Tag Archives: beneficial insects

Beneficial Insects in the Organic Garden

June 27, 2012

Good Bugs, Bad Bugs

Now that summer is in full swing, gardeners have to deal with pests.

While industrial agriculture uses chemicals to control insects, it’s a scorch-the-earth policy that kills both good and bad bugs indiscriminately.

In organic growing, we strive to live in harmony with the plant and animal nations. As such, we want to grow plants that repel unwanted insects and invite beneficial insects to take care of those that might want to feast on our plants.

Several plants can be useful in controlling unwanted pests, such as alyssum, buckwheat, coriander, dill, fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace, sunflowers and common yarrow. Not only do these plants look great, they attract the kinds of insects that will help protect your garden. Some, like sunflowers, act as a “trap crop,” luring pests to them and away from the rest of your garden. Others, like dill, fennel and coriander, are herbs that you can use in your food. Buckwheat is incredibly appealing to pollinators such as honeybees and butterflies.

American Indian tribes have traditionally considered yarrow to have mystical and magical properties—from love charms to warding off negativity. The Latin name for the plant (also known as millfoil) is Achillae, named for the Greek warrior Achilles. Legend has it that Achilles gave the plant to his troops to stop bleeding. The Chinese have used dried yarrow stems for I Ching divination for centuries. And gardeners who use the principles of biodynamic farming use yarrow as a basic ingredient to invite spirit elementals to the garden.

Placing beneficial plants in your garden isn’t difficult and you don’t have to follow a specific plan; plant them here and there, wherever the mood strikes you, in and around the garden or along a ditch. They should all grow quickly.

To provide a little help for the humans in your garden, plant something that will help naturally ward off mosquitoes. Mother Earth News tested a number of plants and these were the top natural repellents: lantana, rose-scented monarda, lime basil, catnip, sacred basil and thyme (see tinyurl.com/74gwysm). Again, these plants have other uses as well—including happy cats! Planting them in pots or other containers allows you to place them on your porch or patio, as well.

Find heirloom or organic seeds for all of these plants at your local garden store—or, at this time of year, look for full-grown plants on sale at a discount.

In addition to attracting beneficial insects with plants, you can simply purchase them. Those little red beetles with black dots, affectionately called ladybugs, are popular. Ladybugs are capable of consuming up to 50 or 60 aphids per day, and one ladybug can consume many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime, according to Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply (groworganic.com), which sells the little critters online. Ladybugs also eat a variety of other harmful insects and larvae including scales, mealy bugs, leafhoppers, mites and various types of soft-bodied insects.

Next year, you might consider the praying mantid (or mantis). These big green bugs eat aphids, beetles, flies, mosquitoes, moths, caterpillars, wasps—generally, any insect it can catch. A praying mantid’s egg sac can contain up to 40,000 eggs, which usually hatch in spring. Find them for sale online and from stores such as Costco.

Finally, if you are finding strange plant symptoms or pest invaders, check out this handy online resource for finding safe, non-toxic pesticide solutions that are Organic Materials Review Institute, or OMRI, approved: The Ecological Pest Management Database (bit.ly/g6Eqgu). It covers solutions for everything from diseases to weeds to mollusks. The database is maintained by the Butte, Mont.-based National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Call them at 1-800-346-9140.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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Beneficial insects, bug database helpful

July 8, 2011
Beneficial insects, bug database can help organic gardens
In midsummer, the number of blights, pests and other issues that can plague the organic garden can seem overwhelming.
There are two resources we’ve used to address some of them; first is adding beneficial insects to control pest outbreaks; second is a computer database that can instantaneously diagnose the various symptoms and offer certified organic solutions.
Ladybugs are the most popular beneficial insect for the garden. We bought some to control an aphid outbreak the year before last and they are still prolific; we have also bought praying mantids.
According to Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, which sells ladybugs, they are capable of consuming up to 50 to 60 aphids per day and one ladybug can consume many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.
They also eat a variety of other insects and larvae including scales, mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, mites and various types of soft-bodied insects.
Typically, ladybugs are sold in large numbers; 70,000 ladybugs per gallon, or 18,000 per quart. Use one gallon for up to three acres. In orchards, use one gallon per acre. Grain crops may require as little as one gallon for every 10 acres.
For melons and cucumbers, use one gallon for every 15 acres.
Next year, you might consider the praying mantid. It eats aphids, beetles, flies, mosquitoes, moths, caterpillars, wasps, generally, any insect it can catch. The praying mantid’s egg sac can contain up to 40,000 eggs. They usually hatch in spring.
You can buy live ladybugs and praying mantid egg sacs online (even Costco sells the latter). We bought ours from Peaceful Valley, Box 2209, Grass Valley CA 95945, phone: 1-888-784-1722, or: www.groworganic.com. And, yes, praying mantids will eat ladybugs. So, you might want to stagger them out a bit.
If you are finding strange plant symptoms, here’s a handy online resource for finding safe, organically OMRI approved non-toxic pesticide solutions at the Organic Pesticides /predators Database: http://bit.ly/g6Eqgu.
The service is provided by National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Box 3838, Butte MT 59702; phone: 1-800-346-9140.
Treat your kitties: Try growing catnip in your garden, or in a pot. It’s easy to grow (it’s a member of the mint family) and comes back year after year. Just take a few leaves, chop them or crumble them up, and put them on the floor or in a sock or kitty’s favorite place (not in food).
Catnip also makes a nice tea for humans. It contains nepetalactone, a natural sedative, and is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and muscle-relaxing. (Not recommended for expectant or nursing mothers.)
Fresh produce: Just a reminder for those looking for fresh fruit and veggies: The Mississippi Farmers Market, located at 929 High St. adjacent to the fairgrounds, is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, call (601) 354-6573, email FarmersMarket@mdac.state.ms.us or visitwww.msfarmersmarket.com.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.