This is a long article but if you are bugged by bugs you may find something useful somewhere here.
Integrated pest management ( IPM)
The definition given in Wikipedia for IPM
“In IPM, one attempts to prevent infestation, to observe patterns of infestation when they occur, and to intervene (without poisons) when one deems necessary. IPM is the intelligent selection and use of pest control actions that will ensure favourable economic, ecological and sociological consequences. ”
I prefer to just say organic pest management. In organic gardens, a web of life , an ecosystem of pest and predator, build up over time, and most pestilence is short lived and seasonal. By the time you realize there is a problem and reach for the garlic and chili to make a spray ( recipe at the end) , its over.
Some pests are an ongoing problem however, and need to be managed if we are to eat a full diet.
It is amazing how a person in Nannup will have a different range of difficult pests to a person in Margaret River.
Bill Mollison says we must observe our pest and then out –think it. See what works in nature and apply it.
The mainstream reaction to a pest outbreak is to buy in a pesticide, herbicide or fungicide ………… but that hurts us ( and other non target species) . I don’t think the satisfaction of seeing your little plant wreckers dying before your eyes is worth getting cancer in 20 years over. Besides, if very toxic chemicals are used habitually , pests may build up an immunity to the “icide”.
David Suzuki points out that using pesticide is like fighting crime in a city by killing all the people…..obviously that would be extreme because only a very small percentage of the population are criminals. This is the same in the bug world….. there are many beneficial insects which will be wiped out in a spray event. So many people say they try to avoid sprays but sometimes “ You just have to, just a bit” . After swearing to myself I say “well maybe, if you really know what you are doing, and who does when it comes to the complexity of Nature?”
Think of a pest outbreak as a breeding ground for a predator or a feast for chooks.
If something is really bugging us we must get out our magnifying glass, identify the pest, then do a little research and thinking.
Ways to increase biological pest control on your farm.
One of our greatest joys is increasing biodiversity on our farm. By planting trees and understorey plants you provide shade, precipitation (even if only in the form of dew and condensation) and habitat . Plant nectar producing , and/ or spiny native shrubs to help bird populations increase . Water features, if only a bird bath, are essential. A hessian bag placed on the edge of a birdbath or pond will wick up water for the pollinating honeybee to safely drink without drowning . Water features and their aquatic plants breed frogs and dragon flies and provide a drink for all. Piles of rocks and logs provide reptile habitat. Hedgerows, bat boxes, hollow trees and / or owl nesting boxes (as mentioned) provide nesting sites for birds of prey and other insectivores.
Stop using chemicals, let habitat plants grow and life will come back. Is it just me ? I have bats swirling around my bedroom every night. Micro bats and big ones ….a nightly visit all summer long. Micro bats eat 600 insects a night. Bat boxes can be installed, plans available online, but just increasing vegetation will give them the habitat they need to breed.
Birds : wrens , swallows , robins and finches and other small birds. These lovely little insect eating birds are abundant and hop around when I hand water the garden, drinking from leaves and controlling insects. We have hardly a problem anymore with the cabbage moths and white butterfly which use to decimate the brassicas all summer.
Contrast a rich habitat teeming with birds, mantis, wasp, pollinating moth etc with the conditions in the wheat belt, where farmers are filling in dams and removing all but one kind of plant. They do not having sheep in their rotations any more and are devoting their land to a monoculture of grain. Without sheep they are entirely dependent on artificial fertilizer and herbicides, and without biodiversity they must rely on pesticides. This is just how Monsanto likes it. Monsanto fund the universities which train the agronomists which advocate this lunacy.
History shows us time and again what can happen when we upset ecosystems. Chairman Mao in his Great Leap Forward (1958 to 62), got the people to kill all the sparrows. This action bought on the death of 70 million people in the great famine of China, around 1961.
The Four Pests campaign was one of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward The four pests to be eliminated were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows.The extermination of the last upset the ecological balance, and enabled crop-eating insects to proliferate.
