Insect Control – Using Predators

Insect control used to mean using insecticides or pesticides to spray plants the minute bugs began making their appearance.

However, we have come to realize that insect control by spraying plants with insecticides or pesticides was creating other problems, not the least being that we were poisoning ourselves and our environment plus killing the soil’s microorganisms so necessary to plant growth. Finally other methods of insect control have been revived or created, methods which will help  by getting rid of those unwanted bugs without putting people or other insect species at risk

Three Natural Insect Control Methods Which Get Rid Of Unwanted Bugs:

1. One natural insect control method is handpicking beetles or slugs or caterpillars.

Handpicking beetles or slugs or caterpillars may not be the most popular insect control method, but it works well when you wish to get rid of certain unwanted pest.

For example we know that the Colorado potato beetle usually lays its shiny golden brown eggs in clusters on the underside of leaves. By regularly checking the undersides of leaves and picking off these clusters of eggs before they even develop is one way to stop an epidemic of Colorado potato beetles. You may want to offer a beetle bounty to young children in your neighborhood — say at 1/2 cent for each beetle ( or some other incentive).

As for slugs, they feed at night and hide in the daytime. Natural methods of insect control is to place boards or pieces of tubing where you think you have slugs. In the morning, fill a pail of water about 1/4 full, add dish soap or detergent to the water, then lift the boards and remove the slugs by dropping them into the soapy water.

(I personally hate picking up slugs with my fingers, so I would use a trowel to carefully peel off the slug from the board and drop it into the soapy water.) Most slugs will remain at the bottom of the pail and drown, but the odd one will make its way to the side of the pail and try to crawl out. Just send these back into the soapy water.

If using some tubing is your choice method of insect control for slugs, you clean the tubes every day by simply pointing one end of the tube towards the center of the soapy water in your pail and dislodging the slugs by tapping on the side of the tubing.

You can use the same idea for caterpillars, but instead of tubing you can use a fairly big can of water with a bit of detergent soap in it. You can easily carry the can around with you as you handpick the caterpillars.

2. Another insect control method is to use living organisms (biological control) to get rid of unwanted guests.

a. To spray beneficial nematodes on your lawn is a great insect control method against bugs that destroy lawns:

Not all nematodes are garden enemies.

One year I bought nematodes at a garden center and sprayed my lawn for grubs. Years after I sprayed (you must follow specific instructions), I never saw a grub, yet my neighbor had plenty of them. The nematodes did not bother with the grass roots or the earthworms. I was so pleased with the results.

Nematodes which are sold in gardening centers feed on soft-bodied, soil-dwelling pests such as grubs, wire-worms, and root maggots. To apply them to the garden, you suspend them in water and use a spray attachment on your hose. The nematode kit may be expensive but are so worth it!

b. Milky Spore:

Milky spore is a bacteria which when swallowed by grubs will cause them to die within two or three weeks. The white spore filling the grub’s body will then reenter the soil waiting for more grubs to come along. It can take two or three years for milky spore to become established in a treated area, but it is another great method for insect control without having to use insecticides or pesticides.

When applying nematodes or milky spores, you obviously avoid applying chemical pesticides to the same areas.

c. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt):

Bt is often used to get rid of cabbage worms, hornworms, corn borers, and the like. When Bt is ingested by these worms, it paralyzes the gut and gives the worms a case of indigestion from which there is no return. Different strains of Bt are used for different pests, so read your labels.

Note: If you see pale green caterpillars with a series of yellow and black rings from its head to its tail chewing on your parsley, dill, celery, or cilantro, you are probably looking at swallowtail caterpillars often referred to as parsley worms.

Handpick these parsley worms and relocate them in another area away from the garden so that they can become the beautiful swallowtail butterfly. Then you can apply your Bt to your garden.

When you are applying your Bt, make sure you are spraying only your garden plants and not those plants adjacent to your garden

3. A third natural insect control method is to attract the creatures that prey on pests,

If you choose this method of insect control, the best way  to attract the creatures which prey on pests is to plant garden plants that attract those  beneficial insects. Did you know that morning glory vines attract ladybugs and hoverflies, that goldenrod attract not only ladybugs, but also the assassin bugs and parasitic wasps.

You could plant some grasses, perennial alfalfa, goldenrod, or hairy vetch in front of a row of fruit bearing shrubs or near your garden as a perennial garden. You can intersperse fruiting bearing shrubs such as swamp holly or cranberry bush. The grasses and the flowers can attract beneficial insects and the birds can use their shrubs as their home. You could even include some aromatic herbs such as dill and thyme which attract beneficial insects that prey on pests.

There are loads of beneficial insects: Assassin bug, green lacewing, hoverfly, ladybug, minute pirate bug, praying mantis, spined soldier bug, and the trichogramma wasp to name a few. You can find information on these in your library.

If  diligently handpicking such pests as Colorado beetle or the caterpillars/slugs,  using bacteria or nematodes, and  attracting the beneficial insects to your garden are not your favorite insect control methods,  there are other natural means such creating unacceptable habitats to repel insects or creating unfavorable surroundings for bugs also explained on this blog.  (See side bar)  The main thing is that we use some method of insect control which is ecofriendly or environment friendly, a method which is especially not detrimental to our family’s health.

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