With weather conditions so dry this year, we’re seeing more aphids on the fruit trees and on our favas than we have in a while. Aphids chew on leaves, sucking them dry so that the leaves can’t photosynthesize as well. That makes the fruit not as sweet and not as big. Not good!
Luckily, the local ladybug population is booming–aphids’ natural enemy! Take a walk around the orchard and you’ll see them on practically every tree–evidence of a thriving, self-regulating ecosystem. The orchard is not only safe and nontoxic due to our organic practices, but also lush and full of life because we aim to be regenerative as well. We even spotted some hatching ladybug larvae in the garden, which was an exciting sight to be sure.
L: Ladybug and dead aphids on a leaf ; R: live aphids on apricot leaf
Although we’re happy with the ladybug activity, there are a few additional (organic!) things we can do to take the pressure off these friends and help fortify the trees even more. To start, last week we released red-lipped green lacewing larvae on our favas as a natural control for aphids. The two are natural enemies. Apparently the green lacewings can eat up to 200 aphids in a week! Our hope is that the green lacewings will keep them in check. The larvae are contained within these little cocoon-like shells. We’re eagerly awaiting them to hatch, which will happen in the next couple weeks.
L: Rachel releasing lacewing larvae; R: lacewing larvae in their cocoons on our fava plants
This kind of bug vs. bug strategy to control pests is all part of our “Integrated Pest Management,” which considers the ecosystem of the farm as a whole rather than simply treating individual pest problems as if they existed in a vacuum. We think of it as treating the health of the whole, not just the symptoms. That’s when you start to see ladybug populations thriving on their own with no need for help from us.
Where insecticides are expensive and build up pest immunity (causing farms to need apply more and more each year), an integrated approach involving a pest’s natural predator is a great way to regulate the health of our orchard without toxic intervention. Plus, it’s just cool!