The campaign against the ‘Four Pests’ was initiated in 1958 as a hygiene campaign by Mao Zedong, who identified the need to exterminate mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, and sparrows. Sparrows – mainly were included on the list because they ate grain seeds, robbing the people of the fruits of their labour. The masses of China were mobilized to eradicate the birds, and citizens took to banging pots and pans or beating drums to scare the birds from landing, forcing them to fly until they fell from the sky in exhaustion. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs were broken, and nestlings were killed. Sparrows and other birds were shot down from the sky, resulting in the near-extinction of the birds in China.Non-material rewards and recognition were offered to schools, work units and government agencies in accordance with the volume of pests they had killed.
By April 1960, Chinese leaders realized that sparrows ate a large amount of insects, as well as grains. Rather than being increased, rice yields after the campaign were substantially decreased. Mao ordered the end of the campaign against sparrows, replacing them with bed bugsin the ongoing campaign against the Four Pests. By this time, however, it was too late. With no sparrows to eat them, locust populations ballooned, swarming the country and compounding the ecological problems already caused by the Great Leap Forward, including widespread deforestation and misuse of poisons and pesticides. Ecological imbalance is credited with exacerbating the Great Chinese Famine, in which at least 20 million ( some say 76 million) people died of starvation from between the years 1958 and 1961 characterized by widespread famine. Drought, poor weather, and the policies of the Communist Party of China contributed to the famine, Under the Great Leap Forward, Mao diverted of labor to steel production and infrastructure projects, burning the forests in back yard smelters .These projects combined with cyclical natural disasters led to an approximately 15% drop in grain production in 1959 followed by a further 10% decline in 1960 and no recovery in 1961.
Did deforestation cause the droughts which followed? I would say so. So lets learn from history and plant trees now.
Trees make habitat for many creatures including:
. frogs ( eat mosquitoes and moths , slugs and slaters )
. dragon flies
. lizards…. ( eat snails , slugs and rodents) and strawberries unfortunately.
Feed the SOIL
Earthworms … their castings, and compost make healthy plants immune to disease. So found Sir Albert Howard . He also found that the animals which feed on compost grown plants are immune to infectious disease, even foot and mouth disease. If you feed the PLANT as opposed to the soil, aphis can suddenly appear. If you pile around your roses uncomposted manure, your rose bush may get force fed nitrates. It may only want to drink water but has to drink liquid manure . This makes sappy dark green growth on the plant which may look good but because it is unbalanced ( excessive nitrogen) it may fall prey to mobs of aphis. Humus is what plants really want, and humus can save us from climate change.
Heres some beneficial insects to welcome in:
Lady birds, ( aphis vacuums)
Spiders (voracious hunters of pests)
A word on snakes
I don’t like around my feet but they do eat many rodents. Snakes are often seen where ever grain attracts rodents and frogs ( everything eats frogs!) Tiger snakes have 40 babies a year and can be scary when gardening on chinampa swamps . We have lost 3 large pigs to snake bite. Preying on small snakes are kookaburras, eagles hawks and other birds of prey ( which also get rodents)
Companion planting and mixing up species throughout the garden are also good strategies .Plants often are affected positively or negatively by their neighbours. Jackie French has devoted one of her numerous, excellent gardening books to companion planting. Its just a small inexpensive book. Highly recommended. BM mentions alleopathy and says watch the following “ gum trees, pine trees, walnut and pecan, and sheoak with citrus. He recommends looking for examples of alleopathy in your neighbourhood and learn from it, Often if you insert a mulberry between 2 antagonistic trees everything will be OK.
‘Lures and traps . half orange skins lying upside down in the garden can be a good collection device for slaters. Similarly a wooden plank on the ground creates a cool, moist dark place and can be turned over to reveal a heap of beetles, slaters and slugs on a warm day. Similar chook feasts can be created with rolled up newspapers….an earwig or several will often hide in there overnight and you can transport them to the chookpen in the morning.
