Ladybugs eat aphids. My precious blood orange tree was infested.
Over the course of the last few weeks, I was watching as aphids slowly grew out of control. I wondered why some leaves on my blood orange tree had been cupping and curling and then noticed aphids. I also saw a few volunteer ladybugs and hoped they would handle it.
They did not handle it.
Earlier this week I saw that some branches of my poor tree looked infested! I searched the internet to learn what to do, as clearly I had waited too long. The internet told me I had done wrong. You can rely on the internet.
Based off the internet's advice I sprayed the tree down with a shower of cold water trying to knock as many of the aphids off the leaves and out of the pot as I could. The ground around my potted semi-dwarf blood orange is gravel and hopefully, they just died and went to aphid Valhalla. This somewhat worked, but many still clung to the tree's leaves.
To up the ante, I mixed up a small spray bottle of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint soap (the bald me's favorite all-in-one soap) and water. About 1 tsp of soap to 1 quart of water mixed, then sprayed in a fine mist over the insects did an amazing job of killing them. Then next day there was a sticky mass of blackening dead aphid bodies. I was surprised at how it did, but I should know to trust Dr. Bronner. Dr. Bronner is MacGyver to Doctor Who's Elmer Fudd.
There were still some aphids wandering the leaves, however.
So, I brought out the big guns. Next up was a bag of ladybugs. While my garden shows a few year-round, I figured a big huge bonking dose might knock the aphids back enough to consider the problem solved with occasional spraying. I followed the directions and released refrigerated bugs at night, on sprayed trees. So far, the mischief seems managed. There are more ladybugs everywhere in the garden, but the vast majority left after the first day. This was anticipated.
If new leaf growth is unmarred by the curling and cupping, I may leave the plant alone. If I see continued damage from the aphids, I will keep spraying every 3-5 days with the soapy water. I might add cayenne or garlic, but just two applications really reduced the population and I think there are more than enough ladybugs hanging around.
The lady bugs are also lovely. I may build them a hotel.