs…

Much to my daughter’s disgust, ladybirds are not averse to eating each others eggs, which I think is what is going on here…

The ladybirds that have set up home amongst the maples in their hundreds this last month or so are Harmonia conformis or the Common Spotted Ladybird. They are a much-loved ‘good bug’ in our garden as they are quite partial to an aphid or two, or perhaps even three. There is a very similar looking ladybug that is found in other parts of the world (the Asian ladybug I think) and is considered to be a pest. Ours are definitely garden friendly.

We only spotted our first larvae tonight, after dark, so I’ll have to try to get a photo in the next few days. Seeing the next stage, when the fully formed ladybirds emerge is a treat too, so I’ll be looking out for pictures of that to share when the time comes.

The only other ladybird I’ve spotted so far this season (and have only seen one example of) is, I think, Illeis galbulaor or The Fungus-eating ladybird.

I almost forgot to say, sorry for the long absence…I won’t bore you with the details 😉

Happy Gardening,

Heidi

There’s a Huntsman in my Worm Farm :(

If  you’re arachnophobic, best to back out slowly now…

If, on the other hand, you thought I might have stuffed a toff along with a gun, his horse and beagle into my worm farm, then no,  that’s not quite the case.

I was, in fact happily feeding my worms yesterday, spreading around vege scraps and making sure that the worms were cosily blanketed under their towel when something caught my eye.

A huntsman.

A big hairy spider.

A big hairy spider…that looks to be an expectant mother of 200 odd babies.

In my worm farm. Making her home.

Yes I am a sook when it comes to spiders, an antipodean arachnophobe. I know it is not the tropics here (where spiders come in  the size of small cars) but this is still not the place to live if spiders make you queasy. And spiders do make me queasy. Especially ones that can easily be as big as your hand.

Wikimedia Commons image by Bryce McQuillan of a female Hunstman. This one is Delena cancerides, the Social Huntsman.

I am writing this post because I am going to try to live with Henrietta Huntsman. No, not literally, but I am going to try to make my peace with the fact that she is a good bug, not a bad bug. She will keep my worm farm fly free. She will not look for trouble. She will sit in her little corner waiting for the big day. When the big day comes and I open the worm farm…I will run away screaming hysterically. But then I will pick myself up, telll myself that this is all part of nature’s miracle and calmly find a way to live with 200 little huntsmen in my worm farm.

I don’t think they eat worms.

For those interested in the life and times of these hairy minibeasts, huntsmen are found in many countries other than Australia, but you can read more about our particular varieties here, I think Henrietta is Holconia montana. The Museum Victoria site I’ve linked to calmly notes that they “…occassionally enter vehicles, causing much alarm”.

Ladybirds to the rescue!

It’s a classic case of ‘better late than never’, but the cavalry has arrived in the rose garden. A couple of days I was out mooching around the garden (I seem to do that a lot lately) and I found this…

Yellow Shouldered Ladybird...hairy, isn't it?!

Now this little creature is tiny even by ladybird standards, probably only about 4 or 5mm long, so I had to look very closely before I even decided it was a ladybird!

Same bug, better perspective of size against rose leaf. Thanks to David for the photo!

We haven’t noticed one of these before, but it turns out it is Apolinus lividigaster,  The Yellow Shouldered Ladybird which is a native Australian Ladybird. These little ladybird don’t waste their time eating anything else, they just like eating aphids! Yay!

Next we discovered some even better news, one of the ladybirds that had visited recently was a Mum. We know this because we have ladybird larvae busily eating aphids too. So she was a timely arrival with a lovely gift for Mother’s Day 😀

What we don’t know yet is if Mum was a Yellow Shouldered Ladybird or a different type. The photos I’ve found of the larvae of Yellow Shouldered Ladybirds look to have different markings to the ones below, so I think we have a different ladybird at work here. We are hoping to see them pupate so we can find out for sure.

Ladybird larvae, but which ladybird?

If you haven’t seen the larvae of a ladybird before, you might have been surprised to see how different they look to their fully grown selves, I know I was the first time! These are about six times the size of the adult Yellow Shouldered Ladybirds, so it will be fascinating to find out which variety they are!

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers celebrating the day in your part of the world this weekend, I hope your beneficial ladybirds are plentiful!