The umbillerfera family of plants ( carrots,fennel, parsley etc ) when flowering , attract beneficial wasps, so let some flower.
Hand squashing of troublesome bugs and removing the weeds they breed up on is also quite effective. One year I had a complete failure of potatoes due to a yellow hairy looking larvae defoliating the plants. It was the offspring of the 28 spotted bug. I had a huge number of deadly nightshade plants at the time, thinking the ripe berries would feed chooks . I found that this is where the large population of 28 spotted bug was breeding. I pulled many out and have kept them a little more under control since then, cause I like my spuds. I haven’t had another incident.
Choose disease resistant plants
Select the most disease resistant plants from catalogues or your own non hybrid plants. Merri Bee Organic seeds offers offers seed of many plants selected over many decades for disease resistance. See Bees B
|Ducks on snail detail….Ducklings hitching a ride on mum
Bees Blog for the catalogue in the month of October 2012.
Some organic treatments for Caterpillars ….
Caterpillars come in many shapes, sizes, and colors and can do a lot of damage in your garden. All of them are essentially the same thing, they are the younger, larval version of a moth. The moth lays eggs on your plants, they hatch into caterpillars that feed on your plants until it’s time for them to create a cocoon and eventually emerge as a moth.
The best way to prevent an outbreak is to cover your plants with a floating row cover ( available from John in Northcliffe) just after planting, securing the cover down tightly with landscaping pins. Floating row covers are a light, mesh like material that cover the plant while still allowing light and water to penetrate the barrier. Put it over the plants loosely so that it does not obstruct the plants growth. The row cover will prevent moths from landing on the plants and laying their eggs, therefore preventing the larvae from hatching.
If the edges of the row cover are secured tightly it will prevent many crawling insects from accessing and damaging the plants.
If you don’t have the ability to put down row covers (ex. tall plants such as corn, or plants such as squash that require pollination by insects cannot be covered by floating row covers once blooms appear) another line of defense is to use a spray insecticide called Dipel.
Dipel contains Bacillus Thurengiensis (BT) a Bacillus which forms a toxin ONLY in the GUT of a caterpillar. It causes intestinal upset and eventual death in caterpillars that consume it. Feeding by the grubs usually stops within 3 hours of consuming Dipel and death occurs in a matter of days.
I have read conflicting information about BT. This is not surprising because of the involvement of the Genetic Engineering corporations, who have no hesitation in lying constantly. BT is a bacteria which only produces a toxin in the gut of a caterpillar. It has been used by organic farmers with no ill effects on anyone but caterpillars for decades. I I reckon the GM companies thought they would use the safe reputation/ name of BT to market their plants.
But the GM scientists interfered with nature big time . To create BT corn they took the genes of the TOXIN that is formed in the caterpillar, and inserted it into the genes of the corn plant . This means every part of the plant is toxic. Even the corn cob is a registered pesticide! Obviously this could never happen in nature , one because it crosses the species barrier which nature very rarely does and in these rare cases the progeny is sterile ( horse and donkey create sterile mule) and 2 , naturally the toxin was only ever found in the gut of a caterpillar. Now it is everywhere! Well, lets confine ourselves to scientific research and say it is in the blood stream of pregnant women and their unborn babies in Canada. It is possible that by horizontal gene transfer the gut bacteria of these women ( and no doubt anyone else who has eaten a BT cornchip, eaten a chicken drumstick or a steak where the confined animal was fed GM corn, or drunk a “soda” containing high fructose corn syrup) has become a living pesticide factory. Thanks Monsanto! Lets all march against you on May 25th.
In their attempt to market GM, Monsanto say these crops use less chemicals. You know I use to think that maybe Gm was a good idea for this reason. But look into it for more than 5 mins, go to Green Peace and independent scientists for info and what reads like the script of a B Grade horror movie unfolds. Mr Murdoch isn’t telling us the whole story. You wont hear that GM Bt cotton is the major factor in the catastrophic failure of the Brazilian cotton crop. The crop has fallen victim to a plague of caterpillars, leading to expected losses of millions of dollars for producers. Of course the caterpillars, on being expoed to BT toxin 24 seven, developed an immunity quite quickly.
