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Organic Backyard Care - Insects

Insects-- how to balance the helpful insects with the invasive, destructive ones organically.

The rewards of increasing your "organic" activities and decreasing your "chemical" activities are great. You have less cost, easier maintenance, and a much healthier environment in which to work and play.

Here are a few tips on how to "think organic" about insects that are common backyard residents.

Organic Insect Control

By following good yard care practices, you will have a good head start on eliminating the conditions that would invite insects to your yard.

The key to effective control of a pest insect is correctly identify the insect. This will help you determine the appropriate measures to take to control or eliminate it.

You need to be aware of insect feeding cycles. For example, early detection of sod webworms is essential for successful control since the damage is already done by the time it becomes evident when you find small one to two inch spots becoming large dead patches. Keep a lookout for the buff-colored moths starting in mid-spring. If you see them, expect a caterpillar problem in a few weeks.
landscape roses, rose garden, garden
These lovely single rose blossoms remind me of pink dogwood -- but the low-growth of landscape roses offers eyelevel, longlasting flora. And companion tubular blossoms are great for attracting hummingbirds. Be sure to avoid fertilizers and especially pesticides and herbicides if you want to attract and nurture wildlife -- flying or tiptoeing! Flower Carpet-Coral by Tesselaar

Mechanical Insect Control

  • Traps

    Pheromone traps contain odorous substances emitted by insects for thepurpose of communicating with others of the same species. Trapping maybe done to either monitor or control insect populations. Pheromone-baited traps are on the market for many pests. For example, Japanese beetletraps use scented lures to attract beetles to a hanging bag into which they fall and can't get out. They are very effective, so much so that they will encourage beetles to visit your yard and can attract beetles from as far away as a quarter of a mile.

  • Hand-picking

    Easy when you know what you're looking for and can detect an insect problem early. Get to know the signs of insect damage and the lifecycle of the lawn pests in your area to have an idea of when you need to be on the lookout. For example, if you see a patch of lawn turning brown, check to see if the sod pulls away easily and check for root feeding insect grubs.

  • Spiking Tools

    When white grubs migrate toward the soil's surface they are vulnerable to spiking tools. This is usually in late spring as they prepare to turn into beetles and again in August and September as they just hatch from eggs. Sharp spikes that penetrate at least two inches into the soil impale and kill grubs. Special shoes with spikes attached to the bottom are now available. A hand-spiking tool also will do a good job.

  • Diatomaceous Earth

    Ground fossilized shells into a fine, talc-like powers that can be handled safely without gloves and can kill insects on contact. It is not a poison, butworks mechanically by piercing an insects exoskeleton dehydrating and killing it when comes into contact. To kill grubs, cutworms and other larval lawn pests, dust four times a year, using 25 pounds per 1500 square feet. Helpful insects, however, such as Ladybugs, praying mantises, honeybees and the larvae of parasitic wasps are also vulnerable.

    Biological Insect Control

    Predatory nematodes

    Unlike the harmful root knot nematodes which attack plants, beneficial or predatory nematodes only attack pest insects in the soil. These naturally occurring organisms will control a large number of grubs and larvae of pest insects and eggs of beetles and weevils.

  • Natural Predators

    Another way to control insect populations is to attract birds to your yard. Plant trees to encourage nesting or provide bird houses and shrubs that produce berries, such as Honeysuckle. Birds are also attracted by birdbaths and feeders.

    Maintenance Insect Control

  • Eliminate stress

    Environmental stress may trigger pest infestation no matter how healthy your lawn is. Your lawn has a better chance against insect infestation if you eliminate stress by using healthy lawn practices such as proper mowing, watering, fertilizing as well as removing excessive thatch.

  • Eliminate thatch

    Long term prevention of attacks from insects such as sod webworms, billbugs and cinch bugs can be warded off by eliminating excessive thatch where they live. Remove thatch by raking and prevent thatch buildup by using a top dressing of organic material on a yearly basis to provide the microbes that naturally feed on thatch. Since sod webworms prefer turf that is dry and warm, water in the late morning and cut grass no shorter than 2 inches to keep the lawn cool. Topdress it with a one-fourth inch layer organic material such a peat moss or sifted compost each year to control the buildup of thatch.

    Eliminate compacted soil Check your soil for signs of compaction and a deficiency in organic matter. Aerate soil to eliminate compaction and reduce thatch. Correct these conditions for long-term control of ants.

    For more details, see the source of this lawn care information:

    Yard Care
    Courtesy of the Toro

    See the PBS web site for details...and check you local TV listings to enjoy Jerry's latest tips:" target=article>PBS TV Listings


    Look closely at an insect and you will find something to enjoy! The shimmer of glossy colors. The awkward grace of walking on stilts. Or the flutter of golden wings in summer's breeze!


    Even pesky insects are more valuable than gold! As you learn to respect native insects, you will observe a miniature world of wonder and balance.


    What can you do that will help balance native insects and native flora in your community?


    What WILL you do today to move toward your goal? Even one small action today makes a difference. And you can add a little tomorrow and the next day... Together we will restore our environment in our community and around the world.

    For more articles about ORGANIC GARDENING

    Organic backyard care
    Organic Fertilizer Basics
    Garden Hoses