Tue, 3 Apr 2007

Aphids & Immune Systems

— SjG @ 1:23 pm

The lupine in the front yard is tall and happy, with vast swaths of blue and blue-white flowers.

In one corner, however, closest to the street and driveway, a few plants have been overwhelmed by aphids. Not just your usual annoying aphids, the kinds you find attacking your roses, but massive, evil, green aphids that are larger than half the children that wander our neighborhood streets.

“So where are the aphid predators?” you may ask. Well, there are lots of ladybugs. But while they’re all hanging out in the lupine, the majority of the ladybugs seem much more interested in mating than eating.

Dr. Weil has a model for medicine and the human system, which can be summarized as

  • Our immune system keeps us healthy by keeping a homeostatic equilibrium.
  • When the immune system gets seriously overwhelmed by something, it cannot maintain equilibrium, which manifests as chronic sickness.
  • Medical intervention should attempt to mitigate whatever is overwhelming the immune system, so it can succeed in its task of maintaining equilibrium.

In other words, the medicine doesn’t cure us, it balances things to the point where we can cure ourselves.

So what does this have to do with aphids? My theory is that the garden as a whole resembles a semihomeostatic organism under attack. Or rather, that I needed to restore an equilibrium where the predators were numerous enough to fight off the aphid plague. The predators were doing the population increase part themselves. It was up to me to reduce the plague population. So it was don the gloves, and go a-squishin’.

After fifteen minutes, vast gouts of green liquid flowed down my arms. It was a bleak day in aphid-dom.

That was two days ago. Today, there are twice as many ladybugs on the lupine, and the aphid population is smaller. It remains to be seen if equilibrium has been restored.

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