Ups and downs: part 3
It sometimes seems as though every insect in the garden is a pest. So I am always so pleased to see ladybirds. Everyone knows what the adults look like but the crocodile-like larvae are less familiar. I have written about them before so you can check back so I don’t repeat myself. Even so I was pleased to see a pupa on an olearia leaf when I was staking the sunflowers that had collapsed under the weight of rain earlier in the week. They may look like something unpleasant but they will soon split open and out will run an aphid-munching machine.
But not all garden creatures are so welcome. Some of the most annoying pests are sawflies, a group of insects that are named for their saw-edged ovipositor but best known for their larvae, which are capable of stripping a plant of leaves in a few days. Most species are specific to certain plants and, once the eggs hatch, the larvae, which look like caterpillars, often with bright spots, just eat. They often arch their backs, adopting a ‘c’ shape when disturbed or threatened. Unless you are quick, you more often see the damage than the grubs because they will have eaten their fill and dropped to the ground where they pupate, to emerge as wasp-like adults in spring. I hate them.
Possibly the most annoying of all is Solomon’s seal sawfly but there can’t be any polygonatum in nearby gardens because, so far, my tiny plants are still leafy and not reduced to a wisp of veins. But I was shocked to find that my recently planted gooseberries have been attacked and they even had a taste of the jostaberry.
I was almost as disappointed to discover that another species had found some of my young birch. There are plenty of large birch trees around so it seemed especially mean to attack my saplings. By the time I noticed the damage the grubs were quite big. It is wishful thinking to expect the tits, which I help to survive the winter, would do anything as useful as eat the grubs but the larvae often secrete chemicals that make them distasteful.
On a more positive note, more of the daylilies have been blooming. I am pleased to say that, although hemerocallis gall midge is in Ireland, I have not seen any sign of them yet. These tiny pests lay eggs in the flower buds which then enlarge and are swollen, as they fill with tiny maggots. These drop to the soil to overwinter. I remember visiting a daylily garden many years ago and we cursed the pollen beetles that covered the blooms, having left the nearby fields of rape. But how I would rather cope with pollen beetles than gall midge.
Does the Hemerocallis gall midge eat the buds?
Gall midge does not eat the buds in the sense that they disappear. The grubs live inside young buds and the buds become deformed – usually fatter and shorter, as the grubs feed on the petal tissue inside. Then the buds drop off and the grubs pupate in the soil. They are serious because a severe infestation means that very few of the buds develop into open blooms. I hope you do not have any