Green flies on plants

How to Get Rid of Bottle Flies

Bottle flies also known as blow flies, is a bright blue green species of flies usually larger than a common house fly. These flies belong to the Calliphoridae family of flies, which are polyphyletic in origin (developed from more than one ancestral type). The most peculiar trait of these flies is that, they make a very audible buzzing sound while flying.

Bottle flies generally feed on garbage and decomposed meat and sometimes also on the wounds of live animals. The term blow fly has its roots in an old English term “fly blown”, which meant a piece of meat that had eggs laid on it. If by chance you find these flies inside your house then there must be a breeding patch somewhere inside your house.

These flies are categorized as pests as they transmit diseases by mechanical contamination of food, they are known to transmit disease causing microorganisms like – Salmonella, E-coli, etc.

Physical Appearance:

The most prominent feature in a blow fly for identification is its metallic blue green color. Their size varies from 6-14 mm. All the sub-species of bottle flies have blunt mouth parts and unlike horse flies they cannot bite.

Behaviour & Habitat:

Blow flies make an audible buzzing sound while flying and hence they can be very easily spotted. They generally breed near decaying meet or decomposed matter. They mostly infest wounds of cattle and lay their eggs in the open wounds.

Feeding Habits:

Bottle flies are scavengers and hence they feed on decaying meat or organic substances. They can also be seen on flowers where they consume carbohydrate rich nectar. Blow fly larvae feed on the dead tissues inside the carrion.

Life Cycle:

Bottle flies always breed during warmer months of an year. Both the initial stages of a bottle fly i.e. pupae and larva can withstand harsh winters but the adults cannot. A female bottle fly lays nearly 2000 to 3000 eggs in their lifetime the eggs. The eggs are pale yellow or gray in color.

The incubation period for these eggs is 4-5 days but in warm and humid climate it can be as low as 24 hours. After the eggs are hatched, the resulting larvae are rice shaped (9 – 22 mm) in length. Depending on the feeding site and on the substrate on which these larvae are feeding, maggots typically complete development within 4 to 10 days.

At the end of this period, the larvae burrow inside the tissue seeking pupation sites. The pupation period can be upto a week. Next, adult flies emerge from the pupa and the life cycle continues.

Damages:

  • Bottle flies can do mechanical contamination by moving between food and filth.
  • Bottle flies deposit eggs inside the wounds of animals this can cause infections and sometimes blood poisoning.
  • While feeding on the dead tissue they also tend to damage the healthy tissue inside the host’s body.

Signs of bottle fly infestation:

Before learning how to get rid of bottle flies lets understand how to identify the signs of bottle fly infestation. The most prominent signs of a bottle fly infestation are the adult flies. Adult flies can be seen resting on walls or near decaying matter. You can also spot bottle flies by their characteristic buzzing sound.

If you have identified their breeding source then you could also see the bottle fly larvae crawling near the breeding source. The bottle fly larvae are rice shaped and pale yellowish in color. The only visible feature of a blow fly is their head and their hook-like mouthparts.

How to get rid of Bottle flies:

For our convenience we will divide the process to get rid of bottle flies into two parts:

Part 1: Destroying the breeding source:

In this step we will see how to destroy the breeding source of a bottle fly. This is the first and foremost step in the process, without performing this step even if you use all the sprays and traps in the world to kill bottle flies, but they will continue to grow as their breeding source will be still intact. So, this is the most important step of the process:

  1. Identify the breeding source. As I have foretold, that bottle flies breed near decaying meat and decomposed matter. Find any place inside of nearby your house that is similar to it.
  2. Next, after you have identified such a place, clean it. Place the trash receptacle with a tight-fitting lid. If there is any rotten material at the place then dispose it off immediately.
  3. Clean the place with a borax and water solution. This removes the trace that flies leave to attract other flies to an area.

Part 2: Eliminating the Adult bottle flies:

After removing the bottle fly breeding source you will only be left with adult bottle flies. Since they now have no place to lay eggs, your bottle fly problem will disappear when these adults die. To kill these adult bottle flies you could use sprays, or swatters. Below is a list of some methods that you can use to kill them:

  1. Fly Papers: These papers produce a special scent that flies can’t resist. These papers are extremely sticky so that when a fly sits on its surface it gets stuck. These papers are commercially available at a very cheap price but you can also make one at your home.
  2. Disposable fly traps: Disposable fly tarps are plastic traps, when filled with water these produce a fragrance that lures the flies. Due to its construction, once a fly enters its body it cannot move outside and gets trapped.
  3. Chemical Sprays: There are some chemical sprays in market that kill bottle flies. These sprays usually have a quick response time and hence are preferred by many people. But I usually don’t prefer them because they are toxic and have a bad effect on the environment.

How to keep Bottle Flies from returning:

When you have removed all the bottle flies from your house it is still possible that they may invade your home again. So, follow these steps to keep them from returning:

  • Proper sanitation and garbage disposal.
  • Make sure that there is no dead animal carcass near your home. If there is one then make sure that you dispose it off properly.
  • Timely treat the wounds of your pets.
  • If the blow fly problem is severe then sprinkle your garbage cans with baking soda(generic) and poultry dust. Baking soda will dehydrate and deodorize while the poultry dust will kill any larvae if they hatch.

