Where There’s Smoke

Aphids and AntsThere’s sure to be a fire.

In this case, long trails of ants paint a smoky trail to the real hot menace: aphids.

By themselves, ants don’t pose all that much of a threat. Sadly, this rarely means one can rest easy. Nature, the wonderful beast that she is, always has a plan. You see, ants like to feed on the sweet stuff (honeydew) that aphids excrete — which means the army ants protect the aphids from natural predators. Which means lots of aphids.

Lots of aphids means that great quantities of sap is slurped from leaves, leaving them curled, dessicated, and unhappy. As if that isn’t enough, aphids may also contribute to the spread of cucumber mosaic virus.

Ants and Aphids

Hi, I'm an aphid. Click on my picture. It's worth it to see my antennae and cornicles.

So, yeah, it’s important to get rid of the sap suckers.

The best method for removing aphids (supposedly) involves spraying the leaves with a steady stream of water to wash the aphids and honeydew from the leaves. Unfortunately, the little blue deck isn’t reachable by hose. Ladybugs love to eat aphids, but you could count the ladybugs this urban garden sees on your fingers.

So what’s a container gardener to do? These buggers, which may produce up to twelve off-spring per day, are tenacious. So, try fighting fire with fire.

POD’s Pest Potion:

  1. Combine 1 c. stems, seeds, leaves, flowers of thyme, lavender, and yarrow (handily, all are grown on or around POD) with
  2. A couple of tbs of coffee grounds
  3. Allow the herbs and coffee to steep for 24-hours
  4. Strain the solution, discarding or composting the herbs
  5. Add 1/4 c. milk to the solution and 1 tbs. natural dishwashing solution, castile soap, or Neem oil
  6. Pour the potion into a spray bottle
  7. Shake
  8. Spray the infected plants thoroughly, making sure you hit the undersides of the leaves

Next year, try planting chives, basil, mint, or marigolds alongside the cucubmers and melons to discourage infestation in the first place.

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