Written by Kayla Harless, People’s Garden Intern
The People’s Garden workshops have yet to be anything less than an informative and fun time! Today, Don Weber, a research entomologist with USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, taught us about pests and their natural enemies.
Our instructor pointed out that most bugs are not harmful. In fact, even some viruses and fungi can be beneficial. Whether or not something is a pest is simply a matter of whether you want that item where it is.
Gardens in urban environments are subject to a lot of chance pest problems. A random outbreak or colonization of a pest can happen, and sometimes, because it happened in an urban location, there are no resources there to have this pest’s natural enemy. However, spotting these problems early on can significantly help. Build a healthy garden environment, by having flowering plants around your vegetables, rotate your crops, and use cover crops. It also was recommended to keep a close observation of your garden. You can even go out at night with a red light to observe bugs at work, the red light is out of a bug’s vision range and you will see lots of surprising action! This allows you to get to know bug life cycles, and spot early on any unwanted bugs. Hand picking out the first ones to arrive will discourage others from coming to your garden.
The instructor brought several examples of natural enemies that eat aphids, Colorado potato beetles, and other pesky garden annoyances. The common pink lady beetle eats many aphids, and spined soldier bugs are general predators as well. Stinkbugs are also good predators.
Most everyone has heard of Chia pets, but not all of us know that Chia is actually a great cover crop and attracts many pollinators. It makes a great weed suppressant, and is even high in omega-3 fatty acids. Don Weber, our instructor, is doing research on Chia, how it grows, and what it does. If you are interested in learning about or participating in growing your own Chia, follow this link.
Be sure to come out next week and join us for “Why Not Keep Honeybees?” taught by Dr. Jeff Pettis, right here in the People’s Garden!
Don Weber passed around some common pink lady beetles
while explaining to us their role in eating pesky aphids.