Garden Lore

“Earthworms are used by research scientists looking to improve human medical conditions because their bodies have many similarities with our own: nervous system, blood vessels, haemoglobin, kidney-like organs prgans producing urine… But don’t get too worried about the weird relations you never knew you had because worms also have five hearts and both male and female reproduction organs, they breathe through their skins and when they want to eat they stick their throats out of their mouths to grab their food. It’s going to be a while before they start moving into houses and driving cars.”

Niall EdworthyThe Curious Gardener’s Almanac” (2006)
Narcissus Fly

Photo credit: Sandy Rae, Wiki Commons

Photo credit: Sandy Rae, Wiki Commons

Narcissi flies are on the wing now and will be laying eggs in the withering crowns of certain bulbs. Narcissi (daffodils) are a prime target but they also attack hippeastrums, snowdrops, snowflakes, hyacinths and I have seen them attack Scadoxus katherinae. Bulbs which are close to the surface are particularly vulnerable. The fly (which looks like a cross between a very small bumblebee and a blowfly) lays its eggs on the spent foliage. When the egg hatches, the larva crawls down and burrows into the bulb, eating it from the inside out.

Mark stalks them in the rockery every fine day with his little hand sprayer of Decis (a synthetic pyrethroid,the same as is in fly spray) but if you are not inclined to spend the time on the hunt (there is an element of the thrill of the chase going on here), you can take other steps. Remove the dying foliage as soon as it starts turning brown -it has fulfilled its purpose of replenishing the bulb for next season – and lay additional mulch over the bulbs to get a greater depth. If your bulbs are in containers, remove them to a shady position immediately. These varmints prefer a sunny outlook, in our experience. Dig and divide clumps which have become so congested that they are pushing themselves out of the ground and replant them so that they are fully covered. Left unchecked, narcissi fly can multiply to the point where they can decimate a patch of bulbs to the point where you will get no flowers at all.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.