The use of artificial garden pest control has severe disadvantages that can affect your plants, soil, and your health. According to an article from Oregon State University, using artificial pest controls can contaminate crop products, soils, and groundwater with harmful chemical residues. It also develops more crop pests that are resistant to agrichemical treatment and harm those who apply it.
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That is why many have gone organic. One of the best organic methods is the biological pest control or biocontrol method. This method uses natural predators in controlling the pest population. This minimizes the cost and negative impact on the environment.
Before taking on the ways to keep pests predators in garden, here are the best predators to have:
It is also called lady beetles or ladybirds. These small, rounded, colorful bugs prey on aphids, leafhoppers, mites, whitefly, and scales. Ladybugs are attracted to dills, dandelions, fern-leaf yellow, common yarrow, and basket-of-gold.
Ladybugs can consume more than 5,000 aphids during their lifetime.
2. Praying Mantis
Praying mantises like tall grasses and shrubs, cosmos, marigolds, and dills. These insects are larger as compared to most of the insects in this list. They are carnivores, eating small insects like aphids and mosquitoes. Unfortunately, they also consume beneficial insects like beetles.
The praying mantis can turn its head 180 degrees to survey and hunt prey.
These eight-legged arachnids use its webs and silk to catch prey like aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and fruit flies. Most spiders prefer moist, cold, and dark environment; they are mostly found in tall plants and mulches.
Spiders commonly have a 1-3 year lifespan, but other species can live 15-25 years.
4. Ground Beetles
They are soil-dwelling bugs, living on the surface of the soil where they prey upon soil-dwelling insects like caterpillars and wireworms. These bugs are mostly attracted to small shrubs and grasses like clover, amaranthus, and evening primrose.
Ground beetles are nocturnes, and they are active during nighttime.
5. Braconid Wasps
Braconid wasps are parasitic insects. They feed on insects like cabbage loopers, caterpillars, cutworms, and other hornworms. The adult female wasps kill their prey by laying eggs inside it. The larvae then eat their way out of the insect and wait to hatch into adults.
Braconid wasps are harmless to humans, but very effective predators.
6. Damsel Bugs
Nabids are commonly called as damsel bugs. These soft-bodied, elongated, winged predators prey on caterpillars, mites, aphids, treehoppers, leafhoppers, and other beetles. They can be found in orchards and field crops. Their population develops well if you provide them alternative places to hide.
7. Green Lacewings
These predatory insects tend to fly away when they turn to adults, so they need to be reintroduced to your garden to have a steady population. It is their larvae that prey on soft-bodied insects.
Lacewing larvae are tiny, but they can grow to 3/8 inch long.
How to Start Your Biological Pest Control
1. Know Your Problem and Start Early
Before even trying to purchase one of these predators, you need to diagnose your main problem in your garden. Know the kind of insect that is damaging your garden so that you can introduce the right predator in your garden. Also, you have to start as early as possible. Introduce the biological pest control method when there are still few pest populations so that the predators are not overwhelmed.
2. Sanitize Your Garden
If you have been using pesticides and insecticides in controlling the growing pests in your garden, you must discontinue using them at least one to two months before introducing this method. This is not one of the best ways to keep pests predators in the garden since they can also be deadly to your predators. Weed management must also be controlled before and during the introduction of the biological pest control method. Weeds habituate pests and diseases that can distress the predator-prey balance in your garden.
3. Purchase Your Predator Insects
These predatory insects can be bought both from local greenhouses and online stores. Before purchasing, be sure that your garden is ready to habituate these insects. Familiarize the specific instructions given to you by your supplier.
4. Introduce Your Insects
Upon purchasing, your supplier will give you details on how to introduce specific predator insects in your garden. You can release them either early in the morning or late evening, right after you’ve watered your plants. You can also start releasing them in small batches in a specific area while you’re still learning this method. Introducing a large sum of predatory insects without any experience might only kill them. Expand once you gain confidence and knowledge.
5. Protect Your Investment
Give your predatory bugs a habitual environment. Keep your garden watered and refrain from using pesticides and insecticides. Flowering plants are also good to have since they provide nectar and pollen to your predatory insects. This is one of the vital ways to keep pests predators in the garden.
6. Give Predatory Insects Time
The biological control pest method needs patience from the gardener. The natural predator-prey ecosystem can sometimes develop after several seasons. This is not a quick fix. However, using this method creates a balanced organic environment.
The biological pest control might take some time, but this method is very beneficial. It doesn’t leave any chemical residue to waterways and soil. Unlike the costly chemical controls which need to be applied every season, this method is sustainable and cuts costs. This creates a balanced ecosystem in your garden where problems tend to take care of themselves.
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Read Next: 3 Tips on Creating an Eco-Friendly Garden
Hi there! I’m Lucy – founder of GardenAmbition.com and I’m a self-confessed garden fanatic. Gardening has always been a passion of mine and will always be my favorite pastime. Now that I am married and have one adorable son, I have the time to write and share my personal experiences with other garden enthusiasts like me.
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