|Ms Walliser is also the author of Good Bug, Bad Bug|
The prize for this month’s American Beauties contest is a great book called Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden. Go to our Facebook page and tell us why you NEED this book for a chance to win. Last week I interviewed the author, Jessica Walliser. I think she’s an entomologist wannabe and after our interview I was too. We joked about predatory and parasitic insects needing their own marketing team. Ladybugs would definitely be the cover girls, and praying mantids would be the bad boys.
The number one thing people should keep in mind if they want to move away from pesticides to a more natural way of gardening is to have patience, Jessica explains. Changes will be gradual. It takes time to regain balance. It’s also good to remember that “Bad Bugs” will rarely kill a plant in one season and that 99% of insects are benign or beneficial.
Jessica talks about the importance of native plants in her books but also includes information about non-natives that provide nectar. It’s important to remember the distinction between host plants needed by insects as a larval food source and plants that provide nectar to a wider range of insects.
- Stop Using Pesticides - Even organic ones that could harm beneficial insects in their larval stage.
- Create Habitat – Don’t cut back your plants in the fall. Many insects will overwinter in the hollow stems.
- Treasure Your Leaf Litter. It provides shelter for a wide variety of insects and other wildlife all year long.
- Plant Nectar and Pollen Sources - Try to include plants from the aster, mint and carrot family.
Jessica thinks that independent garden centers could play an important role in educating consumers about beneficial insects. By using signage like “Here’s What’s Happening” to let customers know that the lacewings in their greenhouse are employed to control aphids. Many garden centers are now selling beneficial insects and that is another great teaching opportunity.
- Consider the Source - Almost all adult ladybugs are wild collected. It would be better to buy insectary-reared larva instead. The larva can’t fly away and they will be working for you longer.
- Praying Mantids Egg Cases - Be aware that you are most likely buying Chinese or European praying mantids. Native species like the Carolina mantids have a native range that doesn’t extend much farther north than Virginia. However, global warming is extending their range.
- Find a Reputable Insectary - They will work with you to find the best solutions for your situation.
Visit www.jessicawalliser.com to find a list of lecture topics, read her bug blog and to access links to books and articles.
Find more information on insectaries and beneficial insects, including where to buy from Cornell University.