Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oleander Aphids on Butterfly Weed

This is what passes for excitement in my garden these days.

I noticed these slender vertical growths on the butterfly weed this week; I assume they are seed pods. One of them had ants crawling all over it, as well as numerous tiny yellow disc-like things. I poked the discs and discovered that they possessed legs!

I learned that they are oleander aphids, and butterfly weed is one of their favorite plants. The aphids secrete a sticky substance that ants find irresistible. As of today, Aphids and ants are still munching away. I might hose them off the plant as some people have suggested, or I may just let them be and see if some other insect predator comes along to eat them.

I tend to learn a lot by just leaving things alone, although my educational strategy is often mistaken for laziness...


Mary said...

I'd leave it alone (because it's making me shiver...ewww).

Jen said...

I hear its best overall to let the insects do their thing, and allow the natural predators to come in to remove them. But it always seems risky to me!

Catherine said...

I have aphid problems every year on my roses, I have read that lady bugs are predators to aphids..
you need lots of lady bugs!!
Good bugs to get rid of the bad bugs, and you can knock them off with a blast of water from the hose!

Good luck!

Q said...

Wonderful food for the Praying Mantis and the Lady Beetles! I let nature do her thing, she does it better than I can. Plus while the bugs are eating you get to take photos. Wonderful ones too..
Happy Autumn,

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Aw, come on, Mary--you don't like bugs?

Jen, so far they are confined to that one seed pod, so I'll let them be.

I could use some more ladybugs, Catherine. Haven't seen too many lately.

My thoughts, exactly, Sherry!

Amanda said...

Aphids produce a sticky goo called honeydew which the ants are attracted to. I have seen ants take care of an aphid population in a matter of a few days, so I would wait before doing anything drastic.

If the leaves are getting distorted and it bothers you, buy the ladybugs and they will eat them.

If looks don't bother you so much, don't worry about it on a plant like a butterfly weed. On a fruit plant or something with really large flowers, the distortions they cause can really be upsetting though. It has to be decided carefully. said...

I read so much helpful data above!

dialeigh slow said...

I kill the aphids on my milkweed because they draw ants who in turn eat my baby catapillers. I also buy a batch of ladybuds every summer to help with aphids on my other plants. Ants and aphids form a symbiotic relationship. The ants don't kill the aphids because they like the stuff the aphids produce. You end up with more ants and more aphids. Aphids can damage plants, don't kid yourself. I just squish them and the ants go away