So, this was all from me. Hope you will find these tips helpful and do drop in your comments in case you to want to share anything.

Cheers!

BOTTLE FLY

Identification, Facts, & Control

Latin Name

Calliphora spp.

Appearance

Green or Blue Metallic Sheen
Green and blue bottle flies get their name from the fact that they have a metallic blue or green sheen. This characteristic makes them easy to see and identify despite the fact that they look like house flies in most other respects.
Green and blue bottle flies are also commonly referred to as “blow flies”. There are several different species of these flies but their life cycles and habits are very similar. For this reason, we will discuss them as a group.
Green and blue bottle flies are among the common domestic flies found in urban areas. When an infestation of adult blue or green bottle flies occurs, one of two larval sources may be suspected: 1) garbage and/or 2) dead animals (especially rodents). The sources, if they are on the customer’s property, can usually be pinpointed and eliminated. Thus, the PCO can usually attain success in supplying successful fly control services when this fly is involved if he is willing to participate in mechanical reduction of larval sites. Garbage cans that are in poor physical condition and are not washed out routinely can serve as a larval source for myriads of adult flies. Even what we call “good” garbage cans (cans in good physical condition) can harbor many fly larvae. You will notice a small vent hole in the lid of metal garbage cans just under the lid handle. This vent hold is large enough to admit adult flies to the interior of the can ——— one female loaded with eggs is all it takes.
Homes situated near slaughter houses, meat processing plants and garbage dumps can also have severe problems with these flies. The preferred larval food sources of green and blue bottle flies are meats such as the carcasses of dead animals.
Green and blue bottle flies are very active and fly about in a noisy fashion. For these reasons, they are considered to be more annoying than house flies when found indoors. A large indoor population of adults is sometimes an indication that there is a dead rat, cat, large bird or other animal somewhere in the wall void, the attic or sub area (crawl space underneath the house) or in the yard outdoors.
A dead animal in the attic can result in fly larvae dropping down between double walls of closets and marching out into the bedroom looking for a place to pupate. A garbage can by the back door of an apartment – not emptied on a weekly basis — can result in larvae migrating over the side of the can, under the door and into the kitchen area looking for a place to pupate. The larvae can be recognized by the fleshy protuberances surrounding the spiracular plates. Blow flies are the flies most commonly associated with dead animals. However, the larvae of the Humpback fly is most commonly found in mausoleums, decaying organic matter, or dirty, moist mop heads made of long cotton fibers.
If no dead animal is seen, smelled or suspected in the house, green and blue bottle flies may still be getting in because they are attracted to certain odors (gasses). One gas which attracts female green and blue bottle flies is methane. Methane is given off by decaying animals and is also the same gas used as a fuel source for natural gas furnaces, stoves and water heaters. If there is a leak in the gas pipe in the between wall areas, green bottle flies will come to rest on the wall just over the spot where the leak is occurring.
Female green and blue bottle flies lay up to 600 eggs during their short two or three weeks’ lifetime. Although they “prefer” to lay their eggs on a dead animal or other meat source, they may alternatively deposit their eggs in manure or decaying vegetable matter (garbage). The larvae first feed on the surface of the material they are infesting, and then burrow down deeper into less decayed areas. When fully grown, the larvae leave their food sources and burrow into the ground where they change into the pupa stage. If the food source has been a rat or other small animal trapped between the wails or a room, when the adults hatch from their pupa cases, the homeowner may notice them coming out from around the edges of plumbing pipes, heater ducts, light fixtures, light sockets and other areas where there are openings in finished wails. The adults have a heavy, almost laborious flight characteristic and produce an annoying “buzzing” sound when in flight. An excellent way to monitor blow flies (e. g. in a meat processing plant) is to use a light trap.
Click on a species of flies below to learn further information.

Round 1: Lady Bugs

Known by many names, ladybird, ladybug or lady beetle, ladybugs are most welcome in the garden. They are recognized as one of the most beneficial garden insects.

Aphids are one of the major foods of all four thousand species of this metamorphosing insect. Ladybugs eat aphids whole as adults, and one ladybug may eat as many as five thousand in a lifetime. As youngsters they stab aphids with their mandibles (biting jaws) and suck out their juices, not unlike the way the aphid sucks sap from leaves. Ladybugs are often named after the number of spots on their wing covers. There is ten-spot ladybug, the six-spot ladybug etc. Their wing covers are most often red or orange with black spots, but variations include black with yellow or orange spots, yellow with black, orange with white or even orange yellow and black all in one. In times of danger, ladybugs are able to roll over and play dead. Their enemies don’t like to eat them because the joints in their bodies give off a fluid that tastes bad. Their bright colouring is said to warn birds of their awful taste.

Round 2: Aphids

Known by many names, aphid, green fly, and plant lice, this insect is probably the most despised of all garden pests. Most people recognize this insect and the damage it does well before they know what it is.

The aphididae family or aphid, is an insect that sucks the sap from the young leaves and buds of plants. There are many different species of aphid. Some only invade one type of plant, while others are less discerning. Either way, very few plants are impervious to some species of aphid. They can be identified as tiny, soft-bodied, pear shaped insects, which come in a rainbow of colours, green, yellow, black, grey, red, purple and brown. This variation in colour can be confusing to someone who is not familiar with them. Some have wings, while others are wingless. Most aphids have a pair of tube-like structures protruding from their abdomen called cornicles and a third projection from the tip of the abdomen called a cauda.

