Beneficial Bugs “Get to know your friends”
Beneficial insects play a very important role in our biological warfare. One of the best reasons to employ the bug world to fight your pest fights is that chemical insecticides in the form of a broad spray or granular broadcast kill the good guys and can make matters worse. It has also been shown that destructive insects are actually becoming immune to chemical pesticides do to the gross over use in tremendous volume, which is obviously counterproductive in a large number of ways. Chemicals destroy not just the pests, but people, water and soil too. It is very important to get to know your friends and foes in the garden. When you know who is actually working for you, you can make better choices in the way you tackle a potential pest problem. For example, spraying a pesticide over a large area kills your bees, lady bugs, spiders, lizards and any other soft bodies creature who comes in contact with it. Do you really want your children and pets around that? Best part is (not really the best part…being facetious) is that when the destruction is done on land, it dissipates into the air as well…lose, lose.
You can order many bugs online to add to your arsenal, and others like Ladybugs, beneficial Nematodes and Praying Mantis can be purchased at local nurseries and released in your yard. (How cool is that!) You can also order them online at The Bug Lady and some natural pesticide at Planet Natural online. Many of your local nurseries will carry much of this as well so always support your local business whenever possible and if they do not carry these items, ask them to do so!
Lady bugs eat Aphids, in fact, an adult Ladybug can eat up to 5000 Aphids in its lifetime. While you may easily recognize a
lovely Lady Beetle, you may not recognize its eggs that are attached to the bottom of a leave in a yellow egg cluster, or that it’s larvae, that can eat a good amount of Aphids themselves, looks like a tiny ugly alligator (photo right). This is why it so important to know who your allies are.
One example of a pest or visitor I don’t mind sharing with is a caterpillar that will some day be a butterfly. Swallow Tails (caterpillar shown below) love dill and every year I plant plenty so they can have their fill. However, the Tomato Horn Worm is another story. While the Horn Worm will become a Sphinx Moth (Hummingbird Moth) they are voracious and should be controlled as they can eat an entire tomato plant or Penta overnight. I choose the pick and flick method. Yes, it is just how it sounds, I pick them off the plant and flick them off my property, or I escort them down the road to a field away from my house if my son catches me as he believes you should find them a new home ( and he is right), but you may choose to employ the Trichogramma Wasp. This wasp lays it eggs in the caterpillars and many other pests and when the eggs hatch, they feast on the host. Pretty gross really, but after you have lost enough food to the critters…it feels more like tit-for-tat ;-/ The variety of wasp depends on your location and you can ask for the ones for your area when you order them.
Now maybe you’re not the buying bugs type, so at the very least you need to get to know who your friends are. There is a list of beneficial bugs you can find on-line, there are plenty of books, and you can find a short list of both good and bad bugs on a handy laminated single page you can buy at any bookstore for about $6. You can keep the page somewhere convenient and when you see a bug you don’t recognize, you can identify if it is a friend or a foe. If it is a friend, thank him for his kindness ;-), if it is a foe, you will know who it is and you can learn how to attack it. (organically of course )
Now, say you have found a huge breakout of Aphids, (which by the way can be controlled by a hard spray of water from the hose) you can get your Lady Beetles and set them free on that plant/plants, and they will go right to work. If it is a pest you identify but are unable to locate a beneficial bug to “sick on it”, you can be sure your Praying Mantis will take on the job. They are ravenous and vicious and while they will make good work on the bad bugs, they aren’t choosy and will eat anything in their way, including good bugs or her partners head after she has mated. Ugh
However, if you locate a certain bug and realize that the infestation is too great and or aren’t going to purchase bugs, and you think you need to rely on chemical warfare, than you will know what you are treating and can treat only the affected plants, not the whole yard. You begin of course with organics, but if the problem persists, you go to the chemicals as a last resort. There truly is an organic remedy for just about everything, so taking a daily stroll through the garden is not only therapeutic, but helps you see there is a problem before it is too big for an organic solution.
If you are on Facebook, please ck out my” Lisa’s Landscape & Design” Page and by pressing the “like” button you will get daily updates about all sorts of great info including pics of beneficial bugs and what they are hungry for. Here is also a list of the good guys from the Mater Gardeners website.
Happy Gardening !!
Lisa’s Landscape & Design (“like” me on Facebook!)
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
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Thank you for this information. I recently added a vegetable garden to my butterfly garden and was looking for information on the tomato hornworm. I wondered if I discover them on the tomato plants if it would be okay to place them on the pentas as interchangeable host plants. I wasn’t aware they could defoliate the penta in so short a time. Good to know.
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