With many insect species in decline, gardeners can do their part to help protect them!
In looking at butterflies and bees in North America, we are all aware that they are disappearing from our environment. Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the once-prevalent Rusty Patch Bumblebee in the East and Midwest as endangered. The reasons behind insect losses are complex, however, there is something that the home gardener can do to help them flourish again. Just as it is important to provide a healthy habitat for butterflies and bees, it is equally important to be cognizant of any home garden products used, as many can be toxic.
If you see a leaf chewed, instead of reaching for a pesticide spray, it’s good to know that less than 2 percent of insects are pests. Plants are resilient and they will survive. Having your soil tested, knowing its PH and then making necessary adjustments, will, along with ample sunlight and water, help your plants be strong to fight off pests.
If you do have an overwhelming garden pest, try to identify it first. Arbitrarily treating for every pest eventuality risks the possibility of killing those that might be beneficial to your garden. Also, educate yourself on beneficial insects specific to your garden type and locale. A few insects that could be helpful when added to a garden are soldier beetles, assassin bugs, lacewing larvae, flies, wasps, parasitoids, lady beetles and praying mantis.
Sometimes ridding your garden of pests can be as simple as dislodging them with spray from a hose, pruning diseased or infested plants, or using natural insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils. Remember, your garden is an ecosystem within itself and all aspects of it are important.