It became much more personal this week though, when my beloved sunflowers were attacked by a mountain of aphids. I wasn't sure what it was at first, but through the help of facebook friends and google searches, I have come to the conclusion that it is a combination of ants and aphids. A gal at our local garden center confirmed for me yesterday that the wet spring and summer we are having also attracts a large aphid population.
Here is the lowdown from
Insects About Com
Where there's sugar, there's bound to be ants. Some ants are so hungry for the honeydew, they'll actually "milk" the aphids to make them excrete it. The ants use their antennae to stroke the aphids, stimulating them to release the honeydew. Some aphid species have lost the ability to poop on their own, and now depend on their caretaker ants to milk them.
Aphids suck the sugar rich fluids from their host plants. Because these liquids are low in nitrogen, the aphids must consume large quantities of them to gain adequate nutrition. The aphids then excrete equally large quantities of waste, called honeydew, which is high in sugar content.
There are ants aplenty in my garden and I have seen them crawling all over my sunflowers. While I mean them no harm, an attack on the garden I have lovingly tended seems rather threatening! And I do love sunflowers - they are so cheerful in the yard and mine have self-seeded themselves and line my walkway down to the garden area. Each year they bring color to our house and attract the most lovely birds. It seems like planted sunshine!
My dear husband suggested we pull them out but I was not willing to part with them just yet. While the war is on, I am refusing to use pesticides this year. For the sake of our grandchildren, and for our health and for the good of the earth. So I have been finding some interesting remedies! Yesterday I learned (thanks google!) that both ants and aphids hate peppermint so I took the peppermint extract from my kitchen and planted drops on all my affected plants. I'm considering buying big peppermint plants and planting them strategically around all affected areas. (Peppermint tea, anyone?) I also had been washing them down with soapy water - my mom suggested Murphy's Oil Soap, so they got a taste of that too. I also had heard cornmeal is good for ridding ants of a certain area, so I sprinkled it everywhere!
Then it rained! So I will try again today... Yesterday it seemed like the ants fled and the ladybugs had arrived, and since I know ladybugs love to eat aphids, I thought perhaps we were getting somewhere!
The whole realm of nature is so fascinating, I can see why biologists and gardeners and entomologists (a new word I've learned means an expert on bugs!), spend a lifetime trying to understand it. For me it all points to a Creator who is mysterious and mighty and creative and beyond our understanding. Amazing, really!