Differences between aphids are not just a result of variation among species, but are a result of the aphid’s peculiar lifecycle. In the Spring all of the aphids that hatch from over-wintered eggs are wingless females. These females are all born with the ability to reproduce live miniature offspring called nymphs, without the need to mate. As a result, they will rapidly reproduce all summer long. This is why it can sometimes appear that an infestation has taken place overnight. In the Fall, both males and females are produced which subsequently mate to create eggs for over-wintering. Some of these females have wings, while all of the males do.

Round 3: Ladybugs

That schoolyard myth that ladybugs have a spot for every year they’ve lived is untrue. Ladybugs metamorphose, and those that are long lived hibernate over one winter. Seeking shelter in protected spaces, such as under a layer of leaves in the woods, their body temperature lowers and they become inactive until spring. Post-hibernation, ladybugs mate and then females lay eggs in clusters. Over about four weeks, they will metamorphose and become adults. The tiny oval shaped yellow eggs hatch. The ladybugs emerge as larvae, feed for two or three weeks, then, attaching themselves to a leaf or stem, pupate (the structure of the larval body rearranging itself completely). A week later, they split open, shedding their exoskeletons, the familiar looking adult emerging and leaving the pupal shell behind. At first, their wing shells are yellow and soft: like butterflies, they must wait for their wings to dry. As they dry, they change colour. As larvae, they don’t yet need wings: aphids are in good supply because the momma ladybug has laid her eggs in strategic locations where aphids are plentiful. The larvae look like tiny, six-legged alligator-like crawlers, usually dark brown or black. Juvenile ladybug larvae are often crushed by well meaning gardeners: their bad looks get them mistaken for pests.

Ladybugs ‘mass’ together in huge groups for hibernation: sightings of colonies of hundreds of thousands have been reported. Scientific factsheets on this insect also tell of gathering places ladybugs return to year after year.

There are problems with purchasing and dispersing ladybugs though. Depending on when they are collected they may have less appetite and reproduce less, or they may disperse very quickly. Some gardeners even advocate glueing their lovely wings shut with a mixture of pop and water so they won’t leave the garden. It may be that species native to a place are better aphid-eaters than imports. Ladybugs can be attracted with flowers such as angelica and dill, and weeds like yarrow and dandelion (see aphids for more ladybug attracting plants).

Among others, these insects are also threatened by the use of pesticides. There aren’t always enough ladybugs around to control aphids, and if insecticides are used instead, the ‘good’ bugs are killed along with the ‘bad’. That means even fewer ladybugs the next year.

Historically speaking, there used to be a lot more home gardens. Maybe that’s why the ladybug is a symbol of good luck to many people. Because they have such an appetite for aphids, there presence is a good sign to gardeners.

Ladybugs have recently been involved in research on the effect of transgenic crops on beneficial insects. A Scottish study found that ladybugs that fed on aphids in turn fed on transgenic potatoes lived half as long and ate half as much.
Check it out if you like at “Pest Management at the Crossroads”

Round 4: Aphids

Aphids generally appear in clusters or groups on the stems and young leaves of plants. Sometimes large colonies will develop on the underside of leaves. The damage they do to plants includes mutations and stunted growth in the new foliage that often appear as curling in the leaves, and poor blooms on flowering plants. When aphids suck sap from plants they can’t metabolize all the sugar they ingest and secrete a sticky honeydew substance as a result. Black fungus called “sooty mould” grows on the honeydew secretions causing further damage to the plant leaves. Aphids also transmit virus diseases from plant to plant as a result of sucking sap from one plant and then moving to another plant, much as mosquitoes transmit diseases amongst humans.

The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure applies well to organic gardening. One of the best environmentally sound ways to prevent aphids is to attract insects to your garden that like to eat them. There are several insects that will earn their keep, devouring aphids and keeping their populations in check. The most well known of these is the lady bug . The lady bug larvae, as well as the adult insect are voracious aphid munchers, devouring thousands within their short lives. You can attract them to your garden by planting Queen Anne’s Lace, butterfly weed, tansy, and goldenrod. Many of these plants will attract other beneficial insects as well. Green lacewings, lacewing larvae (often called aphid lions), hover fly larvae, or parasitic wasps are all insects that specifically seek out aphids as prey. You can even purchase lady bugs if you would prefer a faster method of increasing the population of beneficial insects in your garden.

But what do you do if a colony is already invading your plants and you need to get rid of them now? The first and oldest method for removing aphids organically is by squishing them. It’s messy but it gets the job done if there are only a few insects present. The second manual method of removal is spraying them with a strong burst of water. This washes them off the plant and kills quite a few of them without any damage or harm to the plant. If you have a large colony developing, it might be a good idea to try something stronger. Insecticidal soap, is a foliar spray that can be purchased from Health food or environmental stores. The soap comes in concentrated form and can be added to a spray bottle with lots of water. Since the ratio of soap to water is small, the concentrate lasts a long time and is relatively economical. Insecticidal soap is relatively mild on your plants but you should still exercise caution when using it. Read the directions that come with the product before using. You can also make your own spray using water and citrus peel. The citrus harms the soft bodies of the aphids but won’t do any damage to your plants. Just steep some citrus peel (any kind) in hot water and pour the resulting “tea” into a spray bottle for use.

