Healthy Control Alternatives

Integrated Pest Management:

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the combined approach of using physical, cultural, biological and chemical controls to combat pest problems.  IPM focus’s  on the system as a whole and works towards long term solutions instead of  the quick fix. IPM is site specific, it varies by ecosystem, plant and planting system.  An insects ability to adapt, changes with each location it inhabits.  This makes for a dynamic system.

The purpose of IPM is to minimize risk to human inhabitants and the environment in which we all live.  If we can refrain from using pesticides the majority of the time, the times we must employ chemical controls the results will be more effective and with less non target species being impacted.

All IPM programs have the same basic five components that can be carried out in the home garden or large farm.

  1. Identify the pest – Be sure you know who is doing the damage to best target control.
  2. Observation – Do not react immediately  upon witnessing a pest.  Determine population level and look for native predators already at work.  Keeping records year after year if you are a keener will also help forecast where problems will arise.
  3. Determine threshold – A certain level of pests is necessary to maintain a healthy balance of predators in the garden.  Determine how much of a population this plant can withstand without causing irreparable damage.  Hint:  No pests is not the answer.
  4. Implement cultural and physical controls – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Cultural controls included things like; Right plant right place We want to encourage a strong healthy plant to flourish and withstand pests.  If you know the plant needs full sun do not put it in an area with dappled shade.  Cultural controls also include proper pruning to eliminate areas of potential infection. There are also a number of physical controls that will stop pests dead in their tracks before ever reaching your prized beauties.  Copper bands around the base of Dahlias, Remay cloth over the cabbages and sticky cards in the carrots go a long way in preventing an outbreak.
  1. Apply biological controls – These are the beneficial organisms nature has produced to perform e specialized tasks of seeking out and killing harmful pests.  These include; ladybugs, nematodes, lacewing, parasitic wasps and Bt.  We don’t have to wait for mother nature to plop them into our gardens, most are available through any reputable garden center.

Pesticides should always be used only  as a last resort.  Overuse kills the native predators and aids in pests building resistancy.  If the use of chemicals is infrequent than when we do make that choice they will work much more effectively.

Pesticide Compatibility Chart:
To view the pesticide compatibility chart, please click here.

Tricks and traps:
There are a variety of control methods you can create in your own home to use against combating pests without risking the rest of the environment around you.  These methods should always be tried before you reach for a chemical spray.  Some you may recognize as tips from your grandparents.  Others, you will wonder why you never tried before.

To prevent adult weevils from laying eggs around the base of your Rhododendrons place Rhubarb leaves around the drip line up to the trunk.

Copper to slugs is like chewing on tinfoil.  Use copper bands as collars around tender perennials or screwed around the perimeter of the raised beds.  Can’t find it at your nursery.  Hit a window supply store for copper flashing or try a plumber for copper strapping.  Must be a minimum of 1 inch wide.

Flea Beetles Flies and Moths:
Use an old sheer curtain or very light sheet to cover plants before pest arrives.  Secure around edges and ends with rocks/soil.  Sheet can be kept in place until danger has passed or crop harvest.

Vinegar used against weeds growing in between the paving stones will cure the problem within 2 days.  Be careful not to let it touch any of the tender good plants.  This ascetic acid does not discriminate. 

Place plant in the shower using luke warm water for 5 minutes.  Keep humidity around plant high for a minimum of 2 weeks.  Spidermite do not reproduce under humid conditions. 

Sowbug Trap:
Sowbugs live in areas of high moisture and will feed on decaying wood and other matter.   Though not a complete control, the following method can reduce the numbers of bugs.

Margarine container

Cut two small hole at the base of the container.  Cut the holes low enough so the bugs can easily enter when the container is placed on the floor.  Add a small amount (1-2 table  spoons) of cornmeal and replace the lid.  Place in an area of high Sowbug population, close to a small puddle of water if possible.  The Sowbugs will feed upon the cornmeal and expand the moment they have a drink of water. This method is most effective in indoor situations

Sticky Traps for Flying pests:

Bristol board
Yellow/blue latex paint
Vaseline or Tanglefoot®
Yellow sticky cards

Cut rectangular pieces from Bristol board, paint both sides yellow and cover with Vaseline or Tanglefoot®. Some insects such as Thrips sometimes respond better to bright blue.

Hang cards just inside plant, or above plant canopy to monitor insect levels or to help trap flying pests.  Be careful you don’t trap more of the good guys than bad.  Check cards frequently.

Biological Controls:
Biological controls are the natural enemies one would find in any garden environment combating insect pests. These enemies consist of predatory and parasitic insects as well as microbial such as fungus and virus pathogens. Ladybugs, nematodes and Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) are all common examples of biological control agents. These agents are no longer limited to their native environment but can be purchased commercially to augment the natural population . Predators for fungus gnats, spidermites, cutworms, leather jackets, mosquitoes, whitefly, caterpillars or soil pests are all at our finger tips for control. No longer uncommon, mass reared predatory insects and mites have been used for the last 2 decades in commercial cropping operations.

Our ability to implement these mechanisms to augment the natural population gives us the alternative to chemical pest control. By having a greater amount of tools in our arsenal we are better able to find a solution through the combination of approaches. Any good pest management program requires 2 – 3 tactics to prevent pests slipping through the cracks. A comparison to this could be the care of our own bodies. If we limited our health care to just taking antibiotics, eventually the bacteria that infect us would become resistant to our efforts and overcome our controls. If we included healthy eating, exercise and small exposure to colds or flues, the occurrence of infection to our bodies would become less and less. Because we used a number of angles to approach the problem. The same can be said with the use of biological controls. If we were to add beneficial insects to our pest management tool belt we would recognized a number of associated benefits.

Increase in overall plant health
Long term control
Thriving population of natural predators
Dramatic decrease in pest outbreaks
Self sufficient pest management

The Bug Lady would like to provide all gardeners with access to these effective little agents and help get your garden off the drugs. Review our products page to find the right predators for your plants.

It’s time for a Weevilution
Familiar damage? Can’t find the culprit? This elusive pest does more than notch the leaves. Secretly, this weevil is killing your plants from below ground. Join the revolution and get Weevilution into the soil for long term protection. Find out more in the Buying Bugs section of our website.