*****

Changing the subject back to blog re-design questions for a moment, this time I’m looking at the font. It seems that the font size and design cannot be changed on this particular page layout. How do you find it to read? Is it too small?

cheers,

Heidi

One Little Ladybug

In my last post I was bemoaning our loss of ladybugs from the garden over the last year or so. We love ladybugs in our house. Not only do they eat the aphids, but they use our ‘Mother Maple’ tree as a nursery and my daughter (our mini entomologist) just loves studying their life cycle.

But guess what?

While I was mooching about the roses – wishing the little wasps would eat the aphids a bit faster (yes, I know, patience is a virtue, but those nasty little critters are eating my roses!) what should I spy?

One little ladybug...lots of little aphids!

One little ladybug, all on her own. I searched high I searched low, but still only ever found one. Maybe she is the promise of ladybugs to come?

Rose Diary. A Parasitic Wasp That is a Friend to the Roses.

Week Two of my Rose Diary…

Over the last couple of weeks many of the roses have started to sprout new growth for an autumn flush. I’ve really only just learnt that I should do a summer pruning (which is not quite as hard as a winter one) so they can be at their best, but I’ve left it too late this time around. Next year. Already I have a lot of jobs on the list for next year!

New rose growth has attracted a stack of aphids. Us rose gardeners can have a reputation for being pretty quick to reach for the spray, but I don’t.

Aphids having a lovely time muching my roses

Aphids having a lovely time munching on my roses.

I am fortunate that if I wait a beneficial insect in the form of a little parasitic wasp (Aphidius rosae) will turn up and deal with the aphids. These wasps are an introduced biological control.

An adult Aphidius Rosae circled. Notice the pale aphid 'mummies' above it.

It can seem like an age for the wasps to turn up while the aphid population explodes, but they are usually here within a week of an aphid outbreak and the aphids are then gone within a week or two.

The wasps manner of dealing with the aphids is quite gruesome. They lay their eggs inside the aphid and the aphid then provides food for the wasp larva. You can read more about it here.

Most years I can also rely on ladybugs coming to the rescue too, but this year we’ve barely seen them and we’re all still a bit sad about that.

Anyway, time to look at what the next lot of roses are doing today. These ones are scattered around the side and back of the shed.

As an aside – I keep mucking up the layout of the tables which seem to limit where I can edit, so this diary entry will end abruptly after the last table!

Rose/breeder Kathryn Morley (Austin)
Type / Colour Many petalled English rose / Soft shell pink
Position North/West facing – beside robinia (part sun)
Condition Quite tall (over 1 metre), getting a bit leggy. Doing quite ok, but I reckon it will thrive in a better position.
Perfume? Yes, soft
In flower? No, a couple of buds

Camp David, as high as the shed.

Rose/breeder Camp David (?)
Type / Colour Hybrid tea / deep red
Position West facing behind the shed
Condition Thriving, can get close to two meters if let go, can produce more long stemmed blooms than it can support if not kept in check.
Perfume? Yes, quite strong
In flower? Yes
Rose/breeder Lorraine Lee

(Alistair Clarke – Australian bred rose)

Type / Colour Climber, tea shaped buds / pink with an apricot tinge
Position West facing behind the shed
Condition Monster climbing rose! Flowers sporadically but over many months. Beautiful buds, but they don’t last in the vase.
Perfume? faint
In flower? No

Abraham Darby, quite an apricot shade at this time of year.

Rose/breeder Abraham Darby (Austin)
Type / Colour Many petalled English rose/ varies from pink early in season to  more apricot later.
Position West facing behind the shed
Condition A big thriving plant over a metre high and wide. Flowers repeatedly and generously
Perfume? Yes, just divine!
In flower? Yes

William Shakespeare March 2010

Rose/breeder William Shakespeare (Austin)
Type / Colour English Rose / crimson
Position North/West facing – beside smaller Japanese maple (part sun)
Condition Very good. Quite tall (over 1 metre). Quite a bit of new growth, getting a tad leggy.
Perfume? Yes
In flower? Yes, buds present
Rose/breeder Camille Pissaro  (Delbard)
Type / Colour Cream and pink bicolour
Position North/West facing – beside false acacia (part sun)
Condition Poor. Not in a great position, but still the least successful when compared to those around it.
Perfume? No
In flower? No, a couple of buds

Fiona's Wish hiding her yellow centre

Rose/breeder Fiona’s Wish (?)
Type / Colour Hybrid tea / strong yellow dark pink edging
Position North/West facing – beside robinia (part sun)
Condition Ok, some new growth, but not really thriving
Perfume? Yes
In flower? Yes