Hopefully with some of these suggestions, you will not only be able to identify this nasty critter when you see it, but have a successful plan of attack that you can put to good use.

Ladybug rounds written by Beate Schwirtlich
Aphid rounds written by Gayla Trail
Title illustration by Lorraine High
Insect illustrations by Davin Risk

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Need help with what to do in your garden?

Q What are greenfly?

A Greenfly are one of the most common garden pests. They are found on all types of plants, and thrive outside or under cover. They feed by sucking sap through fine tubular mouthparts, which they insert into the plants’ cells.

Greenfly are part of the larger group known as aphids, which also includes blackfly, root aphids and woolly aphids. There are many kinds, each with different host plants and life cycles. Most occur in small numbers and do little harm; only very few behave as pests. They spread on the breeze and tend to settle in sheltered sites, so gardens suit them very well.

Caption: Squash any greenfly you find on your plants

Q How do I recognise greenfly?

A Greenfly are teardrop-shaped, 1-3mm long, they have six legs and may or may not have wings. They usually occur in large clusters on soft plant tissues, such as new shoots and the undersides of leaves.

Q Are greenfly always green?

A Not really. There are many types of greenfly, with seven species on roses alone, and they can be yellow, blue-green or pinky-brown in colour, as well as green. Other aphids may be grey, brown or black. Whitefly are also sapsuckers, but aren’t closely related. They are smaller than greenfly and have white wings as well as white bodies, whereas the greenfly’s wings are transparent.

Q What damage do greenfly do?

A Small numbers of greenfly do very little damage, but in larger concentrations they can take so much sap from shoots that the young growth becomes distorted, flowers and fruit may be damaged or even abort, and conifers shed their needles.

Greenfly also excrete a surplus sugar solution, known as honeydew. This creates sticky patches on plants and is frequently colonised by a fungus called sooty mould that turns the foliage black. While sooty mould does not directly damage plants, it is unsightly. It can also block out light from the leaves and interfere with the plant’s ability to make sugars by photosynthesis.

Caption: Greenfly cause young growth to become distorted

Q Do greenfly spread disease?

A Yes, greenfly and other aphids are important carriers or vectors for virus diseases of plants. As virus infections can’t be cured, the only way to protect plants is to prevent them getting infected.

Q How do I control greenfly?

A There are a range of ways to prevent greenfly from damaging your plants.

  • Physical removal Squashing greenfly may be messy, but it’s quick and effective. Alternatively, you can dislodge them with a jet of water or prune off the worst-affected shoots.
  • Barriers Fleece or insect-proof mesh will exclude them and may be worth using on veg and other low-growing crops, such as strawberries or herbs.
  • Biological controls These can be used to control greenfly in confined spaces, such as in greenhouses or under cloches. There are two types, both midges: aphidolytes is a predator and best at dealing with large numbers of greenfly; aphidius is a parasite and good at hunting down smaller numbers.
  • Insecticides Contact types will only kill greenfly that they come into contact with, so it’s important to spray thoroughly. Try our Best Buys Bayer Natria Bug Control or Westland Resolva .
  • Natural predators Many birds, especially blue tits, will devour greenfly, so are worth encouraging. Even seed-eaters like sparrows take greenfly to feed their chicks. Predatory insects, such as ladybirds and their larvae, lacewings, hoverfly larvae and earwigs, hunt and eat greenfly, too. Biological controls and even some fungal diseases also help to control greenfly numbers.

Caption: Spraying isn’t the only way to control greenfly

Q I have seen ants running around over greenfly, do they eat them?

A No, ants protect greenfly from predators. This is because the ants milk the greenfly for the sweet honeydew they produce, which they feed on. Ants may also move greenfly to new feeding grounds. There’s not much you can do about this. In fact, ant activity can often be a useful early warning that greenfly numbers are building up.

Q What is the life cycle of greenfly?

A Greenfly spend the winter as eggs on host plants or as adults, in sheltered spots outside or under glass. In spring and early summer, adult females give birth to live young without mating. The young are all female, so numbers can build up very quickly. In fact, newly born greenfly already carry more young inside them.

When the population is high, if there are predators about, or the greenfly are ready to move to different plants, then winged greenfly develop. Once settled on their new hosts, these lose their wings and give rise to wingless greenfly again. They continue to produce more young, including some males, then, as day length shortens and temperatures fall in autumn, they mate and produce eggs that will overwinter.

