July – six legs and eight.

Ladybird larvae looking for greenfly.

Ladybird larvae looking for greenfly.

Last summer my beautiful pink rose bush kindly accommodated a host of wandering greenfly.  Well to be fair, it didn’t discriminate between greenfly or blackfly and soon every available space was occupied.  A friend asked me if I ever used liquid soap solution to get rid of these unwanted visitors.  ‘No, I just leave them,’ I said.  I held up one of the branches and showed her all the new blooms waiting to emerge and said, ‘The rose doesn’t seem to mind, so why should I?’  About a week later there were new visitors.  With their distinctive orange and black coats the ladybird larvae were  making short work of the many aphids to be had.  They spent quite a few weeks munching their way up one branch and down another, then they all disappeared.  I searched the branches for them and found only a single hard case standing up on end.  I watched and waited for a ladybird to emerge from this case, but when I finally had the courage to touch it, I realised that it was already empty.  My ladybirds had flown.   So far this summer there have been far fewer greenfly and up to now, no ladybird larvae.  I will keep an eye out for them and certainly won’t spoil their dinner with any soapy water.

Stunning rose bush - totally pesticide free.

Stunning rose bush – totally pesticide free.

The ladybirds weren’t the only ones to benefit from the greenfly.  The well organised ants set up a rota to harvest the sweet nectar produced by the greenfly faeces.  One trail led up and another led down as the ants efficiently took advantage of the windfall.  None of this seemed to be of any concern to the host however, who continued to produce stunningly beautiful flowers all summer.  Everything in nature serves a purpose and we need to know when to keep our pesky pesticides to ourselves.

 

The penthouse suite of spider locations in my garden is directly above the compost bin.  Every time I lift the lid the small fruit flies swarm out and provide a direct delivery service.  The spider who secures this location generally grows big, fat and lazy, leaving small flies unattended for days on end due to surplus supply.  Last summer however, the penthouse occupant made a significant error in his web design as he continually used the lid of the compost bin as one of his anchor points.  Every time I lifted the lid his web collapsed.  After this happened a few times and he didn’t get the message, I decided to step in and placed a long stick above the bin lid so that he could use this as a purchase point.  This worked a treat and he continued to flourish well into the autumn months.  This year I put the stick back in anticipation of a new tenant, but so far I have had no takers.  In fact there are only a few spiders in the whole garden, which is a bit worrying.   I think that both the spiders and the greenfly have been affected by the cold spring weather and late summer.

The presently unoccupied spider penthouse suite.

The presently unoccupied spider penthouse suite.

Spiders are an important part of the food chain.  They eat up lots of other insects who would overrun our houses if left unchecked.  They also provide a valuable source of protein for small birds such as sparrows and robins who need more than just a seed based diet.  Even if you will never come to love spiders, you can give them some respect for all the hard work that they do.    interesting facts about spiders

If I find a spider in the house I simply catch it in a tub and slide some paper underneath so I can carry it outside.  It must be horrible to be flushed down the loo, or washed down the plug hole.  As far as I know most spiders don’t choose to go swimming.  Our kitchen conservatory roof had a space running between the glass and the walls which was stuffed with polystyrene.  This made the perfect hideout for Boris, the bravest spider I have ever known.  He was not a huge spider; he had a bulbous black body but only short legs.  He lived in the corner by the back door and he couldn’t have found a better spot.  All the stray flies who wandered into the house ended up hitting their heads against the glass roof right outside his front door.  He didn’t make a web, so when he heard them crashing about he would leap out and fight them into submission.  Bluebottles, even large ones, didn’t stand a chance.  They would be bitten, paralysed and then rolled up into a ball for later consumption.  From time to time Boris would attack a bee and then all hell would be let loose as the bee buzzed furiously in a fight for life.   On these occasions I would jump to my feet and stand on a chair in order to rescue the bee from the clutches of Boris.  This would often take quite some time as Boris was reluctant to give up his prize and the stupid bee would often fly back into his waiting arms after I had released him.   I used the brim of my hat and I would put it between the two combatants.  The bee, once fully detached from Boris’s clutches would often be covered in sticky web and was unable to fly away.  I would set them down on the garden table and watch as they used their back legs to gradually comb the silk from their bodies.  Once their wings were free, they would give a few practice buzzes before finally taking off.   Boris lived in our roof for a couple of years, which is a good life for a spider.  I appreciate all the work he did keeping our kitchen free from insects, but I don’t miss the battle of the bees.

