Ladybugs Arrive | Juan Cabrillo

Funny how one way to attract (and keep!) good bugs in the garden is to have bad bugs first…

Juan Cabrillo has had an aphid problem for some time now. Frank and I tried solving the problem by a) pulling out hopeless plants b) planting things that would deter them like onions and flowers. And we almost bought ladybugs, who love to eat aphids.

Well, over winter break a remarkable thing happened. The artichoke that was cut back in late summer suddenly came back! It is now so huge that it covers more than half of a garden bed.

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Last week, Frank and I noticed that a bunch of bees were hangin’ out on the artichoke leaves. With the recent rain, I figured they were collecting water from the creases in the leaves. But apparently the leaves were sticky. It was hard to figure out from what.

This week, we realized it’s simply aphid juice.

You see – when aphids suck juice from plants, they leave a trail of stickyness behind which then attracts other animals to either lick up that stickiness or follow the trail to another snack: The aphid itself.

Ladybugs eat aphids. It’s their breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s their midnight snack. Ladybugs, in all stages of their lifecycle, eat around 50 aphids a day!

So our aphid problem actually attracted ladybugs — and now they’re all over the place! Many students spied some ladybugs mating (and even saw some teeny larvas) which is a healthy sign that we’ll have more of these beneficial creatures.

It’s also a sign for a healthier garden 🙂

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Lastly, we planted pumpkins with the recess kids. A pumpkin had sprouted in the compost pile so, even though it’s not the season for this fruit, we will see what happens!

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– Ranger Hope