Monday, April 26, 2010

Lady Bugs Yeeaaaa! (says Kitchen Gardener)

Insects can be the bane of many a gardener’s existence. Gardeners are constantly finding themselves trying to combat ordinary pests with products bought at the store or a wide variety of homemade insecticides. However, many of these insects can be quite beneficial for gardeners to have around.
Beneficial insects can be divided into roughly three categories: predators, pollinators, and parasites. Pollinators aid in the pollination of flowers in the garden; an essential task in the production of fruits and vegetables. Predators eat other insects, and parasites live on the bodies of or inside other insects or pests, eventually causing death.
The most commonly found insect, and one which some gardeners claim to be the most beneficial, is the ladybug. Ladybugs have a voracious appetite for aphids and some even go for mites and other scaled insects. Ladybugs, if not overly abundant in your garden, can be purchased, sometimes at garden supply stores or over the Internet.
Also commonly found in the garden is the praying mantis. These gardener-friendly insects lie in wait for other unsuspecting insects and grab them with their front legs. Ground beetles also prove to be very beneficial in the garden as they prey on a variety of insects, while robber flies are deadly foes to grasshoppers and wasps.
Flies, such as the tachinid fly, are parasites to other insects. They lay their eggs on the bodies of other insects. When the eggs hatch the larvae burrow inside the bodies of the insects and devour the internal organs.
Lacewings are also a predatory insect. Many gardeners use lacewings to control a variety of pestilential insects. Caterpillars, mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites, and some moths are all a very tasty treat for lacewings.
Many of these predatory insects can also help with mosquito control. These insects not only feed on the insects themselves, but the larvae as well.
Pollinators, such as bees and wasps, fly around the garden and distribute pollen. In order for fruit and vegetable as well as flower production to occur, your garden must contain some pollinators.
If planning to use some form of insect control (a chemical pesticide or home-brewed product) remember that these do not differentiate between harmful and beneficial insects.
If you wish to purchase beneficial insects for your garden, allows you to choose the insect you wish to control, and gives you options of insects to purchase which will help you control the unwelcome invaders. 4,500 ladybugs start at around $30.00 and can cover up to an acre, making them very cost effective.
When purchasing these insects to release into your garden there are some key points to remember. You should wait about three weeks after you have used any chemical form of insect control in your garden before releasing the insects. It is also a good idea to release the insects at night as they are more sedentary in the evening. Before you release the insects, water your plants. The insects are more likely to stick around your garden if they have something to drink. Why have them fly away and help out someone else’s garden?     Thanks  Laura Fox

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