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Bee Friendly Pest Management

In today’s world there are a lot of circumstances that are affecting bee’s life cycles and habitats. Bees have been dying from a variety of factors including pesticides, drought, and habitat destruction.

Bees are not only important for humans, but also for entire ecosystems to function. As we know, bees allow plants to reproduce through pollination. These plants contribute to the food system by feeding animals such as birds and insects. 

I think it is very important to find safer treatments other than the use of pesticides in our yards and gardens. I would like to discuss some alternative methods we can practice in place of pesticides.

A little over two years ago, I chose to go organic. I stopped using pesticides in my yard and gardens to control insects.

One of the methods I would like to discuss is the alcohol method. The alcohol breakdowns the protective wax that covers certain insects and also dries the soft body parts of other insects which leads to their death. This method is most effective against nymphs and adults.                                

It does not always work on eggs or pupae, so it is recommended you spray weekly until you no longer see any pests. You can use a 50/50 solution of one-half alcohol and one-half water and testing it on just a few leaves, leaving overnight before spraying the whole plant. I've also used straight isopropyl alcohol to help control aphids. Make sure to put the infected plant in deep shade or in your garage out of the sun and then spray it with straight isopropyl alcohol. This method took care of the aphids while not harming the plant I was treating (milkweed.)

Aside from using alcohol, another alternative is garlic or hot peppers and water. Add four to six cups of water in your blender with either a clove of garlic or a hot pepper and blend. I personally use a pepper hotter than a jalapeno. Strain the pulp from the liquid and pour in a spray bottle. Like the alcohol, garlic or pepper water is irritating to the insect’s body. To test solution, spray just a few leaves on the plant and leave overnight, checking for any damage to the plant the next day. I would like to emphasize spraying your plant in the evening or in a shady location as the sunlight can cause further damage to the plants.

Another eco-friendly and inexpensive method for combating plant pests is a soapy water solution, otherwise known as Insecticidal Soap.  

Mix 1 tablespoon liquid soap (free of fragrance and moisturizers) per quart of water, or 4-5 tablespoons of soap per gallon of water. Soap sprays kill harmful insects like mites, aphids, white flies and immature leafhoppers. The fatty acids in the soap dissolve the insects' exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate.

Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide from the neem tree. Neem oil can be purchased in granules, dust, and water-soluble powders. It is used on a variety of crops and ornamental plants for pest control. It is non-toxic to bees, birds, plants, and mammals. As always, follow label instructions from the manufacturer.

We can also practice the companion planting method. The marigold is probably the most well- known plant for repelling insects. By using plants like marigolds or aromatic herbs such as basil and garlic around our vegetables and ornamental plants, you can naturally deter unwanted pests.

Making this change in my own yard and gardens, I'm now seeing beneficial insects such as the lace wings, praying mantis and parasitic wasps.

I've also attracted many ladybugs! A ladybug can eat up to 5000 aphids in its two-year life cycle.

Since I began this journey, I have sustained the natural habitats for tree frogs, bull frogs and lizards which I enjoy having around my yard.

By: Sondra Zacot
Liberty County Master

These techniques of organic gardeners and farmers have been around for a while and help sustain healthy plants and gardens along with habitats that are beneficial to the environment.

I encourage everyone to use available resources such as the internet to learn more about great alternatives for attracting beneficial insects.

Below are a few of my favorite websites for educational purposes.

Aggie Horticulture

Cool Plant Blog

Gardening Channel

Gardening Know How

The Art and Science of Smart Gardening

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