Many countries around the world have colorfully descriptive names for the period of above-normal temperatures that can occur in autumn. In Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and other European countries it is known as ‘Altweibersommer’ or ‘old women’s summer’. Slavic-language countries such as Russia, Serbia, and Croatia refer to it as ‘babye leto’ or ‘grandma’s summer’ while in Bulgaria it is ‘gypsy summer’ or ‘poor man’s summer’. Travel to South America’s southernmost countries of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay  and you will hear it called ‘Veranico’ which is literally translated to ‘little summer’ and is also ‘Veranico de Maio’ (May’s little summer) as early autumn occurs from late April to mid-May in the southern hemisphere.

A beautiful fall setting in Enfield

       A beautiful fall setting in Enfield

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac warm days must follow a spell of cold weather or a hard frost and must occur between St. Martin’s Day (November 11) and November 20. For over 200 years, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has adhered to the saying, “If All Saints’ (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin’s brings out Indian summer.” The US National Weather Service defines Indian Summer weather conditions that are sunny and clear with above normal temperatures following a hard frost any time between late September and mid-November.

We had two days, October 18th and 19th, where the nighttime lows were 26 and 21 degrees F. These were followed by daytime highs that saw us in the upper 60s and even the 70s until November 9th. Over that weekend I was doing some general fall cleanup in the yard when I saw quite a lot of insect activity in the flower beds.

Bee on buddleia

                                                              Bee on buddleia

Bee on a pink mum

                                                              Bee on a pink mum

I wasn’t too surprised to see bees visiting the mums and the few buddleia flowers that were still in bloom but the colony of oleander aphid, Aphis nerii, that was all over the stems of the milkweed was a sight to see. Their bright yellow bodies stood out in sharp contrast to their surroundings. Female oleander aphids deposit nymphs rather than eggs and each nymph is a clone of the female that produced it. The population that I saw consisted of apterous (wingless) adults although the alate (or winged) variety may have already flown from the overcrowded conditions to start a new colony elsewhere.

Oleander aphid

                           Oleander aphid

Over in the vegetable garden the remaining kale plants were covered in grey, waxy-coated cabbage aphids, the Brevicoryne brassicae. These cole-crop loving insects can produce many generations over the season and their reproduction favors moderate temperatures and dry weather which is exactly what we have had this fall. For cool season crops such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, and turnip that are planted in the late summer aphids can be a nuisance.

Cabbage aphids on kale

                  Cabbage aphids on kale

These little sap-suckers will feed in large colonies on the underside of new leaves. If only a few aphids are noticed then they can be squished by hand or hosed off of the plant. Lager groups may require treatment with an insecticidal soap or neem oil. They also have natural predators including ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and hoverfly larvae.  I was very happy to see a ladybeetle munching away!

Ladybug eating aphids on kale

           Ladybug eating aphids on kale

Also present on the kale plant was the larvae of the Cabbage White Butterfly known as the Imported Cabbageworm. These can be a pest on late-summer plantings of cole vegetables and can be removed by hand. Row covers can be used to prevent the butterfly from laying eggs on the undersides of the leaves and don’t need to be removed to allow for pollination.

Imported cabbageworm on kale

             Imported cabbageworm on kale

The Imported Cabbageworm will overwinter in the pupal stage on host plants so be sure to include removal of any plant debris as part of your fall cleanup. We have had plenty of warm, sunny days to get the yard and beds in order for winter but did we have ‘Indian Summer ‘ conditions this year? The US National Weather Service criteria for ‘Indian Summer’ was met by this year’s conditions but they fell short of the Old Farmer’s Almanac requirements since our temps for last week and the upcoming week are pretty much in the average range for this time of year. The growing season in Connecticut is coming to an end for 2015. Time to start thinking about next year!

Susan Pelton

All images by Susan Pelton