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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Purple Dragons to the Rescue

I might have run for the insecticide soap-- or a blowtorch-- at the sight of these little monsters on my bean plants if I hadn't heard earlier about the purple dragons. A speaker at our church's garden seminar told us about his daughter's bean tepee, where she would sit and read and be a little girl. Aphids invaded. He didn't want to spray the tepee with chemicals, so he proposed that they wait a few days and see what happened. When he asked later how things were with the bean plants, his daughter said, "It's all right, Daddy. Purple dragons are eating the aphids." Ladybug larvae are purple dragons. 
I had sprayed soap on the aphid hordes on my bean plants, but it scarcely made a dent in the population. Then came the purple dragons, about half an inch long, and voracious. They slithered over the bean blossoms, nibbling aphids as they went, and left the plants perfectly clean. 
Today, voila, ladybugs. While picking some yard-long beans, I was astonished by the intense color and the size of this ladybug. It looked like a drop of red enamel, still wet. I ran for the camera, which I suppose I will have to start keeping on the tripod. It's tricky to take a close-up photo with a breeze moving the leaf and instinct moving the subject. Its less flashy cousin, lower down on the plants, was a little easier to capture. 

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