Brazilian cotton producers are now asking the government to allow the use of a banned class of pesticides to deal with the problem. But as the article shows, chemical pesticides are becoming less effective and so farmers are having to use more and more to try to control pests.
Let’s bear in mind this latest example of Bt cotton failure next time a GM pusher claims Bt crops reduce insecticide use.
A Brazilian commentator told us:
The article makes clear that the further agriculture gets from the natural production system, the higher the risk – as with markets.
Bothersome Bugs at our place
Lots of free range chooks means we don’t have a problem with grasshoppers, slaters and many types of pest beetle. I let chooks into netted areas of the garden for a week before closing them out again and planting seedlings, otherwise we would be overrun with slaters, which can chew big zucchinis off at the base overnight. Chooks offer a great disposal system for fruit fly infested fruit and other bugs on plants. Is that aphis infested broccoli a pain or a protein source for fowls? Its all in your attitude . Of course your own chooks in the wrong place at the wrong time can be a natural disaster , like 50 small rotary hoes on the loose they can destroy your food source for the next 6 months in no time.
Pests are in purple:
Food forests with a perpetual food supply are such a great thing for healthy well fed humans, and unfortunately that means the rats in a Permaculture are also very well fed , being opportunistic omnivores like ourselves….and they can build up to astronomical populations. There was a time when I didn’t get to taste a cob of corn, or even buy in 100 day old chicks, as rats would decimate them both overnight. They ate all the produce from a 20 year old macadamia trees every year. The bananana passionfruit vine all over the house was beautiful and insulated the house but the rats loved it too. At the moment I have much fewer rats but they have a penchant for persimmons.
Keep vegetation a little distance from your house and cut back trees and vines that provide a ladder for rats to enter your roof. Clean up debris like piles of old boards ….they find cosy homes under junk.
Fox terrier/Jack Russell A good rat dog is an asset. Geoff Lawton has one so it must be OK.
Owls . We stopped baiting rats about 5 years ago hoping the owls would come back. It’s lovely to hear the owls at night now. First one was heard for about a year, then 2, now numerous owls, and I think they are active because now we get every cob of sweet corn again.
Basics of an owl nest box :
At least 16 ” square floor space, 4 inch diameter entrance hole, low enough for fledging owls to scramble out of eventually, an access door to clean out the nest once a year, drainage holes in the corners, hung at least 12 feet off the ground preferrably in shade and about 50 meters away from the area you want patrolled. Owls prefer not to hunt in their immediate nesting area. Parents feed baby owls ( average family size 5 babies) 2 to 3 rodents a night each. Parents eat one a day. Wow! I could soon give my cats away. I need 2 owl boxes in the hope that at least one is found and used.
Black Skinks. We have lots of these and have seen one catching and eating a rat .
Cats Some say a neighbours cat makes a good hat but I disagree! Just the smell of a cat in the house can drive away rodents. We keep our 2 spayed cats inside most of the time and let them out on dusk for a few hours. There are still heaps of birds and skinks around our house. Kitty litter of 100% bentonite clay is readily available and cheap and emptying the cat tray under mulch around trees is good for them. Not the vege garden please, due to toxoplasmosis.
Argentine ants These are annoying not only they come into the house in plague proportions and infest ripe fruit ( I often have an argentine ant adhered firmly to my tongue pumping formic acid flat out) ) but because they encourage sooty mould , mealy bug and other scale insects . I find them quite terrible. As usual prevention is better than cure ….best to not import them if you are free of them at the moment ! Therefore be very careful of potted plants which can be the way they spread. Also they may hitch to your place on visitors cars as they eat the insects that accumulate on car radiators!
