Practicing Safe Pest Management: Not Every Insect is a Pest

That irresistible feeling you get to spray pesticides in your garden after you encounter pest attacks on your beloved plants, that too, overnight. Although this might seem like the only solution but it is still best to keep chemicals as far away, from your plants, as you can. A general misconception about pests and insects that prevails is that, “every insect that crawls, is tiny, looks creepy and sometimes has wings too, is a pest.” Well, not really, because there are many insects that are not to be mistaken as pests because they actually contribute in guarding our homes, gardens and crops from a destructive pest attack. Many amongst these are actually your friends, there to maintain the equilibrium of the eco-system. The myth that every insect brings nuisance, leads to the killing of pests that are in reality helpful for us. Fact is, out of all insects only a tiny proportion of about 5%, are harmful and are classified as pests. The remaining proportion comprises of insects that cause no harm but are actually beneficial for farmers, eco system and human beings, in general.

How are they beneficial?

The remaining 95 % of these insects play a key role in keeping the ecological cycle balanced. For crops, and home grown, garden plants these insects act as agents in making the soil fertile, by preserving rain water and other nutrients into the plant roots as they dig within the soil. These insects are pollinators as they carry pollen from one flowering plant to another. These ecofriendly pests improve crop growth by acting as natural predators against damage-causing pests. They are also known to boost soil’s tilth, as these insects actively contribute in decomposition by breaking down the debris, thus acting as contributors natural soil fertilizers. Springtails, lady beetles, syrphid fly and lacewig larvae, earth worms, arthropods, dung beetles all work together in consumption, mixing and transmission of nutrients and decomposition of soil and fertilization.

Not just in improving the fertility of soil, these insects act as predators for pests you don’t want to see in your gardens. Various pests and weed growth can all stay under control with their presence. The natural eco system is often disturbed by extreme climatic conditions or human interference. A sudden pest outbreak or abnormal weed growth in your garden might be a result of disturbance in this natural pest management system.

Know your friends:

While you go on killing every insect, by confusing them as damaging pests, know which of them are on your side in controlling pests. Pest management and controlling is necessary but for gardens and crops, a good rule of thumb is to find a way to naturally be pest free.

1. Lady Beetles:

The convergent lady bugs are known to hunt down harmful garden pests like aphids, and other soft bodied and plant eating insects like white flies. Lady bugs have always been the most favorite insect for gardeners. Before mating and reproducing, lady bugs go on an aphid diet where they eat hundreds of aphids in one go. Certain species of lady bugs not only eat aphids but scale insects and mites, mildew, fungus, and bean beetles. In short, lady beetles or more commonly known as lady bugs work on your side in the well-being of your plants and garden.

2. Assassin Bugs:

As their name suggests, assassin bugs are known for their predacious nature. They hunt and kill pests like: bean beetles, potato beetles, leafhoppers, cucumber beetles, bugs, aphids, and all types of caterpillars. However, their bite can be painful for humans too they are still considered a good sign in gardens.

3. Spiders:

People are usually frightened by the sight of a spider, crawling down from its web and thus the first thing they want to do is kill them. Reality is, spiders, specifically crab spiders, prey on almost all kinds of pests. Killing them might result in an uncontrollable pest occurrence. You must have seen many mosquitoes, bees, cockroaches trapped in their web which is a proof that spiders feed on insects we hate, so letting them make webs in your garden can save you from unnecessary fumigation to get rid bugs and bees.

4. Lacewings:

Moth eggs, caterpillars, mites, aphids, thrips, scales are all food for green lacewing larvae. The adults are not considered as beneficial in controlling pests because they don’t eat them but can help in pollination. However, their larvae are known to hunt and eat aphids, mites, bugs, scales, thrips, caterpillars and even insect eggs. Given their insatiable appetite for aphids, they are also known as, “aphid lions.”

5. Praying Mantis:

There might nothing true about the myth that killing praying mantis brings bad luck or is considered illegal. However, if you kill them you will be inviting a number of nuisance causing pests into your garden. Mantis feed on other insects which belong to the pest category. They can even hunt down vertebrates like lizards and birds.

In order to ensure that nature’s way of keeping the eco system balanced, doesn’t get disrupted; we have to differentiate between which insects are pests and which are working for our own good. Extinction of beneficial insects can only result in problems for human kind. Yes, pest infestation is a problem which needs professional pest controlling methods and techniques but certain areas which are sensitive and must be spared from any chemicals must utilize practices of safe pest management.

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