Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Death Of 10,000 Daffodils

There is big trouble in Bulblandia. The daffodils are under attack. It all started with the observation that some of the daffodils were declining. Not much more than a few skinny leaves were coming up. It was followed by observing a large amount of damage to the foliage on many of the other clumps. They had yellowing, black, brown and rotting leaves. Flower stems were in short supply. Then a bunch of rotting bulbs were dug up. Panic set in.

Research and the symptoms led me to the Daffodil Bulb Fly, Merodon equestris, as a strong possibility. It wasn't looking good. The daffodils this year were just sad looking all around. A monoculture of anything is prone to disaster.

Could this be the end of 25 years of  planting, dividing and spreading daffodils over three acres of mountain top? Had the Daffodil Bot Fly reached plague proportions? Should there be wailing and lamentations? Are the daffodils doomed?

This is not a healthy looking clump of daffodils. Something is amiss.

Even a large number of the older more established clumps were filled with damaged and dying foliage and flower stems that were damaged and falling over.

Then I went across the scenic byway to look at my neighbor's abandoned daffodils. His patch looked much better, but was still unusually low on blooms. Then I found a few with the same damaged foliage. Whatever is going on, Bulbarella's Bulblandia is the epicenter.

More bulb digging was done to have another look and to help confirm a diagnosis. The roots and bulbs all looked relatively fine even when the foliage was stressed.

Then I sliced open the bulbs. Yes indeed. The one bulb I dug with no foliage at all had been eviscerated by the bulb fly. Another had been partially eaten. The ones with just the damaged foliage were a mystery. There weren't any signs of bulb rot.

Yes the Daffodil Bot Fly has been snacking on the daffodils, but it wasn't accounting for all of the troubles the daffodils were having this year. What else is going on?

Well, the anemones have been spreading and are having a banner year.

I have never seen this many puschkinia. They have spread themselves across the entire ridge top garden.

Down in the deep forest the native Anemone acutiloba are even more prolific.

I should move some over to the garden becoming.

The Bloodroot have begun to bloom.

The scilla are not quite as numerous, but even they are having their best showing ever.

The chionodoxa too are putting on quite the show in copious quantities. The best they have ever done. These minor bulbs have been quietly seeding themselves about and being accidentally and deliberately spread by the gardener. The great showing of the minor bulbs almost makes you forget the daffodils are having such a pathetic display this year.

It could be all the damaged daffodil foliage is from the cold. It did get down to 13 degrees after they were well up. There was that ice storm. We had spring in January and winter in March. Now we are having August in April. It is possible a lot of the bloom was lost in the embryonic stage.

Even though it is not responsible for all the troubles, the Daffodil Bot Fly is here and I have devised a poisonous plan. I am going to save my mother's daffodils. The bulb fly starts laying its eggs about the same time the daffodils finish blooming. When the bloom is finished the daffodils are going to be fertilized with a rose fertilizer that includes a systemic pesticide. The poisonous daffodil bulbs are going to be poisoned. This should kill the bulb fly maggots when they burrow down and start feeding on the bulbs.

I may not get rid of them, but I hope to decimate their numbers.

Maybe the sky is not falling after all.


Lola said...

I do hope that you can save most of them. It is a shame that this has happened.

Christopher C. NC said...

Lola this plan is more practical than trying to catch the flies with a butterfly net that I have been reading as a control strategy online.

gardenerofgoodandevil said...

Good luck! I am crossing my fingers for you!

Randy Emmitt said...

Christopher, I hope this works it sounds like a great plan to me. May the force be with you!

Rose said...

Oh no, I hope your plan works! Your mountaintop must be a glorious sight in spring, Christopher.

Janet QueenofSeaford said...

Crossing my fingers for you, that will be a lot of work to get each and every bulb. Glad there is something out there that will take care of the fly.

Christopher C. NC said...

I have calmed down significantly since I first realized there was a problem. The bulb fly is causing a good amount of loss, but I don't think it is responsible for the overall crummy show this year. With this many daffodils though I don't want to let the bulb fly population go unchecked. I'm thinking to do this two seasons in a row and monitor the situation over time.

Barry said...

M. equestris seems to have no predators, but I'd think those folks that develop beneficial nematodes would have a best seller if they could find one for that fly. Or, maybe a sticky trap idea, if one could make an attractant lure. I do think your poison-bulb idea sounds like a reasonable near-term approach - a dose in May, maybe again June, too?

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I had never heard of a Daffodil fly. Geez. What is this world coming to? Good luck with it's irradication.

Cindy, MCOK said...

Forgive me for chuckling at the mental picture of you flitting about the mountaintop with a butterfly net! I think your solution is much more practical. May it also be effective!

Skeeter said...

Oh No Say it isn't so! I have never heard of anything attacking a Daffy Bulb. Yikes, too bad those flies do not prefer Kudzu, there sure is plenty of that going around....