Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wanted: A Few Good Flies

Strange that I should see so many moths flying about when it is so very cold outside.


Still, I wish them well.  I generally like wildlife, and these are pretty in their own way.


But still, how strange that there should be so many of them in such chilly weather...  When driving, it seemed like I was driving through a blizzard, there were so many of them.  Swarms of them hang out on my porch, no doubt drawn to the light.


Wait a second, these might be Winter Moths, which come out in winter to mate!
Invaders from Europe, the caterpillars that emerge in spring have voracious appetites, and wreak havoc on hardwood trees and perennials...

On second thought, I don't wish you well!


Apparently they've become a serious problem in Massachusetts, defoliating thousands of acres of trees (not to mention gardens)!  They have no natural predators here, so their numbers have ballooned in the last few years.

Hey, get away from that plant!
Nova Scotia had its own infestation back in the 1930's.  The Canadian government has effectively controlled the population by releasing a certain parasitic fly.  Entomologists in Massachusetts have started releasing these flies, but funding is, of course, short for such things.  


The only things a home gardener can do to combat the forthcoming destruction are:
1.  wrap up the trunks of targeted trees in fall to prevent the wingless females from crawling up them to lay eggs  (though the larvae travel on balloons of silk and can be easily blown in from other trees)

and 2. spray for the larvae in the spring (which can, of course, kill other, more desirable moths and butterflies)

This doesn't sound like a very winning strategy...

It sounds like the future of my garden could possibly depend on the efforts of a few parasitic flies.

Uhhh.. hmm?
It's all you, guys..

11 comments:

  1. Sigh. It's always something, isn't it?

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    1. I know, seriously! I feel so bad for farmers. I just can't imagine my livelihood being dependent on so many factors!

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  2. Very interesting. I see bugs down here in the winter but I would not have imagined them in MA. I am doubtful that a parasitic fly could make much of a difference, because in my experience when you have an infestation, it takes more than a few beneficials to solve the problem. I am becoming a fatalist when it comes to insects, as you see.

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    1. Also, they have only released these flies in several limited areas, so it might take awhile to get to my garden. They'd better hurry it up!

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  3. It is difficult to get nature back in balance when alien invaders have no predators, over here we have the same problem with invaders from US – like the grey squirrel and the harlequin ladybird and from Japan we have the red lily beetle. Adding a predator can help for a while but easily distort the balance for something else, not easy! I hope the problem gets sorted eventually.

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    1. Interesting, I had not heard of the Harlequin ladybird before. Maybe I just thought they were ladybugs! I wonder how the grey squirrel got over there. Those can be real pests, I'm sure!

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  4. Oh boy I hope the flies come through for you...wishing you a great New Year with lots of flies!!

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    1. Ha, thank you! I hope you have a wonderful New Years' as well!

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  5. One of the problems we have had here in recent years is Asian ladybugs. They are orange not red and have swarmed our house as you describe the moths have done. Then they crawl in little crevices in our attic where they "sleep" on the windowsills. It is warm there and so sometimes they wake up early and fly around. If frightened they let off a stink which is indescribable. All in all they are real pests!
    Wishing you happy holidays!

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    1. I wonder if those are the same bugs that Helene was naming as Harlequin ladybirds up above. I haven't really noticed them before. I hope we don't have those as well as pests here!

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    2. Yes, it probably is, although over here I have seen them in all colours from deep red to orange. Never found them inside the house – not yet, but if you put them on your finger they bite you. And they eat the normal ladybirds – nasty creatures!
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonia_axyridis

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