Some greenfly, such as the rose aphid, spend their whole lives on one type of plant. Others, such as the willow-carrot aphid, have two hosts, spending winter and spring on one, then moving off elsewhere for the summer. This is one reason why large infestations of greenfly can suddenly disappear – or you may see serious damage, but no sign of the insects

Suppliers of biological controls for greenfly and insect-proof mesh

Defenders 01233 813121 defenders.co.uk

Gardening Naturally 0845 680 0296 gardening-naturally.com

Green Gardener 01493 750061 greengardener.co.uk

Harrod Horticultural 0845 402 5300 harrodhorticultural.com

The Organic Gardening Catalogue 01932 253666 organiccatalogue.com

Enviromesh 01285 860015 enviromesh.co.uk

Wondermesh 01561 377946 wondermesh.co.uk

Green Bottle Flies

Behavior and Habitat of Green Bottle Flies

Green bottle flies are scavengers and are part of the decomposition process. They lay a mass of up to 180 eggs in wounds, carcasses, or necrotic tissue. Pale yellow or grayish-white larvae hatch in half a day to three days, and begin feeding on the decomposing animal matter they were hatched in. They are fully grown in two to ten days, when they will seek soil (in which they will burrow) to pupate. The adults emerge to mate, beginning the cycle again. During cold weather, pupae and adults can hibernate until warmer temperatures revive them. Green bottle flies are poikilothermic, which means that their development and size is directly impacted by the temperature at the time of their development. The green bottle fly is very common around dumpsters. It lays its eggs almost exclusively in dead or rotting flesh. It is usually the first insect attracted to a fresh carcass, sometimes within minutes of death. Maggots from these flies are used by Forensic Entomologists to establish the time of death. Green bottle fly maggots are also used for human wound treatment where wound healing is not occurring. Maggots are placed in the wound to promote new tissue growth, which occurs by the maggots feeding on the dead tissue and bacteria in the wound but also by the maggots producing an antimicrobial enzyme to prevent future infection.

The aphid is a tiny, soft-bodied insect that spells trouble in the garden. Its salivary glands are phytotoxic, causing galls to form; disfiguring buds, flowers, fruit, and leaves; hollowing stems; spreading viruses; stunting growth, and literally sucking the life out of plants.

Let’s take a close look at this destructive pest, beginning with its intriguing characteristics and concluding with measures for deterring and eradicating it in your garden.

A Fascinating Foe

While I’ve battled plenty of colonies of aphids on my rosebushes with applications of soapsuds and endless streams of water, I knew very little about them until I did some research.

A winged female aphid samples a leaf.

Per Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, a favorite resource of mine that is available on Amazon, the aphid is one of the top 10 insect pests.

An infestation begins innocently enough. A winged female scout flies around looking for a “host” plant to provide food and a place to reproduce. Using a mouth part called a “stylet,” she probes a stem or leaf to see if it’s got what she seeks. If not, she moves on, and, much like Typhoid Mary, may transmit viruses from plant to plant in her search.

Once established, a colony multiplies rapidly. All species reproduce by asexual reproduction, and some also by sexual means. And what I find most astonishing is that if a plant becomes too overcrowded and food is becoming scarce, females with wings are produced deliberately for the purpose of finding new homes for even more insects.

There are always hungry mouths to feed.

The good news, per the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Department of Entomology at the University of Kentucky, is that while a plant may look bad, aphid feeding generally will not seriously harm healthy, established trees and shrubs.

And, at least once in history, an aphid-transmitted virus made a lot of money for some lucky horticulturists.

Life in the Garden

In Life in the Garden, a fun read that’s available from Amazon, author Penelope Lively tells of a time in the 1630s when tulips were all the rage. It seems that a white species would occasionally “break,” or bloom with red striations. The rarity and novelty of its occurrence made the price of bulbs soar to the point that one was traded for a house!

What caused the unique color patterns? It took until the 1920s to determine that they were the fortuitous byproduct of a virus transmitted by the peach-potato aphid!

And if that’s not amazing enough, here’s more.

This tiny pest excretes a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew that collects on foliage, inhibiting photosynthesis and making it vulnerable to a disease called sooty mildew. This sap is a favorite food of the bigheaded ant, Pheidole megacephala. It lives in a symbiotic relationship with the aphid, herding it like cattle, milking it for its honeydew, and protecting it from predators.

The big-headed ant thrives on sweet honeydew, herding and protecting its “cattle” in a symbiotic relationship.

The European yellow meadow ant, Lasius flavus has similar habits, farming root aphids below the soil for a steady honeydew supply, and occasional consumption of the bugs themselves.

How could such a nuisance of a pest be so fascinating?!

Natural Deterrents

While I admire the survival instincts of this pervasive garden insect, it’s still a pest I don’t want in my yard.

These cabbage leaves have been ruined by a hungry aphid colony.

It isn’t a beneficial pollinator, and its very presence exposes my plants to disease and damage. So, setting aside my inner entomologist, I find ways to make my backyard less appealing to this unwelcome visitor, and stop it in its tracks when it gets a notion to stay.

Healthy Plants

The best way to inhibit pests and disease in the garden is to start with healthy plants or good quality seed, and to maintain them with good care.

Know your plants’ needs and water properly so they don’t oversaturate or dry out. Provide adequate air circulation by thinning seedlings and setting plants so air flows through and around them, preventing humidity build-up.

Introduction of Predators

Horticulturist and author Sharon Lovejoy has many clever suggestions for gardeners in her book, Trowel and Error, available from Amazon. This is a sweet little volume full of colorful drawings that I received as a gift.

Trowel and Error: Over 700 Organic Remedies, Shortcuts, and Tips for the Gardener

Lovejoy suggests encouraging “aphid lions,” the larvae of the lacewing, and “aphid wolves,” the larvae of ladybird beetles, to take up residence. Each feeds voraciously on our pest, and the lady beetles continue to feast on them as mature insects. Borage is a favorite breeding place of the lacewing, and dill, fennel, coreopsis, and cosmos attract ladybugs.

