Friday, June 18, 2010

The War of the Honeysuckle

Nope, no roses here.  For those familiar with my gardening skills, they'd be surprised to see the average flowering plants in my garden such as daisies, roses, marigolds.  I'll stick with succulents.  They need little care.  If they can't survive on their own, then they don't belong in my yard.

That said, I do have a flowering honeysuckle vine that I adore.  Probably because it's the one plant I've been able to nurture beyond two years (6 yrs old right now) and actually see it thrive.  It climbs up the trellised bench on my deck.  And every May/June it blossoms with pretty yellow/orange flowers.  Life was good.  The vine took care of itself.  I was rewarded with flowers.

Until three years ago when the aphids moved in.

I was dumbstruck that first year, not sure what to do when I noticed the leaves falling off and the leaves that did not fall off were covered with millions of tiny white bugs.  Bleech.  The second year they returned, with new forces and, I was guessing, trillions in their ranks instead of mere millions.  But they don't just ruin the plant, they also ruin the deck boards.  Aphids exude 'honeydew', which is a sticky dewy-looking substance.  That drops onto the deck and literally turns the boards black.  And no, it doesn't wash off.  And all that sticky honeydew (aphid poo, if we're calling it like it is) attracts flies.  As a result, what isn't apparent in the photo of the vine, is that it looks full and healthy on the top and then there looks like a patch of leaves below but between below and up top it is bare.  That's where most of the leaves have died and fell off and even some branches.

So last year I researched online and found that one should pluck off the aphids to get rid of them.  Seriously?  I felt overwhelmed staring at the ranks of trillions, maybe even a hundred-gazillion (actual aphid count is a guesstimate).  The deck turned black again last year.

This year I am determined to hold them off at the pass.  I bought some aphid spray.  The spray is not completely natural, which bugs me to no end, but really, what bugs me more? You got it, the aphids.  And this year I have been checking the leaves daily, before the flowers even popped out, and immediately sprayed whenever I saw telltale white powder, or a little white creepy thing.  The vine actually bloomed quite nicely this year, but only thanks to my vigilance.  My hubby gets out the tall ladder once a week and I climb up to reach the very top of the vine, and saturate it with the spray.

But still, they are resistant.  Those buggers just keep coming back!  I think I've reduced their numbers from amillionty-gazillion to thousands, though, so I have hope.  But already, our deck is starting to darken below the vine.  Sigh...

Anyone struggle with aphids?  Found a surefire way to combat the troops?

Michele

20 comments:

Betina Krahn said...

Michele-- sympathies! there's nothing worse than a plague of aphids. Unless maybe Japanese Beetles on beautiful roses.

Anyway-- everytime the kids come, we buy some ladybugs and release them so the kids can play with them as they go. You know how ladybugs will crawl right along your hand and linger a bit before flying away. . . it's a blast for the kids and such fun.

And lady bugs love aphids! So go to Bachmann's or some farm and garden store (or even on-line to Gardens Alive or some such)and buy some lady bugs and release them on your honeysuckle. They may not totally solve the problem, but they'll help! AND you get to play with them in the bargain!

And besides, ladybugs are supposed to be good luck!

Pat L. said...

I have no green thumb, so cant help you out, but I do LOVE honeysuckle.

Have a great weekend.

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, oh. So that's what's wrong with my honeysuckle on the south side of my house. It's been virtually maintenance free for the 16 years we've lived in this house, so I don't go around to that area of the yard much. Just noticed from my car a few weeks ago that it's not doing well. Hope I haven't lost it. This type of plant does have such pretty flowers.

Cindy Gerard said...

Gorgeous bush/vine, Michele. And I applaud your determination to save it. There are some things, after all, worth fighting for.

I used to have dozens of house plants - until I brought one home that apparently was infested with aphids and I ended up losing all most all of them over time. What I didn't lose I eventually had to throw out (I know - I can still hear them crying). Gradually, I started over but now I'm basically down to African violets and a few others.

Love Betina's idea!

Michele Hauf said...

Betina, I knew ladybugs were big on aphids, but my yard has zero. Can you actually get them at Bachmans? I figured you'd have to special order them. Hmm, I'm going to give them a call today!

