This year the budding was prolific, and thanks to a premature spring, in March a wonderful pink color brightened our garden. The flowers looked more "convinced" than last year (probably thanks to the maturity of the tree). But then (meteorological freak!) the cold weather came back, we even had snow at the end of march, and i thought that there wasn't enough time for the pollinating bugs to do their duty. When a decent weather came back, infact, the flowers already started to wither, and it was instead a pleasant surprise to see, some weeks later, that where the heroic flowers had fallen, a big amount of little fruits were born, promising an abundant harvest.
Detail of the peach fruit in different phases of maturing. From left to right: the buds on March 8th; on March 15th; the flowers begins to blossom (March 20th); after the snow on March 23rd; the sun is back (March 30th); some time later, after the withering of the flowers, fruits begin to develop (May 4th); the last photo is from yesterday (May 28th).
Anyway, there is a really surprising story, told me by the agronomist i mentioned above (graduated in entomology), behind the aphids infestation.
It is a story of symbiosis between bugs of different species. The ants seem particularily fond of a sticky substance (secreted by the aphids) that is clearly visible on the infested leaves. The aphids themselves, prefer the leaves of some particular trees, for example the peach one. So, the ants carry the aphid larvae on their backs and transport them to the peach leaves, after which two or three ants constantly stay on each one of those leaves to garrison the "farm" and defend it from any predator. This defensive behavior is easily observable bringing a little wooden stick near the infested leaves. The ants in the neighborhood gather and, with a grim expression on their faces (but maybe this is only effect of suggestion!?!), they heroically attack the intruder with their lethal pinchers.
In other words, the behavior of the ants with the aphids is somehow similar to the one of man and cattle-raising, and, looking at the devastated conditions of my poor peach tree i can't avoid to ask myself if the human analogy wasn't less devastating... But let's not digress to philosophical discussions and compassion by the intelligence demonstrated by the damn ants: don't forget that they are compromising the pleasure of eating that delicacy! No mercy then, against those damn aphids and their protectors. La guerre est la guerre!
The devastating amount of parasites that in this period torment our beautiful peach tree makes me think that this year spraying soap won't be enough, as it was last year, and i am already planning a strategical offensive for next year:
It looks that ladybugs are terrible predators of aphids, and i discovered googling the internet that there are some online shops that sell ladybug larvae, for example over here.
The fact that these bugs in their pijamas are a little rare at our place makes me think that perhaps the climate isn't suited to them. On the linked website infact they say that larvae develop to adults at 20 to 25 Celsius [68 to 77 Fahrenheit] from March to May. In that period over here its usually colder. Will i be successful at raising ladybugs? Has any of you ever tried?
And you, what color is your thumb?