Thursday, January 04, 2007

Rolling with da Betty Wheel

Drove down to Harrisburg yesterday morning to pick up Betsy at the train station. I was hoping she'd brought along some good old midwestern snow, but so far there's been none, and temps continue to be freakishly warm. Anywho, B & I had a great chat on the way home (it's only an hour's drive) and stopped for lunch at Mya's, which has been nicely renovated (they had a fire last year). Hope you've been enjoying Betsy's poems this week over at No Tell Motel!

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Last week, we watched a perfectly tepid Meryl Streep film: Before and After. Flaccid dialogue, lackluster performances from Streep, Liam Neeson, and Alfred Molina--you could almost see them cringe after delivering some of the truly lame lines--and the actor who played the troubled son was utterly annoying. This film came out in 1996. I've sprinkled a few of Meryl Streep's films into my Netflix waitlist--I generally *love* her work--but I can find absolutely nothing in this film to recommend it.

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My hosta seedlings are up, and coming along well under lights in the attic. They started sprouting about three weeks ago. I still have lots of seed, gathered from our own plants and from a nice stand of giant white-flowered plants on campus near my office building. I started more seeds on the 31st: dwarf columbines and spider plants.

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The terrarium is overrun by aphids. In November, I planted a few small cuttings of Kenilworth ivy, a beautiful creeping plant that grows in rocky crevices (I always notice it along the base of some of the old buildings in town, for example, and there are always several nice trailing clumps growing out of the mortar between the stones that support the railroad trestle near campus) and sports tiny pale violet blooms. A week or two later, I noticed a couple of aphids. That's all it takes, really: by the time you see 'em, they've got a foothold and some kind of action is necessary. As luck would have it, our chemistry building was swarmed that same week by ladybugs--it was another freakishly warm day in mid-November, and I noticed the ladybugs crawling all over the sidewalk and brick, so I caught two and brought them home.

At first they just sat there in the terrarium, clinging to the nearest leaf and doing pretty much nothing. Next day, I noticed that they were climbing all over the plants, and within a week I couldn't see a single aphid. This got me worrying about what to feed the ladybugs, which seemed to be hitting it off well: Randy actually filmed them making acrobatic ladybug love as they clung to a leaf. (Imagine two humping Volkswagen Beetles.)

It's been almost a month since I last saw them. Maybe they're hibernating? At any rate, the aphids are now in full assault, sucking on every leaf of the Kenilworth ivy, which has spread considerably. I don't think I can let this go much further without using some insecticidal soap. If I could find some other insect predator, I'd go that route first, though. Spiders, maybe?
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[photo: hosta seedlings, three weeks old]


RJGibson said...

Ron--I had an aphid problem with some datura i brought in to winter over. Because they were too big to go in a terrarium or the like I sprayed them with a rubbing alchol/water mix (1:1). It seemed to do the trick without damaging the plants. If you don't want to go that route, I'm sure spiders would be the most effective if your ladybugs have gone missing.

Ron Mohring said...

Thanks RJ, I will try this!