Biological Pest Control 101

“How to use good bugs”

Why is everyone using ‘good’ bugs? What are they? How do I use them? 

These are questions being asked regularly in horticulture, agriculture, and even Cannabis Culture. I am here to answer those questions.

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Why is everyone switching to “good bugs?”:

There are many reasons people have switched to using biological control as opposed to chemicals. Most common are these:

1. A want or need to go chemical free: Indeed, some people are fed up with chemical companies, or the poison in our food chain, and want to eliminate those toxins. 

2. Chemical Resistance: Many farmers currently spraying chemicals are finding the chemicals are not doing the job and they have no choice but to turn to biological control.

3. Government Regulation: In many food products and in the government regulated cannabis industries so many chemicals are banned that there is no choice but to use the bugs.

4. Excellent consulting: There are many consultants out there that will show farmers and gardeners how to use bugs preventatively, which is less expensive than relying on chemical sprays and provides a better product.

5. Saving money: Farmers and gardeners that have used and continue to use good bugs in a preventative way save money on pest control in almost every case. 

6. Some good bugs are a one-time application: Depending on climate and crop, you may only need to buy a few bugs once a year, or once for the life of the plants. No joke.

Greenhouse

Since there are so many reasons to use good bugs, it may be easier to discuss reasons why people are not switching:

1. Have had or have heard of bugs “not working:” This is our biggest struggle. Some people have bought poor quality bugs, the wrong bugs, or failed to apply them correctly. Similarly, people have applied bugs to crops that unwittingly had a systemic pesticide applied in propagation. These people simply need better bugs and proper consulting.

2. Stuck in old ways: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We do not attempt to convert these people. Let them be; don’t buy their stuff. 

3. Incompatibility: I won’t lie. There are some crops that are particularly difficult or expensive to use biological control. In some cases plants have been bred for a particular attribute (like colour, or THC content) and other characteristics (like natural pest or disease resistance) have been neglected. Further more, poor growing conditions, or plants stressed from any factor are more appealing to pests. Sometimes the wrong crop in the right field makes for a tricky pest-management situation. 

Fortunately, there are people like me, my colleagues, and even my competitors that have a wealth of experience in crops, pests and good bugs and can readily match your needs to our products and application techniques. It might seem new, it might seem scary, but biological pest control is not only better for the environment but it will save you money.

What are the “good bugs?”

Biological Pest Control was the only method of pest control until the development of chemicals like nerve agents that were born out of war-demanded research. Therefore, some of the knowledge in this industry goes back hundreds of years. And it is not hard to believe – as long as we have seen aphids we have likely seen ladybugs eating them. It is through that observation, and then finding a way to capture, and develop their populations that has allowed good bugs to be commercially available. Where there are pests, there are researchers finding the natural predators and trying to keep them alive in a controlled environment. 

The reason we don’t just let nature run its course, however, is because the predators always show up after the infestation has begun. This, in nature, protects the predators’ food source. If there were only a few aphids, the lady bugs would eat them all, and their larva would be left to starve, so in nature, they wait for the infestation and then the predator numbers start to increase. 

So, good bugs are used to “jump the gun”. We put them in ahead of when they naturally occur, and in numbers to either wipe-out the pest or keep a balance. In some cases, we treat an infestation with bugs that will eat all the pests and then leave or die. In other cases we provide bugs that have multiple food sources and searching ability, so they survive a long time in your greenhouse (for example) by feeding on pests as they arrive, thus keeping a balance.

Here are some examples of good bugs and generally how to use them:

Stratiolaelaps scimitus: 

This is a soil-borne predatory mite most often associated with controlling fungus gnats. It is such a good predator that it has been known to eliminate thrips, weevils, root aphids, over-wintering spider mite, foliar nematodes, and even varroa mites. In fact, the list is much longer. If you have any pest in your soil, sprinkle stratiolaelaps around the roots of plants at a rate of 125 mites per square metre. (25,000 straiolaelaps is approximately $15). These overwinter in many North American USDA zones, which means it can be a one time application to your garden, or a cheap solution to protect your greenhouse plants at propagation. 

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Ambylesius Fallasis:

This is another predatory mite. It is mostly used to control two spotted spider mite, but will control a variety of above-ground mites. It will also over-winter in many parts of North America feeding on other small organisms, and pollen in shrubs and soil. This product is so good that it is difficult to produce and so effective that our competitors won’t sell it. They consider selling it a reduction in revenue since no one will have to buy it a second time. Excellent for fields, shrubs and preventative applications.

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Aphidoletes aphidimyza:

This is a predatory midge that feeds on aphids. We ship it as pupae, and you wait until the adult midges are flying around the container. Open it at dusk, and they will quickly find aphids (by smelling honeydew secretions) and lay their eggs directly onto the aphids. The larva are hungry, eat many aphids and drop to the soil to pupate. These are less likely to over winter and respond quick enough in the spring, but will ‘cycle’ in your garden all season. So buying some each spring is great for the garden. Often in greenhouses, people will buy a small amount weekly to keep aphids from ever establishing. 

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I provided you with these three examples, above, because where I live in Coastal British Columbia, these three products will protect every garden for the entire season and beyond. There are more however:

Ateta Rove Beetle (Dalotia coriaria) – a generalist predator on and in the soil

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Brown Lacewing (Micromus variegatus) – a generalist predator for many insects and mites.

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Stethorus punctillum – a beetle for destroying large spider mite populations

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Delphastus Catalinae –  a beetle for controlling large numbers of whitefly

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Encarsia formosa – a parasitic wasps for whitefly prevention

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Phyoseiulus persimilis – a predatory mite for eliminating two-spotted spider mite. 

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Neoseiulus cucumeris –  a predatory mite for eliminating thrips.

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How to use good bugs: 

As mentioned before, each application of each good bug is different. I won’t list our crop recommendations but you can find them at appliedbio-nomics.com . I will, however, give you a general sense of how to use them. First, start scouting your garden or greenhouse or field. You will always find pests – identify what they are. If you are a seasoned gardener, you already know you will have aphids on your roses, spider mite on your grasses and citrus and so forth. Find a supplier and demand fresh, unrefrigerated product. When it arrives, check to make sure the bugs are alive and doing what they should be. Apply to your plant areas as directed by the package information. But!!! Make sure you have not sprayed recently, and that you will not spray again. Any spray (even if they say it is compatible with biologicals) will harm them to some extent. Trust nature. Get the bugs in early, and let them multiply within your garden. You will soon have an army of good bugs. If you are in a greenhouse, the pest pressure will always be high, since there is no natural areas for predators to hide out. In this case, develop a program (with someone like me) for putting small amounts of good bugs into your house at regular intervals to simulate the natural arrival of good bugs.

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Always get a second opinion if you get consultation. Too often I have met people who were sold an enormous (and expensive) amount of good bugs, that was not necessary. While fresh bugs may be more expensive, you will need far less, so the cost is greatly reduced. Some companies are simply trying to sell products, other companies like us are selling success using good bugs, because the return customers and word-of-mouth is growing our business. 

Now that your questions have been answered, I’m sure you have more. Leave a message or check out appliedbio-nomics.com for more information.

Good Bugs Rule!

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