MOTHER NATURE HAS A CONTROL AND IT JUST MIGHT BE A BUG!
So when the topic turns to bugs in the garden, the conversation is often about the damage bugs do. The shredded remains of your cabbage and broccoli after the cutworms find your fresh starts. The huge clump of aphids sucking the life out of your favorite rose bush. The mysterious three corner shape chunks taken out of all your rhododendrons. For every bug doing dastardly deeds in your garden, there is a natural predator and most of them are for sale at garden centers, online, and at our WFC Stores. So let’s talk about some basic concepts when using biological pest controls or, as I like to call them, “The Good Bugs”.
The first and most basic thing to remember about all natural predators is that the key word really is, “Predator” and they’re almost always hungry. What that means is that if you release them in your garden and you don’t have at least a moderate infestation of their particular types of food, they are not going to hang around. Most “Good Bugs” require some specific conditions at the time of their release.
So let’s talk about some of the “good guys” in nature.
They are also known as Lady Beetles. Both the adults and the larva feed on soft-bodied insects. Many people know they love aphids, but they also feed on scale, white flies and mites. We often have customers bring in pictures of the ladybug larva asking us how to get rid of them in their garden. The comment we usually hear is “any bug that ugly just has to be bad news”. Many publications say the larva looks like a miniature red and black alligator. I personally think they look like a Gila Monster with horns. Ladybugs are predisposed to disperse when you release them. There are things you can do to slow that process. First, mist the area where you are going to release them since they will be looking for moisture. Second, release late in the day as they settle in for the night. Finally, make sure you need them (actually have an infestation of some type) and have a food supply available for them to find.
Mantids (also known as mantis) feed on all the same things as ladybugs and will also feed on caterpillars, grubs, flies and maggots. And as they mature, they will even eat earwigs, sow bugs and beetles. They are more likely to stick around the garden than ladybugs, but they still need a consistent food source. You do not release live mantids …you will set out egg masses. Each egg mass will contain approximately 100 eggs. You can set the eggs in the crook of a branch or on a limb approximately two feet off the ground. However, if you hang the masses from a branch, it does afford some protection from birds and rodents.
Just what is a nematode you may be wondering? A simple description would be a microscopic parasitic worm. A nematode penetrates a host (like a cutworm), then feeds on the host from the inside out. When the host dies it releases thousands of new nematodes. Please be aware that nematodes can be picky eaters! Nematodes that work on flea larva, for instance, may not work on cutworms or weevils (weevils are the bug chewing on your Rhodies at night). You can get nematodes for fleas, grubs, weevils and many other of the nasty bugs in your garden. There are two basic ways to release nematodes. First, is to mix them into a liquid solution following the instructions on the package. They also may be packed on a small damp sponge that you set out into your landscape. Moist soil is key to either form of release.
So the “good bugs” I have talked about here are the most common and we have them in our WFC stores. They are by no means the only bugs available. Parasitic wasps and bees, green lacewings, live bacteria and compost worms can do wonderful things in your garden. And we can get them all for you! Just see the garden person in your local WFC store and they can help you get the right “GOOD BUGS” for your garden.
Have Fun In the Garden! As always, Ken