Helen, yep, go check your vine for clumps of white stuff.

I like how you put that some things are worth fighting for, Cindy. Normally I just let the darned flower die if it's not going to hold up its end of the bargain and 'be pretty'. But this darn vine is just so beautiful and let's me twist and weave it through the overhead slats, and well, I lurve the darn thing, so to the battle front!

Kathleen O said...

I am not a gardner by any strech of the imagination. But my landlady is... I know we had them on her roses a few years back. I was looking after the watering while they were away and I noticed something amiss. I phoned our nieghbour Nick who is another advid gardner and he told me what was up and how we needed to proceed. We never had them back again as far as I can tell.. Hope your plants do well this summer.

Leanne said...

Gardening isn't my area at all, but I love honeysuckle. Brings back cool memories of growing up, so if I had honeysuckle, I'd work at saving it too! Love Betina's idea!

Michele Hauf said...

Kathleen, how exactly did your neighbor say you needed to proceed? (If you wouldn't mind saying.) :-)

Kathleen Eagle said...

Michele, somebody just told me she bought praying mantis at Bachman's last year and they took care of her mosquito problem. I think they eat aphids too.

I tried lady bugs one year--painted a cute little house for them and everything--but they didn't seem to stick around. I'm going to try again, though. I love the insect release party Betina described. The kids raised butterflies a couple of seasons ago, and release day was such a joy!

Michele Hauf said...

Kathy, I remember your pictures of that butterfly release day. It wouldn't have been as wondrous without the kids there to watch. Praying mantis? Those things freak me out. I'd be too creeped out to even buy one, let alone buy it and actually put it in my car to take home. What if it escaped? Aggh! :-)

I'll try ladybugs. I imagine they'll all fly away, too, but it would be wondrous to watch.

Rula Sinara said...

Hi Michelle. I'm with Betina on this. I release ladybugs and they have a feast. It's a win win. You may want to make sure that the spray you're using won't kill or chase off the ladybugs. Good luck! I love the smell of honeysuckle.

Kathleen O said...

Michele, we took off most of the leaves that were infected and they he sprayed with some sort of solution. I don't remember what it was and they he put mulch around bottom.. we also have a big Maple tree that is near the rose bushes and we cut that back too. Our roses our blooming great this year and last year. But I thought they were gonners the year before that.. I will ask my landlady if she has any tips and let you know.
Hope this helps..

gigi said...

Lady bugs are great for aphids. My father uses a dish liquid mixture and sprays the plants. It seems to work. Just buy the store brand and thin it down and spray it on the plant.
Here is a site I found with more information.

http://www.essortment.com/home/homemadeinsecti_sylg.htm

lois greiman said...

I'm afraid most of my nurturing goes into the belegged kind of life. Can't help with the honeysuckle, but I like the ladybug idea.

Christie Ridgway said...

We have a lush honeysuckle that climbs over our shade structure but I haven't noticed aphids on it. Yay. I did buy lady bugs one year as a fun thing for the boys to release but I don't remember them hanging around either.

I like the idea of praying mantis and mosquitos. That would be cool.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Michele, you write about vampires, and a praying mantis creeps you out? Silly girl. We used to play with them when we lived on Guam. And geckos, but ours didn't talk. And hermit crabs. You do believe spiders are your friends, right?

Michele Hauf said...

Kathy, I write about vampires, and vampires freak me out! :-) The horror-movie kind, of course.

Well, I now have a bag of half-chilled ladybugs sitting on my counter. Giving them a bit to thaw then the instructions say to spray them with sugar water, which will coat them and keep them on your vines instead of flying away. Then put them out slowly in the evening. Hmm...this whole operation sounds daunting. And is it just me or do half the ladybugs in the bag look dead?

Will report back tomorrow if I have success!

Betina Krahn said...

Good luck, Michele! let us know how it goes!

Keri Ford said...

good luck! I love a honeysuckle. even more than the flowers and the smell, I love the honey :)

when I still rode horses, we'd ride by the vines, break off a big section and suck the honey out.

Michele Benard said...

I think if you use a mixture of dish soap and water to wash the leaves/ plants and go to where you can buy lady bugs and release them on your plants they eat aphids