Just today I noticed the ladybird larvae have returned to the pink rose bush.  They are wandering up and down looking for food and some have ventured over to the neighbouring clematis due to a shortage of tasty titbits.  I’m getting a bit concerned about their welfare. Do you think you can buy live greenfly on e-bay?

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15 Responses to July – six legs and eight.

  1. Gina Loxam says:

    Fascinating. I must confess there are fewer greenfly this year in my garden too. .I have a rustic arch with a rose growing over it and it used to be full of blue tits looking for insects.

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    • Della Law says:

      Sorry, just seen this message. I must be busy doing something else! The greenfly are starting to come back now but it might be too late for the larvae. They all seem to have disappeared. You have to get the timing right!

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  2. Della you have your own minuscule world over here and I think you should write a children’s picture book and make the spider your hero. My children love spiders as does my husband, unfortunately I have a fear of them, as long as they stay away from me we are all happy, needless to say my husband takes them out in a jar. I cant go near them. yet love seeing a spider web with dew drops I can appreciate that! Thanks for the read about your tiny interesting world.

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  3. Della Law says:

    Hi Kath, glad to hear that your spiders live in a no-kill zone. I know a lot of people have a fear of spiders, but I can’t really understand why. I think we just pass it on from one generation to the next. I don’t expect everyone to become spider lovers once they hear about Boris the bravest spider in the world, but just give a little more thought before they stamp, spray or squish.

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  4. Della, we use to have a large orb spider that used our balcony as her home, the children would sit by the window and wait for her to come down at night to weave a new web, she was huge as spiders go and I liked her as she stayed out side, one day she did not come down and the kids were sad, a few days later she returned and a few weeks later she had millions of babies, we loved watching them, our neighbor’s cringed at the millions of little spiders, one day they took to the wind. It is a memory we cherish and the kids still remember orby.

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  5. I agree! I think you need to write a children’s book. I have to explain to my students every year that bugs are SUPPOSED to live outside and that you are in their house when you’re out there. But spiders who come inside often get squished if I can’t get them outside in time. My daughter was bitten by a wolf spider while she was sleeping many years ago. The bite swelled up, made her very sick, and then she had a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotics the dr put her on. She was left with scar tissue on her neck that took medication to eliminate. It was a big ordeal that left her with a fear of spiders. i can’t say I blame her.

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    • Della Law says:

      I can understand your daughter’s fear of spiders. I’ve never seen a wolf spider but it sounds pretty fierce. In the Uk we don’t have any dangerous spiders really, but when I was in Australia I was a bit more careful with them. I’ll consider the idea of writing for children. I’ve read enough children’s books in my time to know the format. Thanks for dropping by Tammy.

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  6. Lotta Wanner says:

    In our house we always save spiders too, and anything else that has lost it’s way. Your roses look magnificent. Thanks for reading your post! 😃

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  7. Check out the Garden Love column on my blog. 🙂

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  8. An educative post Liked the photo of the rose bush.Do you also have beehives in the garden?

    Shakti

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    • Della Law says:

      Hi Shakti,

      No I don’t have any beehives, but I know that there are some nearby. Bees can travel up to seven miles to find food, but more likely they will forage within a mile or two of the hive. The further they travel the more energy they use, so it makes sense for them to go to the nearest location. My Mallow is out at the moment and attracting one or two bees on a continual basis. The beautiful rose bush you commented on is now in decline with rose petals scattered all over the ground like confetti. Thanks for your interest in my blog. New post coming any day soon!

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