They had been there at least since I saw the first blossom, actually. Only I thought they were part of the bird droppings on the plant, and didn’t think much of them. But then I noticed there were ants on the plants. (Always with the ants. Have I mentioned they’re in my kitchen, too? Each segment the size of a ripe blackberry druplet? The kind you pick from the wild lot down the street when you were growing up, I mean, not the kind you buy in the store for $2.50 a half-pint.) And if the ants were on the plants then clearly there were shenanigans afoot. I looked closer.
Those, as far as I can tell, are black bean aphids, Aphis fabae, which suggests to me that they’re specific to fava beans (Vicia faba, as opposed to Phaseolus vulgaris, the common green/dry bean. Cross “Learn more Latin names” off my 2008 goals list. See? It did turn out to be useful), and the Internet bears me out on this. Apparently they are also a major sugar beet pest, and they overwinter in euonymous and viburnum plants and may migrate to corn, pigweed, and lambs’s-quarters in the summer. You have now received your entomology lesson for the day.
I knocked them off the plants with the hose, holding on to a leaf at the top and trying not to harm the plants themselves. I’m in hopes that they won’t be such a big deal that I won’t get a crop, and that if I just leave them alone a natural predator will show up. I don’t think I can do much else; the sites I looked at advise (a) not getting them in the first place and (b) spraying, neither of which are really helpful.
I think I’m going to put a book on garden pests on my Christmas wish list for this year. Then again, at this rate I’ll be able to put my own book together by then.