Monthly Archives: September 2015

Beneficial Bugs: Tachinid Flies

Order: Diptera. Family: Tachinidae

Large flies that are good against caterpillars. Ranging from 1/8 – 1/2 inch in size with coarse bristles covering their abdomens. They look similar to houseflies but are more of a mottled black, gray or brown instead of brightly colored. The adults feed on flower nectar, it’s the larvae that prey on caterpillars, beetles, borers, stink bugs, sawflies and a variety of insects.

Female tachinid lies lay their eggs on the bodies of their hosts or where the hosts feed. When the eggs mature they kill the host. They then drop off and pupate in the soil.

To attract these flies, try spearmint, dill or tansy to attract adults.

Companion Planting: Dandelions

Plants that assist each other to grow well, repel insects or even other plants when grown next to each other is called companion planting and can be a sustainable and eco-friendly way to improve and protect your garden against unwanted pests and disease.
Chromatography has been used to explain why some plants like or dislike being planted with other plants. It is possible to make a specific chromatographic test to find out why, or if at all, a plant is helping or hindering its neighbors. Chromatography has also been used to prove that plants do significantly better with compost than without.

bee on dandelionThis “weed” is not the spurge of lawn owners like most of us think. Dandelions do not actually compete with grasses because their roots go much deeper than any grass, and because of this, their roots bring up nutrients from the deeper soils that grasses can benefit from. Also, the dandelion is the honeybee’s favorite flower.

However, dandelions do excrete an ethylene gas that stunts the growth of neighboring plants, but this very gas also causes nearby flowers and fruits to mature early. So, keep dandelions away from plants you don’t want stunted and keep them around other flowers and fruits.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Beneficial Bugs: Predatory Mites vs Spider Mites.

miteswestern_predatoryOrder: Acarina. Family: Phytoseiidae

There are good mites and bad mites, they are both the same minute size (almost undetectable with the naked eye) and they can change color in response to their prey, so it is next to impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys. About the only way to tell is if you observe mite webs on your plants and your plants look like the leaves have been sucked dry of their juices, you have the bad mites. Spray those with a garlic spray to get rid of them.

Predatory mites are happiest in humid conditions, so you won’t see them in the Southwest much. They are often smaller than the prey they eat, but you can attract them with pollen-rich plants.

SpiderMiteWebsAs we mentioned above, there are good mites and bad and you can really only tell them apart by the damage they do to your plants. (Read above.) Spider mites will also create web-like threads all over your plant leaves which will start to look speckled like the mites are sucking the juices from the leaves, which is exactly what they are doing.

Spray the front and back of all leaves with a garlic spray. Neem oil sprays work as well. Take the plant outside if it is a potted plant, wash the leaves and mites off with a powerful blast of water, relocate the plant so the mites don’t just crawl back on it after hosing them off, then spray it well with the garlic or neem oil.

Let it sit outside for a couple days for the mites to get discouraged by the spray and move their operations elsewhere.

For more on Garden Circkles, check out our main website.