Baby powder ( in fact any talc) is a good control , they won’t cross a perimeter band of dry talc. Also water stops many a trail, but you need to put a drop of detergent in the water so it breaks the surface tension otherwise they walk on water. Grease banding around tree trunks is effective if you replace daily . Soapy water spray all over on effected plant ( usually noticed because they have sooty mould) will get rid of them for a while. The argentine ant gets rid of all other ant species, and protect scale insects as they farm them for honey dew. I have seen a ladybird baled up by ants! These ants don’t bite much , only when you accidently get one in your eye or mouth. That’s not nice. At least they eat fruit fly larvae out of fruit, and termites.
The best control is the borax method. Make a solution of one cup sugar to a cup of boiling water, add a heaped teaspoon borax, shake vigourously now and then as it cools. Pour a dribble into about 20 small containers. We use tiny plastic pill bottles with a hole drilled in the top, but you can use aluminium cans, anything that will stop the evaporation of the fluid and exclude kids, pets and livestock, but allow a small entry way for the ants to drink it. Place these baits across trails of ants EVERYWHERE on the same day. This will eradicate the colony. It takes a few weeks for the solution to be fed to the queen and for her to stop laying eggs. You will see less and less ants for a fortnight ,then blessed relief…none. Borax is a mild poison so the baits should be collected up and stored away till the next outbreak in a years time gets you hunting for them.
As Above….control the ants! They attack the predatory mites which would in turn attack the Spider mites. Spider mites are devastating and often resides in glass houses in spring. Spider mite makes a web on the underside of leaves to protect itself from sprays and predators. They are prolific, precocious breeders and populations can build up fast, decimating curcubit seedlings and beans. The leaves go pale and then white then shrivel up and go brown. Plants often die. Predatory mites look rather like their prey and start work immediately and do not finish until all the mites and their eggs are eaten. The time it takes depends on the amount of mite and also time of year. Predators slow down under cool, dry conditions and also will take longer to clean up large mite populations. They are most active in warm humid conditions, but can be attacked by ants.
I have succeeded in replacing a kike infestation with a food forest a few times by the sheet mulch method .
More ways to deal with it: Keep pigs in the area with electric fences on contour . Very effective on bracken too. Pigs fertilise while they weed too. Thanks pigs.
Dig out every root ( this will take about 30 mins to do a square foot properly! ).
Keep geese or a tethered orphan lamb to control it along fence lines.
Mow it repeatedly to improve the soil. This will eventually improve the soil so much that a new plant will come in to replace it. I believe it is a low succession plant with very little nutritional value to livestock. There may be a little value in young actively growing tips.
When it comes to keeping parrots off fruit….Net it of forget it. Campaign to stop clearing of native bush, in which they find more attractive foods than our fruit . Plant decoy trees like capulin cherry. Don’t expect a cherry for yourself but they will stay off your apricots probably. Try the scare gun, the fake hawke, CD’S and tinsel hanging in trees. Our birds are too smart to fall for that for long. Really you need to net carefully.
I have not much experience , last year being the first time we have suffered major damage to young apple trees. The bush nearby had been prescribe burnt. Thanks DEC. All fruit and leaves were taken and branches broken.
Kangaroo proof electric fence ? This will be worth the expense in the long term . A dog may deter, but a kanga will kill often a dog , luring it to a dam and drowning it and or disembowelling it with his big toe nail. Once again, could we leave more bushland for native animals? Shrink the size of our houses, intensify our food production areas and plant natives on our land for the wildlife? Be prepared to share your pine nuts etc with endangered animals like the black cockies. They are really hungry. A kangaroo did the big toe nail gash thing on a birdnet supposedly protecting a lot of pink lady apples on a small tree the other night. Kanga must have filled her pouch and hopped away as the tree was stripped on one side.
Numbats eat millions! Another critically endangered native animal.
