Blackfly Feastival

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This year has been the worst I can remember for Blackfly on my climbing French beans. The Black Bean Aphid, Aphis fabae, is the culprit and nothing I do seems to reduce the infestations. I don’t spray with chemicals so every control is organic or mechanical and despite washing them off with a hosepipe and rubbing them off with my fingers, they are back in even greater numbers the next day.DSC_0011

The bean harvest is in full swing but really, would you eat these?!DSC_0006                                   The upside, if there is one, is that I am supporting the local ladybird and hoverfly population as they and their larvae are having quite a feast themselves!

Ant Farmers?

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Is it just me or does anybody else find ants and aphids together? I am sure the ants are not eating the aphids, they seem to be fussing over them, ‘farming’ them as you would do if you kept livestock. 002

It may be a sugary excretion they like or something more sinister, but it seems everywhere I have aphids, green or black, I have ants. I got really close this morning and watched an ant stroking the aphid gently as if to reassure it. It was most odd!015

Or perhaps I am just making too much of it and they are deciding which one to eat!

Just found this article which seems to confirm the farming theory.

Problem Corner

017Each year I grow Lupins because they are a classic cottage garden plant. They are colourful, the bees love them and they are easy to grow. But I am getting fed up with the constant attacks of Lupin aphid.020

No matter what I do (apart from insecticides which I don’t use) it returns each day, devastating the stems and flowers. The sticky residue is unsightly and the flowers are ruined. I think they’ll have to go.045

The other problem is the powdery mildew which attacks the Knautia macedonica as a matter of course each year. I have always associated powdery mildew with dry soils, lack of air circulation and overcrowding but I reckon I could plant this Knautia anywhere and it would suffer. I believe it is systemic in this plant. I have seven plants in various positions and every plant has powdery mildew. It is such a shame but it too will have to go.