Many Flies on Me

October 17, 2018

We’ve had good luck this summer with windowsill herbs in pots – some grown from seed, others rescued battery supermarket herb pots (top tip if you buy those herbs in pots – they’re always massively overcrowded so if you take out whole plants initially until the pot is more sensibly spaced out, the remaining plants should last the whole season). However, I noticed this morning that they had become somewhat infested with aphids so I stuck them all outside in a kill-or-cure measure.

A few hours later, I noticed that the plants were now buzzing with life – not bees, but flies, all apparently feasting on the honeydew* exuded by the aphids. I’d noticed the same flies flocking all over the flowering ivy and a spot of googling (I asked Twitter but it turns out that Twitter is better at ladybirds and fungi than flies) and this amazingly comprehensive site suggests it’s the charmingly named yellow dung fly.  Apparently they eat insects as well as nectar, when they’re not hanging out in cow pats, so hopefully they will deal with the aphids if the cold night doesn’t get to the basil first. I’d never heard of these creatures, which is a little odd considering they’re one of our commonest flies, but then again we’re all about the charismatic mega- and micro fauna round here, and flies just don’t have the same cachet (and besides, there’s zillions of them).

yellow dung fly

As an aside, how amazing is it that I could take this photo with the camera in my phone? We take for granted just how good the technology is these days … Also it helps when you work out how to turn the macro setting on.

Just in case the flies don’t do the job we also recruited a couple of ladybirds to the cause (I had originally picked a couple up in the woods, but it turns out that sluggish ladybirds wake up pretty quickly if you warm them up by holding them in your hands and that it is quite difficult to keep a lively ladybird trapped in your hands if you’re of a ticklish disposition. Fortunately there were more nearer to hand).

ladybird

Given all we read about the countryside becoming a ‘green desert’, I suppose it’s good to know that even in October our garden is still teeming with invertebrate life, even if they’re rather common and unglamourous flies, not to mention aphids. Good news for the birds and the other wildlife anyway, even if it ends up being curtains for the basil.

*I was slightly disturbed to learn that forest honey is in fact made from aphid honeydew rather than nectar, although I don’t really know why that should make it so much less appetising than the regular stuff.

Advertisements

Me and Julio Down by the Kail Yard

August 15, 2014

Heading up to pick kale for our supper tonight, I thought I might have solved the mystery of where all the caterpillars had gone, or rather one of them at least:

cabbage white butterfly

Under the netting was a cabbage white* butterfly. I don’t know if it was too chilly to move, or had died of loneliness (because there weren’t any others, nor any caterpillars either) but it stuck around long enough to get its portrait taken, and then be deposited well away from my brassicas.

aphids on kale

All is not entirely well with the kale though, with some of the tops of the plants infested with aphids of some sort. I just cut off the affected parts of the plant and chucked them away. It adds to my suspicion that netting brassicas causes as many problems as it solves. Especially if the butterflies keep turning up on the wrong side of the nets.

That said, there is still rather a lot of kale. Let the other half’s joy be unconfined.

lots of kale

* Pedantic entomologists will tell you that there is no such thing as a cabbage white butterfly. They can feel free to identify this one in the comments; until then, it’s a cabbage white.