New York State IPM Program

One bug at a time: how biocontrol helps you, even in winter

Sure it’s winter. But many greenhouse growers work year-round. And what’s this about biocontrols? In fields, orchards, vineyards, and greenhouses—especially greenhouses—biocontrols are the predators and parasites that keep pests in check, minus the pesticides. What’s special about greenhouses? They’re where pests consistently find plenty of food, just-right temperatures, and little to stop them from bounding out of control. The linchpin that drives the search for alternatives to pesticides? Consumer demand.

Looks like sawdust—but it’s really bran infused with the tiny eggs or larvae of beneficial insects.

Which is where biocontrols fit in. These critters evolved to eat pests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But there’s a learning curve involved. You can’t bring in the good guys and call it a day. Use a broad-spectrum pesticide and you’ll do them in. Which is why an Extension educator in the six-county New York Capitol District crafted a series of workshops to help growers get the hang of that seemingly simple IPM practice: biocontrol.

Since seeing is believing, growers attended a series of workshops where they saw start-to-finish biocontrol in action. What did they learn?

Examples

  • how to distribute marigolds throughout their greenhouses as a thrips (bad guy) magnet
  • how to apply a nematode drench to control the fungus gnats that eat roots
  • which 17 biocontrols can collectively cope with 21 bad guys
  • how the IPM Greenhouse Scout app helps you choose among them

Little sachets are another way greenhouse growers can introduce those tiny, good-guy bugs to the posies that need them.

As for consumer demand? People worry about pesticides on their posies. In theory, biocontrol appeals to them. But they haven’t seen it in action. If they see bugs, any bugs, good guys included—they might worry. That’s why a simple, colorful flier is part of the package, helping growers bring the message back to their base—their customers.

Want to learn more? Check out Extension educator Lily Calderwell’s Getting Started with Biocontrol in the Greenhouse.

Author: Mary M. Woodsen

Pests and pesticides — both can cause harm. How can we protect ourselves the least-toxic way? IPM is the sound, sensible, science-based approach that works wherever you do. The New York State Integrated Pest Management Program develops and offers tested tactics for pests new and old, whether on farms, offices, orchards, schools, parks, vineyards, more.... Wherever you find pests, you find IPM.

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