We started doing some landscaping of our property last year. We had the help of a contractor which is good because neither my husband or myself are handy that way. There is a small section in the backyard, that once was lawn, where I wanted to have something low maintenance and drought tolerant. I did not want to have to hire a gardener again or mow and water a lawn. So for the small plot in the back, I picked out ground cover , and my husband and I chose plants, and some fruit trees to add to the succulents and trees that were already there. We put in more succulents, sage, and few other flowering plants. I planted the woolly thyme ground cover myself. On the whole, everything we planted seems to be doing well. Some of the trees and bushes in our backyard were already there when we bought the house many years ago, and I did not know anything about them. I decided I wanted learn and I started doing some research. My daughter recommended an App for my android that helps to identify plants and trees. So I started making observations and taking photos to see what I had growing in my yard. There is a tree, near one wall, that a gardener had said was a Manzanita. Every winter it has small red berries that the birds and squirrels like to eat. I noticed the tree was starting to flower again with small unopened buds. I took a photo of the tree and used my new App to see if I could get it identified. The App was not able to give me an answer so I had to take my research online. I looked at many websites, studying many descriptions and images of leaves and trees. I had noticed that there was this cotton-y like fluff scattered on a few branches. At first I thought it was part of the tree. I was excited when I finally identified my tree as a Pyracantha. One thing mentioned in the description of the tree was thorns which I hadn’t noticed initially. It does have sharp thorns. I found out what the cotton-y fluff was too. It was not part of the tree but something produced by a type of aphid called woolly apple aphid. Yikes, how was I going to get rid of these aphids? Further research led me to aphid predators. I found out there are wasps who lay their eggs in the aphids and turn them into aphid mummies. Other predators of the aphids are syrphid or hover flies, ladybugs, earwigs, and green lacewings. I found something else on a few of the leaves, a reddish dusty looking coating. Turned out that was spider mites. This was getting upsetting because I did not want aphids and spider mites to eat my tree. I did decide to prune a small branch that had more aphids and spider mites than some of the other branches. I wanted to control these little invaders without using pesticides. More research led me to Neem Oil, which is organic. I have to be careful with it because it can hurt the ‘good’ insects and bees. I have decided to hold off on the Neem Oil a bit because I have observed natural predators on my tree. I have been so excited to see syrphid flies and a few green lacewings landing on the branches. I have gone from being a novice gardener to an amateur entomologist in just a few weeks.
My contribution to the My Stuff Writing Challenge on Almost Iowa @almostiowa.com. Featured image ‘Juene femme lisant dans un jardin’ by Henri Lebasque via Wikimedia.