Natural Control of Garden Pests

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Beneficial insects, companion planting and simple traps can help reduce garden pests without the use of chemical sprays.

The big chemical manufacturers would dearly love to have us believe that insect pests can be controlled only through the use of their poisonous sprays and dusts. Well, as any organic gardener can tell you, that’s simply not true. You can control and repel harmful insects in a number of natural ways including, to name only a few: companion planting, natural repellents, intoxicants, predator insects, birds, poultry, reptiles and small animals.

Although much is made of the insect-eating ability of the praying mantis, few of its champions mention that this predator devours almost as many beneficial bugs as bad. At worst, however, the praying mantis is probably marginally beneficial in the “good versus bad” insect battle and – since it is a rather noble creature to have in the garden – should be protected. Just don’t expect an egg case or two of mantises to exert any outstanding biologipest control in your vegetable patch.

Adult ladybugs and the larvae of lacewings have a voracious appetite for aphids, mealybugs, cottony-cushion scales, white flies, spider mites and some thrips. 

Many insect pests are surprisingly fastidious eaters and are repelled by any plant other than the one they prefer to devour. You can help protect your vegetables, then, by interplanting them with borage, lavender, sage, parsley, dill and other aromatic herbs. Marigolds seem especially distasteful to large number of bugs . . . so mix goodly numbers of this flower in with you produce plantings.

Bait flytraps with molasses, sugar, fruit wastes or powdered egg mixed with water. An earwig trap is just short lengths of old garden hose tied together in a bunch like flower stems. Drop ’em in hot water each morning that you find the pests hiding inside. A half-buried bottle that contains some stale beer will attract and happily drown destructive bugs.

And don’t forget the old standbys: the “animated bug catchers” that more than earn their keep around the vegetable patch. Geese, ducks, chickens, toads, snakes, wild birds, skunks and other of our small feathered, scaled and furry friends will constantly patrol a garden if we only let them.

See the Image Gallery for more information about pests, their habits and how to get rid of them.