A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘hoverfly’

In the Garden 3.26.11

I have finished transplanting all of the veggies for the spring garden.  In my little plot, I have 2 tomatoes (celebrity and early girl), 2 bell pepper (green, cal wonder), 2 jalapeno, 2 habanero, 2 cucumber, 1 squash (yellow crookneck), 1 zucchini, 1 watermelon (crimson) and 1 cantaloupe.   Right now there is quite a bit of space between the plants in the 4′ x 8′ plot, but I’m sure space will be a premium in a couple short months.  I totally forgot to take photos, so I’ll have to update the blog later this week with pictures.

The herb garden is also expanded this year.  Throughout the garden, I now have:  1 culinary sage, 5 parsley, 2 dill, 2 fennel, 2 tarragon, 3 oregano, 4 thyme, 6 chives, 2 rosemary and 2 basil plants.    Sadly, my marjoram plant from last fall died, so I’ll have to get another one.  I’ve found that growing herbs is a very worthwhile investment.  We use a lot of herbs.  In fact, we use one or more of these herbs on a daily basis, so having them at our fingertips is quite helpful.  From a cost perspective, organic herbs at the grocery store can run between $4 and $6/jar.   If I buy fresh, organic herbs cost about $3 for a small handful.  By the time they reach the store, they aren’t always in the best condition either.  Having our own garden means we have our own fresh herbs whenever we need them.  If we want, we can also dry sprigs to put in jars for later use.  Most of the plants cost less than $3 each, and will produce many harvests – many will produce over a number of seasons because they are very hardy.   They are also very low maintenance plants that are fairly drought resistant.  If you are new to gardening, I really recommend starting an herb garden.

I’m happy to report that the lantana plant, which I feared dead, has sprouted some nubs of green growth.  Thanks, Carolyn, for urging me to give it more time.  It’s a few weeks behind the other bush right next to it, but should catch up quickly.

I have a few milkweed seeds that have germinated.  The rest of them should be coming up soon, too.  I’ll let them grow for about four weeks before I transplant them in their final destination along the northern fence line.  It looks like I have about ten that made it through the winter and have another twenty cuttings on order, so I should have a total of about forty to fifty total plants in bloom by mid-summer.

The four-nerve daisy plant is going crazy!  I can tell it’s ecstatic that spring has arrived!  Can you?

My wife has a pot of amaryllis bulbs we’ve been meaning to separate into different pots for some time now.  She got them from her grandmother in Houston, who’s been holding on to them for years.  Before that, they came from my wife’s great-grandmother’s garden.  (If we have a girl in May, we’ll give the baby my wife’s great-grandmother’s name, Eve, as well as my mother’s maiden name, Rose.)  Although we haven’t separated the bulbs, we are happy to say that one of them has started blooming this spring.   Is this her way of saying she approves??  We’d love to think so!  I still hold out hope for a boy … 🙂

There’s really not much else to report.  I had some fun photographing a hoverfly that seemed to really enjoy the euryops flowers, spending the better part of an hour flitting from flower to flower.  He was wary of me and often hovered just above me as I readjusted myself to take photos.  I sure wish I had a macro lens to get in really close and capture more detail.  These are the best I could come up with!


Garden Life at Morning Light

I spent some time Saturday and Sunday mornings photographing our garden’s visitors.  The Honey Bees and Bumble Bees were very active this weekend, while the Monarch cats were busy munching almost all day long.  Here they are with a few other guests (click on any pic to view a larger, more detailed photo):

Honey bee on Indigo Spires salvia

Monarch caterpillar munching on Butterfly Weed

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed

Honey bee on Whirling Butterflies gaura

Grasshoppers "playing piggyback"

Monarch caterpillar resting on underside of milkweed leaf

Serphid fly nectaring on milkweed flower

Green Anole catching some rays

Monarch caterpillar looking for breakfast

Bumble Bee on Indigo Spires salvia - disturbing something else!

