When you see an insect in your garden, what is your response? Often people feel that “the only good bug is a dead one” and resort to using pesticides to control insects. Most people do not realize that controlling pests is more complex than the black and white scenario of whether they are present or not. At Chatfield Farms, we apply Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPM) to monitor and reduce pest pressure. IPM involves multiple layers of protection for vegetable crops with pesticide application being a last resort option.
Striped cucumber beetles (Acalymma vittatum) D. Gordon E. Robertson, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Some of these practices include regular monitoring for pests. This means getting out in your garden on a regular basis and thoroughly scouting plants for pests. They can be hard to find and once you do find something, you need to know what it is. At first glance a wheel bug (Arilus cristatus) and a squash bug (Anasa tristis) may look similar, but they play very different roles in your garden. It is worth checking Helen Fowler Library or your local library for books on garden insects, such as “Garden Insects of North America.” I would also recommend becoming a citizen scientist and posting observations to websites like iNaturalist. Then you will have a record of what you found the next time it appears.
We also try to prevent pest problems before they arise. Selecting plant varieties that are resistant to certain pests and diseases. Bacterial wilt (Erwinia tracheiphila) commonly occurs at Chatfield Farms, so we look for varieties of cucumber that are resistant to it. Another practice that protects cucumbers from bacterial wilt is the use of floating row cover or Reemay. This acts as a physical barrier between pests and plants. Since bacterial wilt is transmitted by striped cucumber beetles (Acalymma vittatum), preventing them from reaching plants will limit their ability to vector infection.
To reduce pesticide application, we are testing an alternative method of controlling striped cucumber beetles and western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera). This method involves planting a bed of native perennial plants in parallel with existing vegetable beds. The native plants provide shelter and habitat for native arthropods such as ground beetles and spiders. These critters are voracious predators and will feed on the larvae of striped cucumber beetles as well as a host of other pests including aphids, armyworms and mites.
With the help of native habitat and the populations they support, Chatfield Farms is implementing regenerative practices to increase biodiversity on the farm.
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