Attack of the Aphids
The past four weeks have been a constant battle between me and the aphids. The aphids want to feast on the leaves of my knock out roses, leaving them bare-branched and naked. I obviously don't want the aphids to do this. Seven out of twelve of the bushes are infested. Four of them are critically infested and suffering severely from their wounds.
Here is a shot of aphids trying to take down some fresh rosebuds. They prefer the fresh growth, because it is more tender and therefore easier to suck the "juice" from.
I had gone through four bottles of Garden Safe organic insecticide, but the aphids still seemed to have the upper hand. I almost gave in to a moment of weakness as I spotted a bottle of Sevin at the check-out line at Lowe's. Do I love my roses enough to torture the environment with such a harsh chemical as carbaryl? Luckily, I was distracted by an alternative 2-in-1 fertilizer / insecticide produced by Bayer (who also markets Sevin). I remember Linda Cobb mentioning that she uses this product in her own rose garden, so I decided to shell out the $12 and give it a try.
The active ingredient in this product is disulfoton, which targets "sucking" insects. Sucking insects are the bad insects, because they are the ones that suck the life out of plants. Be sure to read the warnings on the label, because until the soil is dry, this product is toxic to humans and pets. I also learned that it is toxic to birds, which really makes my stomach turn, because we do have some birds that like to romp around under the roses. I really hope they are playing in someone else's roses today.
The product is in granule form, and claims to protect and feed for 6 weeks. I got up early this morning to work in my rose garden and sprinkled one cap full per rose bush (as directed), worked the granules lightly into the soil and gave the roses a good watering. Even if this product works, I will not reapply it in 6 weeks, but use a regular fertilizer instead. I just don't like putting harsh chemicals into the soil, and aphid season should be finished up by then. This product was a last ditch effort at controlling a critical aphid problem, and I admit that I am somewhat ashamed to be using it.
As I was applying the new product, I noticed that the aphid problem seems to be subsisting quite a bit, but that the roses are now covered with a new kind of bug - a six-legged black and orange insect with a hairy-looking body.
These bugs are ugly, so they must be bad, right? After consulting the trusty Internet, I found that these are ladybug larvae! There is no scene more pleasing in the garden than a slew of ladybugs. I bet they have been having a good old time munching away on the smorgasbord of aphids provided by my roses!
With the help of the ladybugs and insecticide, I think I finally have a handle on the aphid problem. I just hope the insecticide doesn't kill the ladybugs too. I'm not sure if ladybugs eat dead aphids, and if so, will the dead aphids pass the toxins on to them. I have not been able to find information on the Internet regarding these questions. If anyone has insight into this, please do share.