The number one recommendation of several entomologists I talked with was "buy an illustrated guide to insects."
Fortunately for us, nature maintains a certain equilibrium or balance in our gardens. But, as we all know, sometimes that balance tips the wrong way.
It turns out that we, the gardener, are often the biggest contributors to tipping the scales. Here are some sure-fire ways to alter the balance in the wrong direction:
Excessive pesticide use kills some bugs but not all. If you remember Gregor Mendel, you'll understand that bugs with natural resistance to the particular pesticide you used will reproduce while those not resistant will die. In short order, you'll have more and more bugs that are resistant to your insecticide.
You kill the good guys,too. Most pesticides are not very specific. They kill everything (except the resistant ones) including the good guys. With them gone, new pests they have been controlling will move in.
You can be too quick to assume the damage you saw was caused by the bug you saw. In fact, the insect you spotted may have eaten the one that caused the damage. Animals can leave damage that looks just like insect damage, too. The shrew loves to munch on strawberries. But, you'd probably think some insect like a caterpillar did the deed.
From the 1940s when many pesticides were introduced to today there has been a steady decline in their effectiveness. So farmers, who have a tremendous economic incentive to find effective controls, developed IPM (Integrated Plant Management) This five-step, common sense, approach to pest control really does work. It may be time for us gardeners to borrow from our farmer friends.
We'll explore the five-steps next week so, until then, good luck and great gardening.
David Soper, The Garden Guy, writes and lectures on gardening topics. Read more on his website, Adventures in Gardening, www.gardenguy.com
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