The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Are Insects Beneficial? They Can Be

It's time for me to share my latest bug adventure. This year I have imported bugs to our homestead. It's not like we don't have enough bugs here already. I know there are bugs that live in other places, but sometimes it seems like we have every bug known to man living on our homestead. One of the problems with that is that they want to eat our vegetables before we do. This year the bug battle is being fought in earnest.

About a month ago, I ordered 1000 green lacewing and 600 praying mantid eggs, along with enough nematodes to cover all of the garden and herb bed area. This is the first time I have ever purchased bugs of any sort. I guess I get stranger as I get older. I have bug books and get bugs in the mail. Neat, huh? Even though the cabbage worms have appeared after the first batch of lacewings were applied, I received and applied another 1000 eggs last night. I just hope they hatch and latch onto a plant so they don't get washed away in yet another bought of rain that is arriving for the 
weekend. I won't be able to see them when they hatch, according to the directions, even full grown they only reach 1/2" to 3/4" long. According to my bug book, The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control, the lacewings are effective against corn earworms, cucumber beetles, corn rootworm, and thrips. Frank just asked me, "What?" And I said, "Thrip. There are actually different kinds of thrips, and some of them kill onion plants." Yep. Stranger every day.

The praying mantid eggs haven't hatched yet. When I talked to the company to place the second order, they told me it could take up to six weeks. Praying mantis will eat any insect it can catch, beneficial or pest, including each other. My order came with three cases, which I would describe as cocoon type structures made from something that resembles the outside surface of a wasp nest. Two of these I placed out in the fork of a tree on the edge of the garden, the third I put in a jar with a paper towel and rubber band on top. It's sitting in the kitchen window so we can watch them hatch.


The nematodes I ordered are only viable here in the summer, since at 20* they will die. At first I wasn't going to order any because I wanted something that I could get established in a way that would be sustainable. But when I found out they are effective against many pest
insect larvae, as well as fire ant larvae and queens, I decided to give it a try. When I asked what nematodes actually are, I found the description to be rather interesting. They are a microscopic worm that parasitizes other soft bodied insects. Some of the insects nematodes are effective against are carrot rust fly, carrot weevil, cucumber beetles, cutworms, flea beetles, grasshoppers, grubs and June bugs, and strawberry root weevil.

First application, May 3rd

Nematodes live on the moisture barrier of soil particles. Interesting, huh? To 'apply' nematodes you need water. If you have one of those fertilizer sprayers that fit on the end of a garden hose, that would work. We don't have any of those, but we do have a two gallon sprayer that worked just fine. It also allowed me to apply the nematodes in very specific areas as I
May 21st
walked through the garden and herb bed. Last night I applied nematodes in these areas for a second time. We have probably lost over an inch of topsoil in parts of our garden this spring due to some torrential rainfall, and I wanted to make sure we still had a good population of nematodes. 

 Yesterday we also received 250 assassin bug eggs. We already have some assassin bugs, but last year there were very few compared to the years before, so I ordered these to boost the population. I saw an assassin bug nymph a few days ago on the comfrey, and was glad to see they have survived and are starting to emerge. I hope the new additions will increase the overall population for years to come. Assassin bugs will eat many different kinds of insect pests, including flies and caterpillars. Even though they look pretty creepy, once I figured out what they were, I encourage their residence in our garden.


And last, but not lest, I also received over 1000 parasitic wasp, or trichogramma eggs yesterday. A few years back I kept seeing these little, light golden wasps working over our corn crop. I couldn't figure out why they were there. I didn't think they harvested pollen, but I was stumped. Then one day I was looking in one of my bug books and ran across parasitic wasps. Wa-la! I was excited to know that the draw for the wasps was the corn earworms, of which we had few that year. Since then I haven't seen near as many parasitic wasps, just like the assassin bugs, so I ordered these to boost the population. They are effective against Colorado potato beetles, corn earworms, European corn borer, gypsy moth, Japanese beetle, leaf hoppers, leaf miners (which we have actively working now), mealy bugs, Mexican bean beetle, stink bugs, tent caterpillars, tomato hornworms, fall webworms, and whiteflies.



It will be very interesting to see if the introduction of these insects have an impact upon our food production in the garden this year. I will keep you updated and let you know whether this was worthwhile, or a waste of time, effort and money. I also wanted to let you know that another interesting development occurred this week. I discovered an all day class that is being offered in our area discussing beneficial insects. So I signed up. We talk about learning all the time here on the blog. This is an example of taking
advantage of what is being offered around you, whether it is a class, the chance to work with or listen to an older person with experience in what you are trying to learn, or the good old school of hard knocks with hands on trial and error. It always helps if you find what you are trying to learn fascinating. Like Frank and radio communications. He has found his calling as we approach the edge of the precipice in civilization as we know it. Me? Food. I need to know how to produce, harvest and preserve food. This role has been given to me, and so has the fascination with fulfilling this role. It is varied and includes plants and animals, wild and domestic. Again, I urge you to learn something new and useful that your family will benefit from. You just never know when you will be called to put it to use in a most important way.

Until next time - Fern


  1. I buy ladybugs. They eat those darned aphids that appear by the millions around here.
    We have wild lady bugs, too, but not enough to munch up all their prey.

    1. I looked at the ladybugs too, Tewshooz, but decided to go with these. I figured five different kinds of bugs should do it. Well, at least I hope so. Unfortunately, I don't think any of them will be effective against the slugs. With all of the rain we have had over the last two months the slugs are just everywhere! Now I'm finding little tiny ones on most of the vegetables. I can put down wood ashes, eggshells or diatomaceous earth, but with all of the rain, it's only effective for a day or two. It's been a real challenge this year. I hope things are growing better in your neck of the woods. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Fern,

    Interesting! I hope the rain doesn't wash your eggs away. I'll keep an eye out on your posts to see how things are going.