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.
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.
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?