Ladybug larvae are hungry predators.

Aphids dislike dill and fennel, so you pack a powerful punch when you plant these aromatic herbs among your ornamental specimens and veggie crops. Dill attracts the braconid wasp, a beneficial insect. Its larva mummifies an aphid so it can pupate and feed until it matures and flies away.

You may attract a host of beneficial insects by planting nectar-rich native flower species. An added benefit of natives is that they are usually the healthiest plants, being acclimated to their environment.

And finally, birds are an insect predator, so a few bird feeders and a refreshing birdbath go a long way toward inviting more ready, willing, and able helpers to your backyard.

Companion Planting

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, you may be able to keep our hungry pest away from prized specimens in two ways. One is to plant something the bugs really like, like nasturtium, next to a plant you love. Another is to surround ornamental specimens with something they hate, like catnip.

However, take this advice with a grain of salt, as there are some species that only eat one kind of plant, and others that like a variety.

Shelter Gardening

A good way to inhibit insects from settling on your crops is to place floating row covers over crops like berry bushes and veggies.

Floating row covers provide added protection from insect pests.

Another is by growing in a greenhouse. And for an additional safeguard, introduce ladybird larvae with little fear they’ll fly away at maturity.

1500 Live Ladybugs from Good Bugs

Live ladybugs are available via Amazon in packages of 1,500.

When all it takes is one insect to start trouble, it pays to take precautions!

Natural Eradication

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, plants become infested.

Inspect regularly for aphid eggs on the undersides of leaves.

However, if you take frequent walks through you yard, you’re bound to notice eggs before they hatch, and insects before they multiply. When you see a few of either, simply pinch them off. Make it a daily practice, and you may never need to do more.

Sticky Solutions

Lovejoy recommends using sticky tape to “blot” up insects, and it works on eggs, too. Now this may seem tedious, but if your infestation is limited to one or two plants, it’s a great way to know that none, or at least very few, have escaped your notice.

Trapro 20-Pack Dual-Sided Yellow Sticky Traps for Flying Plant Insects

You may also try a fly-paper type of product, like Trapro’s Dual-Sided Sticky Traps, available from Amazon in 10-, 20-, and 30-pack sizes. Each strip is bright yellow, and measures 8 x 6 inches. The bright yellow color attracts a host of insects. The only problem here is that you may destroy beneficial ones as well as pests.

A Steady Stream of Water

Per the Texas A&M Forest Service Entomology Extension, dislodging insects with a water wand type of spray nozzle is ideal when the stream is strong enough to knock the bugs off, but not so intense that it damages plants. The best kind can be angled to spray the undersides of leaves.

A forceful stream of water may be all you need to wash insects away.

A firm spray should kill aphids on contact, however, be careful not to blast them from one plant to another, as any survivors will have a whole new plant to infest!

The Relaxed Gardener Watering Wand

You may like the Relaxed Gardener Watering Wand available from Amazon. With eight adjustable spray settings, you’re bound to find one that’s just right.

Horticultural Oil

It’s best to use horticultural oil at the first signs of infestation. Test the spray on a leaf before dousing an entire plant. Heed package warnings about not using on certain sensitive plants, those that are stressed from transplanting, or already wilting from disease or pests.

One type is neem oil, a naturally-derived pesticide made from the pressed seeds of the neem evergreen tree, Azadirachta indica.

Organic Neem Bliss 100% Pure Cold Pressed Neem Seed Oil

Neem oil is available from Amazon in ready-to-spray and concentrated forms.

Mother Earth Monterey Horticultural Oil

Other products are comprised mainly of mineral oil, like Mother Earth Monterey Horticultural Oil, available from Amazon. It contains mostly mineral oil and comes in concentrated form in one-quart bottles.

Soap Suds and Insecticidal Soap

Lovejoy also tells us that since our garden pest likes yellow, filling a yellow pan full of sudsy water and placing it near an infestation may do the trick. Just a few drops of mild liquid dish detergent in about two cups of water are all you need to lure them away from foliage.

Before using a commercial insecticidal soap product, read the label carefully. Some contain toxic chemicals and harm beneficial insects. The best time to spray is early in the spring, when aphids are just beginning to multiply, and many of our insect friends have not hatched yet.

Safer Brand 5110-6 Insect Killing Soap, 32 oz.

You might like Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap, available from Amazon in 32-ounce spray bottles. Choose one or a six-pack. It may also be used for hydroponic and indoor gardening.

In addition, there are products address not only pest, but fungus as well, like the sooty mildew that often results from a build up of honeydew.

Trifecta Crop Control – ALL-IN-ONE Natural Pesticide, Fungicide, Miticide

For an infestation with blackened leaves, you might try a multi-purpose organic remedy like Trifecta Crop Control, available from Amazon.

Diatomaceous Earth

Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a natural powder derived from the crushed sea-life fossils called diatoms. And while it won’t harm you or your plants, it is deadly to aphids.

Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade Powder

Be sure to wear a mask to prevent inhalation of this fine powder as you sift it over your plants or mix into water to make a spray solution per package instructions.

Diatomaceous earth is available from Amazon in one-, two-, and five-pound packages.

