This is the time of year when hordes of insects come to feast on juicy new growth. Here are some you might be seeing at your place…
SPITBUGS - A garden bug with a nasty habit, Spitbugs (or spittlebugs) hide in bubbly balls of spit they blow out of their bums while they suck the life out of your plants. They spread by jumping from plant to plant - get rid of them using digital control (your fingers), spraying with a strong jet of water to expose them to predators, or by using an insecticide like Natures Way Pyrethrum.
LEAF ROLLER CATERPILLARS - They use silk to make a tent out of your leaves then eat their way out, like the worst kind of campers. If you disturb them they drop to the ground and escape. Do lots of damage to new growth on plants. Squash their little tents with your fingers and pull it apart. Or you can spray with something like Yates Success Naturalite, which has low residue and is fine for food crops.
PASSION VINE HOPPERS - Move like little aeroplanes – juvenile nymphs are referred to as fluffy bums. A good control method is to prune off the little egg filled twigs in autumn, which is no help to you now. You need to nail the fluffy bums because they are more vulnerable to a misted spray insecticide. You could also try a systemic spray like Confidor. I have used household flyspray just to knock down big populations - not very green, and I wouldn’t use it on food crops but it does work!
GREEN VEGETABLE BUGS - Or stink bugs...they smell truly awful. Check the undersides of leaves for clusters of pale coloured geometric eggs...cut the leaves off and get rid of them. The bugs go through several stages before they become green - small and brown, black with yellow dots, then green and black with red and yellow dots then finally green. Squash one, because the smell is a warning - more will jump off the plant. Then pick them up and throw them in a bucket of water.
APHIDS – this is their favourite time of year! Aphids distort new growth, weaken your plants, transmit viruses, and sooty mould grows on the honeydew they excrete, so they have to go. Your best line of defence is to knock them back early, because they reproduce at a truly alarming rate – one female can produce 5 new aphids a day. And they don’t even need a male! Squish with your fingers or pinch out the infested growing tips and dispose of. Spray the aphids directly with soap spray ( 1 Tablespoon liquid soap/litre of water) on a regular basis, use an insecticide like Yates Success Ultra, Neem or Pyrethrum. Plant to attract beneficial insects like lacewings and hoverflies – good choices include phacelia, Queen Anne’s Lace, marigolds, dill and sweet allysum.