The Aphid Infestation
So, we may have found another possible reason that my pansies died.
We discovered at the end of last week that most of our seedlings are covered in aphids.
Aphids are tiny little jerkfaces who poke holes in the leaves of your plants and suck out all the plant blood (yes, yes, I’m sure that aphids fill some sort of essential role in a balanced ecosystem, but right now I hate them). And they reproduce exponentially, sexually and asexually. In fact, most aphids born are female, and they are often born ALREADY PREGNANT. They are also strange bugs in that they deliver live young instead of laying eggs (though they do lay eggs in the fall which is their method of ensuring the next generation will survive, hatching in the spring). A baby aphid becomes an adult approximately a week after birth, and from then on can produce 5-10 babies per day, for up to 30 days! Also, some ants will farm and protect aphids?! Gross! Ants are the worst, next to aphids.
Anyway, our plants are infested with the buggers (aphids, I mean, though our yard is quite infested with ants too).
There are lots of theories out there about where aphids come from. Some people say it's because your plants are sickly and you didn't take good enough care of them. Some say they show up because of overwatering. Who knows.
There are as many theories about aphid control... Some people say that ladybugs are useless, and you should do companion plantings of plants that repel aphids (marigolds, apparently, repel everything), and plants that attract ladybugs. Or you should just take better care of your plants. Some swear by soap sprays, or insecticides (which kill all the insects, including the good ones), or just spraying your plants with a strong stream of water. Remember, I have seedlings, not healthy strong mature plants that could withstand hose pressure.
Last time my mum had an aphid infestation in the greenhouse she ordered 50,000 ladybugs (actually they're technically ladybeetles) and they took care of the problem. So we decided to do it again.
I found a link to 1000 live ladybugs from Costco. So I ordered it. It said it included free express shipping, yippee!! This morning my mum was wondering why we hadn't gotten a tracking number yet. So I sent Costco a message on their live chat support. Turns out something is messed up on the page. Costco doesn't ship ladybugs until June, and then it takes 7-10 days! Obviously, that order is now cancelled!
Then it was the mission to find a new supplier, STAT.
I found TheBugLady from Vancouver, BC. On the website, they have a map showing all the Garden Centres they supply. They supply Blue Grass Sod Farms (in Balzac). So I called the Blue Grass location in Red Deer thinking just maybe they would carry them as well... Nope.
Then I called the one at Balzac: "They're coming, but they've not arrived yet."
So then I called one of the centres in Edmonton: "We get them, but not until June!"
Anyway, I then called and left a message for The Bug Lady directly. I missed their call back later in the day, but my mum called them and was able to order 1000 ladybugs, to be delivered by Thursday, possibly earlier. We're crossing our fingers its Wednesday.
In the meantime, I had gone out digging around the leaf litter in our front flower bed. I woke up 15-20 hibernating ladybugs, plunked them into a jar together, and then carted them back to the greenhouse and dumped them into the plants. So, fingers crossed most of them will stay put, and at least put some effort into chomping away at aphids. And hopefully, give some of our plants a fighting chance.
All of my pansies are dead now, the last couple that had a bit of green are covered in aphids.
So, hopefully, my next blog post will be a happier one, showing lots of hungry ladybugs chowing down on aphids.