Still Waiting…

As we move into August, I’m still waiting for the monarchs.  Hopefully, they’ll be arriving within the next couple of weeks.   In the meantime, the aphid population is growing quickly and it’s too hot to do anything about it.  As I was perusing my Facebook page, I found this story from an unbelievable 8 years ago, when we were still living in FL.

As most of you know, Katie and I raise a lot of Monarchs butterflies, which requires a lot of milkweed.  We have around 40 plants.  I didn’t know that milkweed is a favorite of not only Monarchs, but flaming yellow aphids, too.  We had a bit of an issue last year, but kept them under control by washing them off with the hose.

This year has been much worse.  The dozens of plants that we added suddenly became home to zillions of aphids.  I mean seriously, the undersides of a lot of the leaves were nearly covered with them.  I’ve been blasting them off with the hose, but that wasn’t helping, they just came right back.  It was also an issue with the teeny caterpillars.  You can’t blast aphids without blasting the baby cats.

So, being the good natural gardener that I am, I went out yesterday and bought a pint of ladybugs.  1500, to be exact, if you trust the people that count them.  They said that there was no problem in just releasing them a few at a time, as they would be sluggish from being kept in the fridge.  They said to do it at about dusk or dawn and to wet the plants down first.

I had a dinner to go to last night, and didn’t get home until about 9:30.  So we turned on as much light as we could find, wet down the plants and opened the box.  I took the lid, which must have had at least a hundred and started at the far end of the row, leaving Katie with the box of bugs at the other end.  Within about 10 sec., I heard, “MOM!!! We have a PROBLEM!!”  In the dim light, she had not realized that there were loose wood shavings in the bottom of the box, and had dumped almost all of them on one plant.

I scampered down to where she was and there were ladybugs everywhere.  Really, I mean everywhere.  Apparently, in the FL heat (it was still about 84) it takes only a matter of seconds for them to go from refrigerator “sluggish” to “every bug for himself” at the speed of light.  I’m here to tell you, those little buggers can MOVE!

We started trying to corral them and move them to other plants, while also trying to get some back into the box and the lid on.  But no, that was not their plan.  They had ideas of their own.  Most of their plan seemed to be climbing all over us.  I could feel them crawling down my neck, up my sleeves, and anywhere else that a small bug could go.  So….I’m standing out on the patio in the dark, ripping off my pajama shirt, trying to track down the flippin’ ladybugs in near darkness.  In the meantime, we’re trying to get them redistributed over the plants.  When you’re standing, literally, half naked on your patio at about 11:00, covered with ladybugs, you can’t help but be laughing so hard it makes you even less functional.

Eventually, we managed to get some of them on each plant and some of them back in the box (but we just found out that there were probably only about 100 that we had managed to contain), and went back in the house.

Moments later, Katie was reporting that she had to scoop them out of her bra when she got in the house.  I didn’t stop thinking that I could still feel tiny legs all over for several hours.

This morning, I went out to check.  We had approximately 6 million flaming yellow aphids, and one ladybug.  So much for organic gardening.

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