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If you're looking to keep your garden healthy and vibrant while reducing reliance on harsh pesticides, beneficial insects can be a great solution. By introducing natural predators into your garden, you can control pests and improve the health of your plants without harming the environment. In this article, we'll introduce you to five different beneficial insects that can help protect your garden, including their preferred prey, optimal conditions for release, and other helpful tips.
- Cucumeris is a type of predatory mite that feeds on Western Flower Thrips, other thrips, and Two-Spotted Spider Mites. These tiny creatures are slow-release and come in sachets that can prevent pests for up to 2-3 weeks. Cucumeris has a lifespan of 40 days and can consume up to 30 mature or 10 immature pests during that time. They are most effective in temperatures between 58-80 degrees and a relative humidity of 65-72%, however, they can still operate outside of these temperature margins effectively. In the absence of prey, they can also feed on pollen.
- Californicus is a type of predatory mite that is mainly known for its ability to hunt in conditions where prey is scarce. They prefer Tetranychid mites, but will also consume other mite species, as well as small insects like thrips. This beneficial insect is most effective in low prey density and can tolerate a wide range of humidity and temperatures. N. Californicus is commonly used commercially around the world to control Two-Spotted Spider Mite and several other economically important mites on avocado, citrus, dwarf hops, grapes, raspberries, roses, and other ornamentals.
- Lacewing larvae can consume up to 300-400 aphids during a 2-3 week period in ideal conditions. These larvae are best for controlling aphid flair ups and can be released within 24 hours of first signs of emergence. They are attracted to sugar sources like honeydew and require a temperature of at least 60º F for significant eating and egg-laying. It is recommended to keep them warm (75º to 90º F) and release near a large food source. Due to being an aggressive species, it is optimal to disperse them evenly throughout the canopy. In ideal conditions, each adult can lay up to 600 eggs.
Ervi and Colemani:
- Ervi and Colemani are two different species of parasitic wasps that can help control aphids. Ervi is able to attack larger aphids than Colemani, and each female can lay about 100 eggs. The mummy stage of aphids occurs 7 days after laying, and 200-300 aphids are attacked by each female during their lifespan of 2-3 weeks depending on the temperature. While Colemani specialize in Green Peach, Melon, and Cotton Aphids and Ervi specialize in Brassica, Potato, Pea, and California Laurel Aphids, both will attack a wider array of different aphid species.
- Encarsia is a type of parasitic wasp that is used to control whitefly. These wasps lay their eggs in the second to fourth instar stages of whiteflies, and the larvae feed on developing whiteflies for around three weeks until reaching adulthood, when they emerge to lay more eggs in hosts. Encarsia can live for up to one month as adults and lay up to 200 eggs in that period, making them more prolific than their target pests.
In conclusion, beneficial insects are a valuable addition to any garden seeking natural pest control methods. The benefits of using beneficial insects are numerous, and they provide an eco-friendly and effective solution that insecticides alone cannot match. Whether you're dealing with mites, thrips, aphids, or whiteflies there are a variety of beneficial insects that can help you address specific pest problems in your garden.
By introducing these natural predators to your garden, you not only help to control pest populations but also support the balance of the insect ecology. Moreover, using beneficial insects allows you to avoid the harmful effects of synthetic pesticides on the environment and non-target organisms such as pollinators and beneficial insects themselves.
In short, using beneficial insects offers a revolutionary approach to pest control that benefits not just your garden but also the environment. The next time you face a pest problem, consider using beneficial insects to control them naturally. Your garden will thrive, and the planet will thank you for choosing an eco-friendly solution. For best results we recommend applying organic insecticidal soaps or horticulture oils 3-5 days before beneficial insects are due to arrive.
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