Pest and Predator Monitoring in LandscapesEarly detection , monitoring and scouting are key to success.
Proper identification is important. The following considerations are in order:
- Identify pest species on the crops you plan on growing. Determine which associated beneficial insects could be targeted for control.
- Inventory conditions within the landscape to determine natural habitat needs of selected beneficials, include: Permanent Insectary sites, augmentation of existing hedgerows, field borders or other odd areas adjacent to fields, trap crop areas that can be rotated.
- Consider the plant selection that should be matched to attract identified beneficial insects.
- Factor in a fair amount of habitat required based on beneficial insect dispersal ability . Get help if you need it. This can be either annual or perennial cover.
- Find lists of plants suitable for your area, like this one for the Pacific Northwest.
The following Xerces Society document introduces the ecology of many native beneficial insects and how to create habitat that will attract them.
Keep in mind that many of the native predators are generalists and will eat more than one pest, but often have a favored target pest, like aphids. Augmentation to these attractive plantings can be done with more specific predators and parasitic wasps to enhance your pest control program.
Find a whole host of free publications on the ATTRA site.
Plant and Maintain Habitat for Beneficials
Is the client interested in habitat plants and encouraging natural controls in their garden? Hedgerows and neighboring crops can be important oasis of natural predators. Monitoring these for beneficial insects can be helpful as a decision making tool as you are trying to determine whether to spray, wait, or release a biological control into the system to augment the situation.
Get inspired with these regional plant lists from the Xerces Society.
A Softer Approach to Pest Control
Keep in mind that even Pyrethrum sprays (which can be organic) can be really hard on bees and other pollinators. If the goal is to take the softest approach possible and rely on natural predators and biocontrols, then the following considerations are in order:
Spot treatment ( for aphids and some other pests) might be all that is ever needed. Spot treatments will be more effective and less costly than broadly spraying the whole landscape or greenhouse. Conserving natural enemies is key, so think twice before you spray even soap , oil , or pyrethrins. If you have native predators or beneficial insects released into the growing system.
Timing strategies can help. Early planting and harvest can help avoid natural pest timing in your growing area. Starting early season with Biological controls is better than having to spray. Thresholds and tolerances for insects vary, so reach out for help in assessing how best to do this.
Botanical sprays like pepper sprays can be used to help repel, or excite pests . Some of these newer materials can be very safe and used to create a repellency effect in certain instances, or agitate pests like thrips out of growing tips if needed. They do have their place, when used thoughtfully and or in combination with certain materials. Don’t spray these on top of your beneficial insects.
Microbial biopesticides can be considered an important line of defense at times. These CAN be used with your beneficial insects if needed. Both bacterial as well fungal based materials are out there and many certified for organics. See the labels for various mycoinsecticides including :
Botanigard, (Mycotrol is OMRI) Preferal, PFR- 97, Met 52, and others, as each has different pests that they are most effective on.
Neem Products Botanical extracts fro the Neem Tree (Azadirachtin) vary quite a bit. Low toxicity to bees, and low mammalian toxicity. Explaining Azadirachtin and Neem, Greenhouse Product News.
Although direct spray has a minimal impact on beneficial insects, this is a complex compound and should be considered carefully before spraying or drenching.
The Good Guys- Beneficial Insects, Mites, and Nematodes
Visit SoundHorticulture.com for more information and tech sheets.
Predators can be specific or generalist in their target prey. Parasitic wasps are very small, and tend to be very specific in their target range. Some of the best approaches in biocontrol are the ones that consider the power of biodiversity and mixing predators and parasites for best results. Other tools like sprays for knocks downs are needed much less often when a variety of predators and parasites are employed, along with the other recommendations mentioned earlier.
Black Vine Weevil (BVW)
European Crane Fly (ECF)
Turfgrass Crane Fly, PNW Pest Management Handbook
Manning wireworm in vegetable crops, Ontario
More Amazing Resources
ATTRA Pest Management
ATTRA Pest and Weed Control Database. Search by any weed, insect, vertebrate or mollusk pest, or any disease organism and search for the labeled materials that can be used. Also view the Pest Prevention Information tab for reams of info and research data that will inform you with your decision making.
Quality Assurance of Biocontrol Products, Vineland Research Centre