Friday, November 13, 2020

Saving Insects - 3 What we can do at home

 

-Image by Krzysztof Niewolny from Pixabay

Apply the Principles of Integrated Pest Management at home

 

Home gardeners can take a leaf out of our farmers’ book by trying the least toxic methods of pest control first. Try to exclude pests altogether first by using appropriate fencing, storing food in sealed containers, or keeping ants out by using non -toxic sticky pest strips in places where they gain access. You can keep ants away from honey jars by standing the jars in a saucer of water and so on. Try putting sachets of herbs such as Wormwood or Santolina in your wardrobe to keep moths out of your clothes. 

Encourage benign pest predators

Ladybirds like nothing better than a good feed of mites, aphids and thrips. Learn how to look after them and invite them into your garden here. Other helpful visitors include Katydids, Dragonflies and Lacewings, so don't kill them off with sprays.  Birds, especially Swifts and Swallows and locally Robins and Wrens, are particularly good at eating insects, grubs and caterpillars, though you may have to cover fruit trees and strawberries with nets during fruiting or flowering seasons. Most birds would also like access to water and would prefer having no cats and plenty of scrub to hide in, rather than open lawns.

 

Wormwoood  -Artemisia absinthum, will keep moths away from clothes

-Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Use natural pesticides if possible

 Avoid using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Before buying garden supplies, ask garden centres and nurseries if their plants or seeds have been treated – a pink coating usually denotes that they have been treated with neonics, although there is some evidence that this can actually reduce yields  because they also kill beneficial insects such as pollinators. [If you want more bees, plant bee friendly plants such as Hyssop, Lemon Balm or Bergamot]. If plants have been treated, Treehugger recommends removing the first year’s flowers, so that they do not tempt bees. Soaps and oils can usually be used to remove caterpillars. If they are applied early in the day, before bees go about their work, they won't cause them harm. Learn more here, or read about the Top 10 natural pest controls here. 

If you must use pesticides, use natural ones if possible. For example, a product made from orange peel can be used at home to kill moths, cockroaches, ants, fleas, locusts and weevils. Many such products have been tested  by (OMRI the Organic Materials Review Institute for use by organic gardeners.

If you must buy conventional ones, avoid those which are most harmful – Click here to see the list, though they may be called something else where you are, so be sure to check the labels and be aware that things like Lawn Weed and Feed and ornamental plants often contain up to 30 times more neonics, than seeds and plants intended for agriculture.

 

Let the "friendlies" get rid of your pests for free
- Image by Denis Doukhan from Pixaba

 Try Companion Plants

Many plants act as a repellent to certain pests. For example, the strong scent of African marigolds tends to discourage nematodes around tomatoes. Roses like garlic around them to repel pests. You could also plant species which encourage beneficial insects such as ladybirds or an abundance of birds to pick them off. Find out more here.Some people also plant "sacrificial" plants, i.e. something bugs like even better than whatever it is they are planting, so that the insects will go there instead of eating their intended crop.

Support the many Non -profit Organisations which are campaigning against the use of harmful products

 Urge local authorities to stop using them on public parks, nature strips and roadsides, in National Parks and in production Timber Plantations and to stop aerial spraying. Buy organic produce and support those who are doing the right thing. Ask your garden centre to stop stocking chemicals which can harm bees and other insects and follow Science Daily’s hints from the University of Helsinki, for more. They include NOT driving our cars and NOT introducing more foreign pests!

Join or start a community garden or your local organic gardening group to learn how the pros do it.

 Good to see my local supermarket starting to stock pyrethrum -based products! Ask yours if they will too.

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