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Golden Mummies

golden mummies & aphids

golden mummies & aphids

Please excuse the rather unpleasant photo. Aphids are gross, but golden mummies are one of the best things I ever learned about IPM.

We’ve had a couple of outbreaks of aphids this spring, first with the lupine when it put out a big flush of new growth and now on our kales as they begin to bolt. Golden mummies are the brownish, mummified carcasses of parasitized aphids; wasps lay their eggs in the aphids and the larva eat the aphids from the inside, leaving the dried husks. If you aren’t familiar with them, click on the photo and you should be able to see the difference. In the garden, another way to tell the difference is that aphids move and mummies don’t.

When you see an outbreak of aphids, the presence of golden mummies is one sign that natural predators are present. Count the aphids and golden mummies on a leaf, and, if the outbreak includes at least 10 percent golden mummies, the natural predators will deal with the outbreak for you. Spraying would kill the natural predators along with the aphids and therefore be counterproductive, though aiming a spray of water against the aphids to knock them off (which actually kills a large percentage of them, while not harming the beneficials) is okay if you want to speed the process. 

In the photo, I count 14 golden mummies (mostly on the right, but three in the population of aphids on the left) and estimate about 100 aphids, so our IPM is working. Our earlier outbreak on the lupine was the same way, and it resolved itself without intervention.

ryan 4/22

Deer Deciduous

Mission olive

Mission olive

“All I know is that I don’t know.” Operation Ivy

Now that the terms stress deciduous and drought deciduous are somewhat established, I want to coin another phrase: deer deciduous. A lot of the deer-resistant plants get browsed for the first couple of years, periodically losing some or all of their foliage. Sometimes they grow out of it, sometimes they don’t. The plants don’t die, many are able to keep growing and get their foliage out of reach or they develop harder less-palatable leaves as they age and require less water, but it seems like a big percentage of the plants on deer-resistant lists will lose some foliage during their first few seasons. Deer deciduous.

This olive would be an example. I really didn’t think it would go so completely deciduous, poor thing. Though, now that I check, I do find a few sites on the web saying that the deer will eat them. Sunset has them on the deer-resistant list, but that list is probably the least reliable thing in the whole book. We ended up bringing the olive back to our place for the summer because of a change in construction plans at its new home, and it’s now carefully putting out new leaves. It’ll recover completely, and when we replant it we’ll spray it with Liquid Fence, which is somewhat effective, or we’ll cage it until it’s taller than the deer. It’s an olive; they’re survivors. I’m surprised that it got eaten, but probably I should just be surprised that I am surprised.

I like the Las Pilitas rating system and list of ratings for deer, though his list is for a different part of the state and our deer population disagrees with him on certain points. We’ve never had heavy browsing from anything that he rates a 9 or a 10, though, so that’s been reliable. The list only includes California natives, but some comparisons can be made for non-natives. Toxic is best along with grassy or spiky, scented foliage is next, tiny hard leaves are pretty good, followed by larger hard leaves sometimes being good, sticky or very fuzzy might work, and after that you better have your fingers crossed.

Update: As Daffodil Planter and the author herself, Carolyn Singer, pointed out, the two volumes of Deer In My Garden are a good print resource for gardening with deer.

ryan 3/31

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