Coffee Share 210416: Aphid Carnage

This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.
I’m part of a small group of bloggers who stay in touch and chat about blogging, writing, or just about anything else that might be of interest.
Link to This week’s full list
Link to my Story Blog:  Table of Contents.

The pre-dawn morning is crisp and cold but the sky, again, is clear and in an hour or so, the sun will arise to raise the temperature,  transforming your thick socks and sweats to sandals shorts and tea shirts.  Until that happens, we have tea to bridge the need for something hot outside ourselves that we can absorb to add its heat and substance to our early morning conscience, 

This morning, it is Taiwan Oolong.  This is a black tea, but its preparation has been found to render it mellow and gentle on the barely conscience soul. With all the chemistry of any other black tea, it remains one of those teas you can actually drink all day long.

Welcome!  I’m glad you’ve stopped by,  But it is early here, so we’ll make sure our mugs are full, hot and to your pleasure with both contents and contaminants.  

This has been a busy week in West Sonoma County, California. There were battles with nature to meet, a yard to be cleaned, a car to buy, a big project to finalize for execution next week and stories to progress.

Let me catch you up with what I think would be the most interesting parts.

Recall that I have a transplanted volunteer ornamental cherry tree that is coming into its own, growing well (I’m tempted to say even, aggressively) but last week was found to be under attack by some local hoard of aphids.  I rose to the attack with the standard recommended treatment of a good shower with neem oil.  I could have used something harsher as we have no plans to eat the fruit of this tree, but why use heavier ammunition than is needed?  Well, in this case, this hoard is proving to be tougher than your average aphid and there has been one lonely lady bug to be nature’s natural enemy to the aphid. So the aphid population is going down, but only slowly.

While fretting over this one afternoon this week, I had a brain-flash.  Aphids are lazy and succeed only in mass.  They cluster in tiny wads of their brethren on the newest leaves and tips of new-growth branches.  There, they chew a hole and begin sucking the sweat sap of the tree.  Unmolested, they might rarely move once settled. If the neem oil worked faster (which it sometimes does) they would suffocate, die and eventually fall off their perch.  Their number was declining daily, but I’m not good at waiting.  I want them gone, off my tree and preferably dead to spare other nearby plants, so I wondered what I could do to move things along.  The cool idea is the pressured mist setting on our watering nozzle.   And wow!.  This worked great.  The new growth leaves and branches are very soft but this mist setting bends but does not damage anything other than the hold the aphids have on my tree.

I literally blew many of them away.  Separated from their helpless tree they were likely already dead from the neem oil and just needed to coxed into falling away or they were still alive and found themselves out of reach of my tree where they might starve.  So I was able to speed up the de-aphid-ization of my tree.  But by doing this I also discovered how vulnerable these pests are to, umm, can I say the personal touch?  While holding the mist on the branches, I would rub two fingers along each branch and sometimes heavily impacted leaves.

This physical interruption to their 24×7 sucking on my tree, revealed that this simple effort often crushed both the living and the dead and washed away all the evidence of this newly discovered method of aphid carnage.  After maybe 10 minutes, my tree was almost aphid free and the next day, many of the leavers that had curled up for lack of sap, themselves had recovered and my tree looked remarkably healthy again. I gave the tree a good checkup the next day when it had dried out and it was difficult to find any aphid clusters, but when I did, being too lazy to dig out the hose and nozzle, I simple ran my fingers over them and soon my fingers were red with crushed body parts and partially digested sap meals from the shredded aphids.

‘Ah’, I thought at first, ‘I should get a photo of what looked like marina sauce smeared on my fingers to document the satisfying success of my new method, but then some wiser side of my brain interrupted the plan by pointing out, ‘No one wants to see your raw slaughter of well-fed aphids. It is unseemly and crude.’  The first side on my brain, still enjoying the success of the venture counted, ‘but it’s educational and . . .’ The second side finished the thought, ‘. . . it can be described without gory and gratuitous photos.’

‘Okay then,’ my first side yielded and I put my phone back into my pocket,  Considered yourself spared the image of my fingers coated in what used to be aphids.  

Recall that I had to take down a nearly dead tree the previous week and last week I progressed it’s final removal by filling our yard waste barrel with various sized sections of branches and spinney seed pods — lots and lots of seed pods.  The tree was big enough that it’s going to take 3-4 fillings of that barrel to clear away the remains and then I have to figure out what to do about the trunk.  For that I need to acquire use of a chain saw, spend many hours with my hand saw or, hmm, maybe I can just bury the thing in a spot that used to have all the nearly buried rocks from one corner of the landscaping. Now, this is tempting.

