Sunday, April 7, 2013

Don't Mess With My Citrus, Aphids

This would have been a nice innocuous post about my little lemons and oranges that are starting to form.

My first little lemon forming
That is until I was looking at my pictures last night on the computer.

My oranges look a lot like little pumpkins
I remembered seeing the little ant when I was taking the shot, but then I zoomed in to see how detailed a picture it was.

My friends, those are aphids.  3 of them.  The ant is actually protecting them, hearding them like a cowboy.  You see, the ant likes the honeydew they produce.  He will gather it and bring it back to his colony.  He will also carry aphids to other plants to start new problem colonies.

Today I went back out to see assess the situation.

Same leaf and maybe even the same ant
I now have 8 aphids.  The math makes sense.  In the spring, aphids have about 5 live young a day (3 plus 5 equals 8, right?).  It's not in focus, but one of the aphids below the ant is actually giving birth to another sap sucking pest.  The young are alive AND pregnant so the colony builds at an exponential rate.  So glad I found them early.

I didn't want to use anything too harsh since I have birds and beneficial bugs that may be frequent visitors to my little orchard, let alone the fact that I don't want to eat fruit from my own garden that is covered in pesticides.  I went with a water and soap solution.  This will wash off the waxy coating on the little destroyers and cause them to dehydrate and die.

Some websites suggest only a couple teaspoons of soap, others a half and half ratio of soap to water.  I winged it.

I now have the cleanest oranges and lemons in town.

I sprayed the underside of the leaves where the aphids gather, but a lot of over spray fell on the tops.  I will check frequently to see how things are going.  Next time, if I need to treat again  in a week.  I will use soap, vegetable oil, and warm water.  This clogs their respiration.