Quarter-sized green Lynx Spider - yes they do kill and eat Bumble Bees

Beneficial Insect Files: Syrphid Fly (a.k.a. Flower Fly, a.k.a. Hoverfly)

Good and Bad Bugs

Every garden is teeming with insect life, both beneficial and harmful.  In a balanced environment, insect populations are held in check by limited available food and water sources and by predators.  In a cultivated environment, however, gardeners introduce a host of plants to an area that are quite attractive to harmful insects that seek out those plants for food.  In order to control these pests, gardeners have typically used chemical treatments and insecticides.  Unfortunately, insecticides do not target solely the harmful pests.  Beneficial insects such as butterflies and honeybees are also affected by these chemicals, reducing their populations as well.  Because the natural food source (i.e. the cultivated plants) remains, and beneficial, predatory insect populations have been reduced by insecticides, however, the gardener has to continually apply insecticides to keep the harmful insect population in check.

It is good news that more and more gardeners are steering clear of synthetic chemicals, choosing instead to grow their gardens organically.  In so doing, they are turning to a variety of natural pest-control products such as garlic and soap sprays, Diatomaceous earth, and neem, as well as plants that deter bugs like marigolds and certain herbs.   Another form of insect control is the cultivation and introduction of even more bugs into your garden.

What?! More Bugs?

Beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, predatory wasps and mantis all help protect your garden by feeding upon the insects that do your plants harm.   Ladybugs, for example, feed voraciously on the soft bodies of aphids.  Aphids have specially-designed mouths which allow them to suck nutrients out of the stems and leaves of plants.  As aphids feed, they secrete “honeydew”, which is attractive to sugar ants and even some predatory insects like hoverflies.  Aphids reproduce by the hundreds and it takes little time for an entire population of aphids to destroy vegetation by injuring the plant repeatedly and stealing its nutrients.  Aphid bites are also a vector for disease such as the mosaic virus, which is deadly for certain plants like cucumbers and squash.  Ladybugs, however, make quick work of aphids, disposing of nearly one every minute by piercing their soft bodies and sucking them bone-dry.


Syrphid larvae feeding upon aphids (click image for source)


Beneficial Insect Spotlight: The Syrphid Fly

The Syrphid Fly is also called the “Flower fly” because adult syrphids can often be seen feeding upon the nectar of flowers.  Syrphids are also commonly referred to as hoverflies, aptly named for their ability to hover effortlessly above surfaces like a dragonfly.  They also have extraordinary dexterity, allowing them to fly backwards and side-to-side with as much ease.   At first glance, hoverflies resemble wasps and bees because of their colored bands  but these insects are entirely harmless as they can’t bite or sting (1).  They can easily be identified from bees and wasps because hoverfly have two wings (not four), which are held out to the side when at rest (bees and wasps fold their wings behind them)(2).

Syrphids are considered beneficial insects for two reasons:  adult flies are important pollinators, while larvae are heavy feeders on aphids.  Adult syrphids lay eggs in or near aphid populations, and larvae appear within three days.  (3)  Hoverfly develop in the larvae stage from seven to fourteen days, during which they consume up to thirty or more aphids per day.   During its larvae stage alone, one  hoverfly can consume over four hundred aphids! (4)  Then they enter the pupa stage for 1-2 weeks before emerging as adults when they feed on nectar and honeydew.  In addition, these insects can reproduce up to seven times a year, providing much protection from aphid populations throughout the growing season.  (5)

The Toxomerus Hoverfly (Toxomerus marginatus) is a species that rivals ladybugs with its ability to eat over an aphid an hour.  (6).  It is similar to the American Hoverfly, but it can be identified by a centered black dot near the abdomen.  (7)

If you want to attract the Syrphid family to your garden, plant cornflower, alyssum, calendula, dill, marigold, cosmos, zinnia, lavender, lemon balm, yarrow, penstemon and parsley.  The flowers of these plants are important nectar sources for the adult hoverfly.  (8)

Below are images of the Toxomerus Hoverfly, seen feeding on a newly emerged cornflower in our wildflower bed: