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Pesticides and Beneficial Insects

Updated: May 13, 2019

L. Hollister


Whoa!?! Have you ever seen this tiny predator? Did you know they are one of our many "beneficial insect" allies that are keeping our landscapes healthy? Read on to learn about pest control using Nature's best kept secrets...


Part of hosting pollinators is reducing their exposure to pesticides. Honey bees have become the poster child of pollinator conservation because hives have been decimated by a combination of factors that includes pesticide exposure. Exposure to pesticides can weaken the ability of pollinators to function properly; reducing their overall fitness, increasing the likelihood of predation, and sometimes outright kills them. Many other pollinators and beneficial insects are facing similar perils, it is just not always as obvious as colony collapse. And it is very important to keep in mind that all pests continue to evolve, so the more pesticides we use, the faster we create resistant strains of pests that need a new, stronger, more dangerous chemical to fight them. This is an unsustainable way to deal with pests.


So, what to do? We are advocates of integrated pest management and conservation biological control. Nature already has a solution figured out for every problem we encounter if we are open to receiving the message. Through a combination of strategic pesticide application and enhancement of the landscape, every gardener--whether managing a tiny plot, or a huge farm--can reduce pesticide use, save money, and increase the natural resiliency of their land.


Many people are familiar with the gardener’s friend, the ladybug. That is our featured predator, in nymph form! As the familiar red and black adult, and spiny immature beetles, ladybugs eat the aphid pests that can cause damage to ornamental and crop plants. There are countless examples of such “beneficial insects” who are allies in the fight against pests. By promoting a diverse population of beneficial insects, the need for pesticides can be reduced while simultaneously increasing habitat for pollinators and potentially increasing crop yield.


Do you know how to make your landscape an inviting place to support beneficial insects? Hedgerows, beetle banks, forage flowers for all three seasons, cover crops; these are just a few examples of ways that your landscape can be enhanced to support our insect allies. Visit the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation for all the ways you can help, www.xerces.org


And, when pesticide application is necessary, always use caution! Our own exposure to the chemicals can be detrimental to our health, and there are techniques that we all should employ so that application is least harmful to us, and non-target species. Pesticides should not be applied during windy conditions. Whenever possible, restrict pesticide use to early morning and late evening when most beneficial insects are at rest. Creating windbreaks between fields can also reduce pesticide drift and unintentional exposure.



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