The only potential issue with this option is that diatomaceous earth is harmful to bees, so please consider covering treated plants with netting to deter them while you address an infestation. Since aphids are usually at their fiercest in spring, and bees are not out in force until later in the growing season, you may not have a problem if you apply it early on.

Nematodes

There is a type of aphid that lives in the soil and feeds on roots, stunting growth and disfiguring foliage from below, unseen from above. You may get rid of it by adding tiny microscopic worms called nematodes to your soil.

Live Beneficial Nematodes Sf – Fungus Gnat/Rootknot Gall Exterminator

Nematodes are available from Amazon in packages containing 5, 10, 25, 50, and 250 million.

Read more about nematodes with our complete guide here.

Pruning

And finally, if all else fails, and the infestation is beyond your control, prune away damaged buds, leaves, and stems.

Feed your plant with a low-nitrogen, slow-release, all-purpose plant food, and hope for the best. Per the Pesticide Research Institute, low nitrogen inhibits the growth of excess foliage that is attractive to aphids.

In dire circumstances, you may need dig up entire plants and throw them in the trash – not the compost pile – to slow the spread of infestation on your property.

Types of Aphids

The experts at the Pesticide Research Institute document over 4,000 species of aphid in a variety of colors. Most attack tender stems and leaves, but some feed on woody stems or roots. You may know this pest by one of its common names, greenfly or blackfly.

A rosebush provides food for a hungry colony.

There are many species found around the world. The feeding, egg laying, and virus transmission of Pemphigus populi causes damaging growths, or “galls” to form on foliage.

Other species that gardeners battle daily are the blackfly, Aphis fabae, yellow Aphis nerii that prefers milkweed and oleander, and brown Toxoptera citricida that lives on citrus crops.

There are also the gray cabbage variety, Brevicoryne brassicae, white and fuzzy woolly Eriosomatinae, and the one I usually find here in the Northeast, the green peach, aka peach-potato type, Myzus persica.

And let’s not forget the root aphid, especially the pesky lettuce root variety, Pemphigus bursarius.

As you can see, this is a vast genus of insects. It contains some species that eat one type of plant and others that eat a variety, including vegetables, ornamentals, and trees.

Armed and Ready

Aphid eggs can winter over and hatch out as winged females in the spring. And here’s a final aphid fact from Encyclopedia Britannica: offspring born during the summer months don’t hatch from eggs. They are born live, ready to devour their plant hosts.

A tiny aphid may wreak havoc on a garden.

An aphid infestation can destroy the plants you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. Aren’t you glad you’re ready to show them who’s boss?

Let’s recap:

As fascinating as the aphid is, it can destroy plants if left unchecked. Those least likely to suffer are mature, healthy ones, especially native species.

To inhibit an infestation, introduce predators and the foliage they thrive on, employ a strategy of companion planting, or consider shelter gardening.

Walk your grounds daily and pinch off any eggs or aphids you spot.

To remediate an infestation, try sticky solutions, a steady stream of water, horticultural oil, soap suds/insecticidal soap, diatomaceous earth, nematodes for the root variety, or pruning.

And if all else fails, remove a severely infested and damaged plant from the garden and dispose of it in the trash.

Yellow aphids feast on stems and leaves.

It’s time to go outside and see if any pests are setting up housekeeping in the yard, but before you do, here’s one final point – per The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, some folks may be allergic to aphids, so if you have allergic tendencies like me, wear a mask when dealing with them.

Have you managed aphids in your yard? Tell us your tips in the comments section below, and feel free to post photos on our Facebook page.

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About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

Dealing with Flies

Flies! WA has such amazing weather and we all enjoy getting out into it but who would have thought that these tiny creatures could almost ruin a family barbecue, upset the dog and send us all fleeing inside out of their reach. How can we enjoy our backyards and our gardens when one hand is always waving these annoying pests away?

The best way to deal with these pests is to break the problem into sections and consider a few questions. What are we doing on our property that they find so attractive? What areas do we have that they use for breeding? How do we discourage them from even hanging around and how do we deal with those that do?

Flies remain dormant until their body temperature reaches approximately 18°C and only begin to search for food when the temperature is above 20°C which is of course is just about the time when we like to get outside also. Different fly species are attracted to different items. House flies like dairy, poultry and animal waste and garbage where as blow flies are attracted only to decaying meat. Flies search low for their food and like heat, light and low levels of wind. Their life cycle can take just 7 to 12 days to go from egg to adult.

COMPOST, MANURE AND FLIES
Most gardeners agree that adding compost and animal manure to the garden is a terrific way to improve the soil’s structure, fertility and water-holding capacity. Many garden owners keep a compost bin in their backyard to reduce their household waste or bring in trailer loads of raw manure to spread across the garden beds. Often, in gardening, the smellier the manure, the better it is!

Of course, we all know that smelly things also bring in the flies. To them, animal manure and compost is no difference to humans at a sausage sizzle. Who can resist?

Uncovered compost heaps and raw manure allow flies to breed causing them to become a nuisance to the home and even to the neighbours and may even constitute an offence under the Health Act.

To reduce the opportunity for flies to breed, use enclosed compost tumblers or bins and ensure that the lid is always sealed. Don’t assume that just because an open compost heap is at the back of the block that the breeding flies won’t cause a problem to your outdoor barbecue area or house. Consider this pests name. Fly! They can travel long distances easily.

