Garden bugs. If you do not understand them, then you probably hate them. All of them.
What a shame.
Predators and Pray
Chances are you will always see pests in your garden before you see the predators that help control them. The truth is, without pray you don’t have predators.
Predatory insects, arachnids, bird and more are all out searching for pray. As such, this isn’t a chicken-or-the-egg question – it is a fact. First come the pray, then come the predators.
Spraying for Pests
Much like the infamous bug sapper that kills very little of the mosquitoes you want it to control, and much more of the harmless insects you don’t think about – spraying affects a lot more than the insects you no longer want to see.
Beneficial insects and soil life are also affected.
I confess to having used Neem Oil. However, I have never seen any benefit from it. Should you be convinced that you must sprayed, please just remember that you are not just spraying the one type of bug you are currently determined to destroy.
Case in point: This year we had a huge increase in our Lady Beetle (Ladybug) population – a wonderful predator against aphids. Had I been spraying, I could have been killing them as well, giving the aphids the upper-hand.
I shared this photo on Facebook asking how you would treat these bugs: Are they pests to get rid of, or predators to leave alone?
This is the nymph of a Leaf-footed Bug (Coreidae), Leptoglossus phyllopus . It is a pest that attacks Tomatoes, Beans, Black-eyed Peas and much more. You certainly do not want very many of them hanging around.
If you are a sprayer, you would have to spray them as nymphs, like shown in the picture above, because as adults they are highly resistant to pesticides.
The trouble for those that wish to spray is that you might not be 100% confident what you are spraying. The Assassin Bug is a predator you would really love to have in your garden… and the larva of the Assassin Bug and this Leaf-footed Bug are very similar.
The lesson here: No matter what your control methods may be, you had best be sure what you are doing or might be killing of a population of bugs that would otherwise be on your side.
Other Bug Control Options
My personal approach to pests – or insects that can destroy my food crop – is to limit their population without fully destroying them. By bringing their population down predators are still attracted to the area and those predators are more likely to be able to control the remaining bugs.
Control can be extremely simple. A leaf crop, like lettuce, riddled with aphids, can be sprayed with high-pressured water.
Back to the example above. Once I knew what type of bug it was, and that I wanted very few of them in my garden, I also knew I could handle another chore for the day at the same time.
Control is easy and effective by hand. I took a pitcher, filled with a few inches of water, and put the bugs inside. The majority came off by simply placing the portion of the plant they were on over the pitcher and thumping the plant with my finger – knocking them into the water.
Others had a tighter grip, but I they easily brush off with your hand, or can be picked up by their antenna and dropped in one at a time.
If they do not fall all the way into the water or somehow manage to start climbing the wall of the pitcher, just give the water a swirl to keep them contained.
I then took the pitcher to the chickens and gave them a nice little natural treat – a treat that is perfectly safe for them, since I chose not to spray.
Another benefit of not spraying? Instant control. There was no wait to see if the spray would be effective. Their death, by water or chicken, was immediate.