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[personal profile] damselfish

Bee-safe gardening is difficult.

It's important, but it's also difficult. Depending on how you feel about finding bug damage in your garden.

Most of the natural techniques don't work on a balcony. I can't release predators because my garden is a 12x4 foot plot and all the predators would leave. I can't mix things up too much because the balcony is too small and every "mix" invites a different kind of pest anyway. Use plants resistant to bugs? I'd love to know what miracle plant you recommend, O Gardening Advice Givers, that resist snails, thrips, aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and caterpillars, to name but a few of the beasties I have found feasting upon my garden.

I don't mind overall, except they do have a habit of damaging my plants in catastrophic ways. The ants that punch a few holes in the leaves? Carry on, ye artists of the negative space media. The snails that chew through the stems and fell my mums? There's amdro in their future.

Of course, amdro is harmless to the good critters. But what about aphids and mites and other small pests that can't be gotten by physical means?

My old standby used to be Bayer--this is the stuff everyone will recommend, and I used it most recently to deal with spider mites in the roses. It'll handle pretty much anything feeding on the plants, which is handy because picking the mites off one by one is impossible (especially when you don't want to touch them. I actually threw one of the mini-roses away because I found pinkie nail sized mealybugs on it and could not deal). Except I found out that this stuff is bad for bees. Pretty much anything that poisons sap-suckers will kill pollinators.

I should've known it was too good to be true even before the neocotinoid business became well-known.

"Sam, you're, like, 100 feet up! Your balcony garden doesn't have to worry about bees."

As a matter of fact I regularly find butterflies and bees in my garden! And given that I'm one of the few balconies in my building with a serious garden of flowering plants, I feel responsible for making sure these critters pull through. If you point out that I mostly have fall flowering plants: this is south Florida. The mums will bloom spring to winter and the roses have bloomed through everything but the heat of summer. Since March, something has been flowering on my balcony.

Insecticidal soaps and neem oil work on lots of things, but neem oil can't be used when it's too hot. Hooray, it's not too hot, though! Just in time because there are giant mealybugs in my other mini-rose.

...And there are also ladybug larva.

I can't spray the mealybugs without killing them.

If you want to know how many pests I have in my garden, I'll tell you I've found ladybug larva for a long time and the pests are still winning.

That is how I picked mealybugs off a rosebush with tweezers, and cried.

They go squish in a satisfying and viscerally nauseating way.

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damselfish

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