Avoid using raw manure on the garden, especially during the warmer fly breeding seasons. Compost the manure or purchase commercially composted manure, dig it through the soil and cover with a good layer of mulch to reduce access by the flies. Household scraps can be composted by burying it directly into the garden, ensuring that it is covered by at least 10cm of soil to prevent fly breeding.

POULTRY PENS AND BIRD AVIARIES
Many backyards have bird aviaries or chicken pens. Most local councils allow home owners to keep poultry but with very strict environmental health conditions. One of which is that they should be regularly cleaned to avoid smell, rats, mice and flies.

Reducing the problem of flies in poultry pens and bird aviaries is very much down to the design of the enclosure itself as well as good hygiene practices. If the floor is constructed of a smooth, impervious material with a gradient of at least 1 in 50 it will be much easier to clean and will drain well, reducing smelly puddles of water and keeping the area dry. Ensure that the floor under perches and roost is covered with a good layer of sawdust to help the manure dry out and replace this regularly to prevent flies from breeding. Refresh the water daily.

Hang several fly catching traps outside of the chicken pens and replace the baits fortnightly. Spray the outside of sheds, perches and inner walls with an appropriate non-toxic surface spray and consider planting several wormwood, tansy or Lad’s Love around the pens as these attractive but tough plants are reputed to repel flies. Maintain these by simply cutting them down hard twice a year and watering them every now and then.

ENTERTAINING OUTSIDE
Better Pets and Gardens stock a variety of products that will help repel all pests, including flies, from the outdoor entertaining area.

One option is Coopex which is a water dispersible powder mixed with water and sprayed onto kennels, rubbish bins, walls, furniture, door and window frames and provides up to six weeks of control. It is very economical and safe and will control spiders, mosquitoes, flies and midges.

Outdoor foggers are an effective way of keeping flies and other pests away from outdoor entertaining and picnic sites. They are citronella based and are sprayed prior to entertaining to form a barrier to repel these annoying insects.

Natural insect deterrents such as sandalwood, eucalyptus and citronella are well suited to using around the outdoor entertaining area to repel flying insects. These are most effective when several are used to surround the area instead of using just placing one in the middle of the table.

FLY TRAPS AND BAITS
Fly traps are a proven method of controlling flies. These are reusable plastic containers that contain a safe food based attractant which are harmless to animals and pesticide free. The bait attracts both house flies, blow flies and other species which all have different food sources. The bait is then placed about 40cm from ground level where flies tend to search for food and will attract them from approximately 20 metres. Once in, the flies are trapped and although they may still lay eggs, their larvae will not survive in the water.

Baited fly traps are best placed away from entertaining areas and entrances to the home to attract flies elsewhere and so that their smell doesn’t waft throughout eating areas.

DOG KENNELS AND BEDS
Dogs can be terribly affected by flies. Preventing the flies from hanging around is just as important as protecting the dogs themselves. Dogs love to chew and doing this helps relieve their boredom and helps clean their teeth. During the warmer months, it may be a good idea to switch from giving fresh bones that attract flies to smoked clod bones or rawhide chews. They will enjoy these without the irritation of flies hanging around.

Wash the dog’s bedding as often as possible, especially if it gets soiled from the grease from bones or other food. Where possible, open the kennel lid weekly to allow it to dry out and clean out any food debris. Food bowls should be washed as soon as the dog has finished eating; avoid leaving it there to attract flies as well as ants.

Spray around the kennel, its roof and under beds with Coopex or other long acting surface spray. These last for several months and are effective at killing any flies that land on the surface. Spraying overhead beams or nearby walls will also help. Hang a fly trap above any areas that the dog spends time in though not near the back door – they can be quite smelly.

DOG AND CAT MANURE
Animal manure attracts flies instantly. Collect all manure on a daily basis, especially during the warmer months when flies are breeding. The fly life cycle from egg to adult may be from 7 to 12 days so even a weekly pick up may not be sufficient to stop breeding.

Seal all manure into a plastic bag before disposing of it as the eggs may still hatch in the rubbish bin before it is collected.

STOPPING FLIES FROM HARMING DOGS
Stable flies are common in most areas. They are biting flies that attack the most exposed area of a dog’s ear, generally the tip or the fold. They will seek out blood meals twice a day and can take up to three times their own weight in blood. Their bites are quite painful and continual exposure to them can cause redness and then lesions which the dog will make worse through scratching and rubbing, thereby attracting even more flies.

It is important to repel the flies as soon as they are evident and not to wait until the redness begins as then the problem becomes far more difficult to control. Non-aerosol insecticidal and repellent sprays are available at Better Pets and Gardens that are effective against flies and biting insects on dogs as well as other animals. These are lightly sprayed over the animal, avoiding the eyes, and can also be sprayed on the inner walls of kennels and animal sheds. In times of severe infestations, twice daily may be necessary.

Better Pets and Gardens now stocks a new product which attaches to the dog’s collar and emits an electromagnetic frequency to keep pets away. It is non-toxic, waterproof and lasts for up to four months. These are also effective against fleas and mosquitoes.

If lesions have already been caused from the biting stable flies, antiseptic creams that will also repel the flies are available and should be applied to the top to the ears, around the eyes and the base of the tail. If the wounds do not clear up and begin to improve quickly, a visit to the vet will be necessary.

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