Next up was one of my least favorite things to do, buying a car. . .

The dealers nearby for the most part have realized that normal people think that car sales people all want to be crooks when they grow up so we used to arrive loaded for bear with information and strategy to catch them in their lies and attempts to cheat us somehow.  Around here, they’ve up-ed their game and have become more reasonable but this effort is still unpleasant.  

Each of our children had different paths after Junior college, but they were all anxious to have a car devoted for their use.  We decided to tie that privilege to a job and wanted them to experience life without a car long enough for them to learn its value.  Out youngest is almost done at university and after spending a few years dealing with life from a bike and bus ticket, finally did go out and secure a job that has enabled him to pay most of his expenses. So, it was time to buy, hopefully my last additional car for the kids.  We’re going to throw in the first 6 months of insurance but after that he’ll pick up that cost along with fuel and maintenance to remind him that these things cost hard earned dollars. 

Work this week has been both busy and light.  My quarterly project happens next week and I’ve redesigned the report to be much easier for my customers to consume.  In short, I produce a report each quarter that described the security patching of our products to our largest customers.

The IT world these days is plagued by hackers trying to get on the front pages of a newspaper or extorting or even outright stealing from our customers by misusing our software.  My project helps our customer understand their exposure  and thus make expensive, but wise decisions about patching to prevent being hacked.

BB in hand 20210314My report allows them to quickly review often one page of charts per product and know what they need to do with only 5-20 minutes of study.  Next week I’m rolling out a new version that brings more information into a tighter graphic and clearly lays out the risk exposure.  I think my customers are going to love it based on how much they loved the limited information given them by the previous format.  Okay, I hope that was short enough and light enough on jargon to give you a glimpse of my week.

I also progressed a story I’m anxious to unveil.  Our weekend looks busy so we’ll see.

So, that’s it for me. Oh, and the BB lizards say their version of “Hi”.

Oh look, here comes the sun. Humph, the sky is grayer than yesterday so it will take some time to warm up.  Let’s top off our mugs with a fresh hot brew.

Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll be around to visit your share shortly.


Blessings all! 

GW bio card 4

14 thoughts on “Coffee Share 210416: Aphid Carnage

  1. You have had a busy week. I discovered woolly aphids about 4 years ago. They excrete this white fuzz on the branches. They liked my pyracantha tree and a tree in the front yard. I did a mini-study of their predators which was interesting. One was a wasp that turns them into mummies and there are syrphids (hover flies), ladybugs and lacewings. I did not try removing them manually but that is interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yuck, aphids! Nasty little buggers they are. I used to have to dust my roses against them. We’re still waiting to hear about job, but HR says we’re still in the running, so that’s a little hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am glad that sanity prevailed and you did not snap photo of what used to be aphids although I will admit to a curious morbidity or is it a morbid curiosity… Gary Defender from aphids hahaha
    ~B

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved your coffee share this week, I was entertained. I usually get rid of aphids with soapy water but a tree probably needs more than that and I may use your method next time I have an aphid problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Regina. Your visits always improve my day. I’m still finding these guys. As near as I can tell, they are born pregnant and need only a few unmolested hours to form their nasty clusters around young branches and leaves. But I still predict that the human will win. There may a lot more aphid sauce made in the next few days.

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    1. Hi Antoinette. Thanks for stopping by. This is a persistent hoard and I was disappointed when the first blast of neem oil did not kill them off. But I really do want to keep this tree and they might well have killed it if I left them to have their way. The water mist method was helpful but the manual assault proved to be the most effective I’ve found — but it is also the most messy and unsuitable for photo sharing.

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  5. Hi Gary, I am glad that you won the Battle of the Aphids, but I am equally glad that you chose not to take and show a photograph, I forget the source of the quote (Scripture, maybe or Shakespeare???”Discretion is the better part of valor!:) That said, I had planned to make some marinara sauce this week. I found an easy recipe that I like, but I may have to rethink that! On car sales, My husband and I may be in the minority. I may not love buying cars, but we have had lots of positive experience here. Also good for you on how you handle helping but also handing over. My son was the only one who got a car before leaving home, but anyone who drove a family car had to pay the car insurance. Since we were supporting five teens in two households, they also had to cover extras, proms, pictures and class rings were not in the household budget. I was proud of them then and now. They did not grow up resenting us for that and they understood early on the connection between hard work and having things. Have a blessed and productive week. Michele

    Liked by 1 person

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