Utilizing Beneficial Insects as a Method of Pest Control

    Pest control –these two words generally bring to mind chemicals with an applicator suited up in Tyvek and a respirator.

    This image, along with the skull and cross bones signage warning to "KEEP OUT!" can strike terror in a visitor to our campuses and grounds.

    I have discovered another viable option that is also economically feasible. It is biological controls in the use of beneficial insects. My first foray into the realm of predaceous insects was with lace wing egg cards. Every summer, our tropical plants would become infested with almost every flying and crawling pest imaginable. Along with employees hesitant to handle chemicals, and the desire to provide a safe environment for our visitors, it seemed like a good option to trial. Within a few days, we were observing the lace wing larvae feeding on aphids, mealy bugs, soft body scale and even some spider mites. It was a success! Every summer, I set up an order with my vendor and have cards delivered once a month for 4 months.

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    My next pest to conquer was western flower thrips in the rose garden. In the summer of 2013, the rose buds received significant damage from this pest and greatly reduced the summer bloom in garden. Thrips are a hard pest to control once they are inside the flower bud. In 2014 when temperatures were hot and humid, conditions favorable for thrip, I released the swirski mite, Amblyeius swirskii, as a preventative measure. This mite likes it hot and humid and feeds on the larvae of thrips. Once again, success!

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    Beneficial insects are now a major component of our pest control.
          Along with lace wing egg cards and swirskii mite...
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     we have Cryptolaemus that feed on mealy bugs   |  Feltiella that feed on two spotted spider mites, 

    and Aphidius colemani that feed on aphids.

    So far, the Cryptolaemus and Feltiella have only required one release. We continue to find larvae of the beetle and relocate it when mealy bug infestations are spotted in other areas. The feltiella adult will fly to spider mite hot spot locations and lay eggs so it relocates itself. We continue to identify both larvae and adults of these species during our scouting of areas where released. The aphidius wasp was identified in our landscape. We captured and released in greenhouses where it continues to work keeping aphids under control.

    Identifying your pest correctly is key to success with beneficial insects, as well as chemical controls. Suzanne Wainwright-Evans, Buglady Consulting, is a reliable resource. She will help in correct identification as well as recommending methods for control. Depending on the level of pest infestation, control methods will range from use of a chemical to get the pest under control to the use of products safe for beneficial insects in combination with the bugs. Suzanne will also recommend the best sources to purchase specific insects.

    By utilizing predacious insects, I have found my expense in pest control reduced. With an army of small insects constantly vigilant for those pesky pests, the plants are healthier. And, I know our visitors will have a more enjoyable visit by not viewing pesticide warning signs throughout the grounds.

    *** Any Questions or Comments on this article will be directed back to author Susanne Woodell, CGM ***


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