cheltenham chamber of citizens
by Judith Gratz, Environmental Education Specialist
Beneficial Insects for Natural Garden Pest Control
Not all insects are pests. Beneficial insects can help eliminate and control pests that do a great deal of damage to our beautiful gardens and lawns. Beneficial insects could be considered a component of biological control, which refers to the method of controlling pests using other living organisms.
Why Use Beneficial Insects
1. To eliminate the use of chemical pesticides – the first and most obvious benefit to using these insects is not having to resort to chemical pesticides. The non-toxic approach allows you to grow plants organically. You won’t have to worry the next time you take a bite out of your home-grown fruit or vegetable.
2. Good bugs – keep in mind that chemical pesticides don’t only wipe out the bad bugs, they are just as deadly to the beneficial insects. This is bad for the long-term maintenance of your garden as there won’t be a population of natural predators to feed on the pests. Pesticide may be effective at wiping out of the first wave of pests, but the same cannot be said for the second wave. There is a mass extinction of insects going on worldwide right now; the ripple effects can be hypothesized.
3. Cost saver – beneficial bugs are there to stay if you are able to build an environment for them to thrive in. You might not even have to spend money if the beneficial insects are native to your area. Our local garden center – Primex – has some of them for sale.Gardens Alive! website also sells beneficial insects.
4. Resistance – a number of insects are starting to show greater resistance to chemical pesticides. According to the Pesticide Action Network, between 500 and 1,000 insect and weed species have developed resistance to pesticides since 1945. There is nothing much a pest can do if it is getting eaten by a predator though.
A little more about resistance: There is a rebound effect when chemicals are used. Some of the pests are resistant to the chemical, so a stronger chemical has to be developed. That results is a vicious cycle.
Before You Introduce Beneficial Insects
As you can see, there are many benefits to introducing the bug predators, but before you do anything, here are some important things to consider.
1. Neighbors – have the courtesy to tell and educate your neighbors on introducing beneficial insects. The last thing you want is for your neighbors to be spraying chemical pesticide all over the place, which in turn, could easily have a knock-on effect on your garden. Who knows? Your neighbors may also be willing to share the cost of investing in these beneficial insects too.
2. Optimal environment – make sure the climate and vegetation provides a suitable habitat for the beneficial insects. What’s also important is to make sure there is a low to medium population of the targeted pest in your garden. Otherwise, the insects may leave for an area with a more reliable source of food.
3. Be sure you release the beneficial insects according to the directions that come with them. For instance, Ladybugs should be released at night, and beneficial nematodes should be applied to lawns and garden beds after dark.
YOU CAN USE
Most insects & their kin are neither helpful nor harmful, though some are especially helpful. So it is important that you learn some of our local “heroes”. Here are names and photos of some really good organisms we want in our neighborhoods. We call them “beneficial”. Some look scary, some look dangerous, some look like other things we know can hurt us (see Hover Fly below). But all here are helpful.
Find out which of these beneficial insects work best for your situation and get to work. Remember, biological control methods like using these insects should not be viewed as immediate solutions. In most cases, it may take from a couple of days to a few weeks to see any sort of result. Be sure to observe your garden close-up to see how things are going. Be patient and make sure you are playing your part by providing a suitable habitat for the beneficial insects to co-exist with your healthy garden.
*Some of this article is taken from “14 Beneficial Insects for Natural Garden Pest Control
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