Revenge of the Mummy

Have you noticed swollen bronze-coloured aphids on your plants? These are aphid ‘mummies’ caused by the parasitic wasp Aphidius of the wasp family Braconidae. There are several species of Aphidius which have been released in Australia. A species that has established well and is common in urban gardens is Aphidius rosae, a successful parasite of the rose aphid Macrosiphum rosae.

Aphidius wasps are shiny black, slender insects about 3 mm in length with long antennae. The diminutive size of these wasps makes it hard to see them in gardens, but you will see the results of their life cycle within aphids. Adult female wasps lay their eggs singly inside adult aphids and aphid nymphs. To accomplish this a female wasp must bend her abdomen under her legs and inject an egg into the aphid with her ovipositor (‘stinger’). If you were watching and you blinked, you would miss it, as this operation takes less than a second. Obviously I don’t have many images like this one.

Aphidius Continue reading Revenge of the Mummy

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Night of the Bloodsuckers (Part 2)

Night of the Bloodsuckers (Part 1) prompted several conversations, and people had lots of suggestions about how to control or repel mosquitoes. The repellent suggestions included lemongrass, citronella, and garlic oil spray (a product not available in Australia as far as I know). In addition to emptying pot trays, bird baths etc regularly to stop mosquitoes breeding, one correspondent reminded us not to forget emptying bromeliads. One ingenious person suggested deliberately placing buckets of water around the garden to encourage mosquitoes to lay their eggs in them, and then emptying them out. That’s using buckets as a trap! Thanks for all your suggestions.

dead mosquito Continue reading Night of the Bloodsuckers (Part 2)

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Night of the Bloodsuckers (Part 1)

Mosquitoes are real party poopers. Just when you are relaxing with a cool drink after a hard day at work, the bloodsuckers arrive and ruin everything. There are over 300 species of mosquitoes in Australia and they occur wherever there is enough standing water for their larvae to survive. Sometimes that’s not a lot of water either. For example, mosquitoes can breed in saucers and trays under pot plants if they remain full of water.

Many gardeners have installed rainwater tanks to supplement their watering needs. All that water is a magnet to mosquitoes. Keep them out by covering all entry points in tanks with fine mesh. If mosquitoes slip through and lay eggs, drop a teaspoon of domestic kerosene on top of the water to prevent mosquito larvae from breathing (seek further advice from your State Health Department).

Some mosquito species are more than just annoying, they can carry serious human diseases such as Dengue Fever, encephalitis and Ross River virus, and heartworm disease in dogs. Fortunately malaria is no longer endemic in Australia, but we do have the Anopheles mosquitoes which are capable of carrying and transmitting malaria.

Mosquito Continue reading Night of the Bloodsuckers (Part 1)

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Stingers

Jack Jumper ant
Ouch!! I felt a sharp stabbing pain on the webbing between two fingers of my left hand. I looked down to see a Jack Jumper ant gripping my skin tightly with its mandibles and burying its sting in my flesh. I had been winding a hose back on its reel, the ant had taken a ride on the hose, became caught in my hand and went into attack mode. Ever been stabbed by hot needles? That’s what it feels like. Continue reading Stingers

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