David Piggott is an environmental scientist in Perth who runs an organic pest management company adept in termite control. www.systemspest.com.au
He utilizes lowest toxicity baiting systems and his vast knowledge of termites to destroy the colony that’s eating your house, without harming other creatures. He wrote the book “ Building out termites” which should be available through your library. Baiting with arsenic trioxide is another way which environmentalist Dr Bob Rich recommends as quite safe if done properly.
Chooks love the protein of termites. We often put infested wood in the young chicken pen.
Can be seasonal problem on chooks. As usual a stitch in time saves 9 , and as soon as you see the first chook with fleas grab it and apply Vaseline and Eucalyptus to the wattles and comb affected. Smother every ailment of chooks in Vaseline or in our case pig lard. It deals with scaly leg mite and stick fast flea. Continue treatment once a week for 3 weeks to break the life cycle of the mite or flea, and get all newly hatching juveniles. Clean out the deep litter in the shed and compost it. Replace with clean ,new sawdust /wood shavings etc. Beware of your sources : treated pine and melamine chip board rubbish as ended up as mulch on permies gardens by mistake before now. Soak each wheel barrow load of litter for 10minutes or so and tip onto the compost heap. Multiple good results will ensue from this action .
Slugs and snails
One word ….Ducks. As Bill famously says , in severe snail infestations you must have a deficiency …..
of ducks . You must get ducks and let them free range around the outside of the garden. Let them in to the garden in mid winter when they will do little damage to anything but will clean up mollusc populations and their eggs . Iron chelate baits are successful and safe I am told. If poultry keeping isn’t for you , you could also contact Rent- a- Duck, ( Rent- a -goat is also available for blackberrys), sell salted snails for pig and duck food or even harvest snails for restaurants. Why not turn a pest into a profit?
Becoming more of a problem as heat and humidity has increased with climate change. Apparently a brew of seaweed, comfrey , stinging nettle , chamomile and horsetail is a good fungicide if used within 48 hours of steeping and at an early stage in the disease. Damping off of seedlings can also be controlled with this says Linda Woodrow. Raw milk is said to work on Powdery mildew. A comfrey brew leaves and water is a complete fertiliser and so rich in silica it is a good fungicide and foliar feed in one. I have yet to try it, as the brown rot is a new problem for us.
On our farm , we find once the soil has improved (and take heart, it can be a lot of work initially but the application of lots of compost will effect a permanent change for the better! ) we have little trouble from pests and disease. The biodiversity in organic gardens and their polycultures are a natural guard against crop disease.
Now if all else fails you can make up a general deterrent spray.
Home made spray deterrents
Garlic Chili Spray
This garlic chili spray works really well on infestations of aphids, white flys, or mealy bugs.
· 12 large cloves of garlic (roughly one whole garlic bulb)
· 6 hot chili peppers, dried or fresh
· 2 cups water
· 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap (Shaklee, Dr. Bronner’s, or Kirk’s); you can use liquid dish soap, but make sure it does not contain a de-greaser and isn’t anti-bacterial
1.) Combine the garlic, chilies, and water in a blender and puree until it forms into a frothy orangey-pink concoction. Let the blended ingredients stand overnight to gain potency and so that the solids settle to the bottom.
2.) Pour the mixture through a strainer lined with cheesecloth (you can use coffee filters if you don’t have cheesecloth.) Make sure you get all the particles out; otherwise it will clog up your garden sprayer.
3.) Pour the concentrate into a jar with a plastic lid (it will react with metal.)
4.) Stir in the liquid soap and label the jar.
5.) When ready to use, mix 2 tablespoons of concentrate per quart of water in a garden sprayer. Anything stronger then this could cause damage to the plants so don’t get aggressive.
6.) Spray infested plants during the late afternoon. If you spray early in the morning, the sun mixed with the spray may burn the plants.
If one application does not clear up an infestation, you can do multiple applications, but put 2-3 days between applications.
Makes 2 ½ cups of concentrate.
NOTE: Do not use a garden sprayer that you have also used to spray poison or weed killer. Remnants of the poison can remain in the sprayer and kill your plants.