Today we made a discovery that actually started my skin crawling.
Phil bumped our Purpleleaf Sand Cherry and several bright green critters came flying out. What were they all doing on our bush? It didn’t take long to identify them as lacewings, whose larvae are quite fond of aphids. Here’s a picture of one of our lacewings, with plenty of aphids in the shot as well (all the green spots on the undersides of the leaves, and check out the nice fat one on the stem).
It’s the aphids that are creeping me out. It didn’t help that I was sticking myself into the bush to try to get pictures. Now I keep imagining that I’ve got aphids all over my body.
Of course, where there are aphids, there are ladybugs. Sure enough, I captured the likeness of this one heading towards a leaf covered with aphids. I believe it to be a Hippodamia convergens (although I’m not 100% certain of this identification. Any help is appreciated.)
An adult ladybug can eat up to 100 aphids in a day, or 5,000 in its lifetime.
- They will play dead when faced with a predator.
They produce a bad smell from fluid from leg joints, probably as another way to protect themselves from being eaten.
Ladybugs hibernate in the winter.
Plants that attract ladybugs include cilantro, yarrow, coreopsis, cosmos, and dandelions.
I can’t resist sharing one more photo. Here’s our same ladybug, on a different leaf. This shows the honeydew that is coating the plant. That’s the sugary waste left by aphids. Yum!
Some tidbits about honeydew:
Certain species of honey bees collect it to make honey, which is prized in Europe and Asia for its medicinal value!
Ants also collect and even milk honeydew. The ants, in turn, help the aphids by chasing away ladybugs.
Adult lacewings feed on honeydew. (Note that it is only their larvae that eat the aphids themselves.)
Honeydew can lead to sooty mold. This site offers information on identifying it, and a recipe for cleaning it from plastic or painted surfaces.
So what do I plan to do about my aphid invasion? Nothing. So long as I see the ladybugs and lacewings in the vicinity, I will trust them to take care of it.