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Managing Insects with Insects

Most gardens may harbor the same insects year after year. Some of these insects common to our region are aphids, cutworms, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, tomato horn worms, potato beetle and Japanese beetles. These insects can be controlled by learning how to identify and manage them.

Japanese beetles will attack dozens of plants, flowers, fruits, shrubs, grapes, roses and plants from the hibiscus family. However, other insects have special choices of food to eat.  For example, the potato beetle can only eat and digest plant tissues from the solanaceae family (tomatoes, potatoes and peppers).

The squash bug will attack vine crops of the gourd family but will be no threat to nightshades or legumes. You should however not worry about insect pests favoring a certain vegetable family shifting to other non specific vegetable related varieties unless inter-planting crops are closely related to the pests choice of food plant.

Aphid insect varieties may differ from each warm and cool season crop varieties and if aphids become a problem, remember to employ companion planting.  For example sunflowers, anise, sweet allysum, lavender, bachelor buttons that will attract ladybugs, lacewings and other beneficial insect predators. Aphids will attack varieties of flowers and vegetables from the legume and brassica families.

Trap crops such as nasturtiums, petunias and geraniums will deter aphids away from these crops and will harbor beneficial ladybugs.  Ladybugs’ young larvae will consume these aphids when they migrate from the host vegetable to these companion trap crops.

You will notice if you have an aphid infestation when you observe your crops looking curled or distorted from the result of the aphid sucking plant juices. This feeding from the aphids may cause other viruses and mold growth which is very noticeable and the need to pinch off heavily infested stems and spray with an organic insecticidal soap may be an option, however with the right inter-cropping and companion planting, attracting beneficial companion predators, the level of this problem should not amplify.

– Paul Smith