My philosophy is “ do no harm’. I teach you to rely on a well balanced organic program that includes depending on beneficial insects and companion planting to keep you garden free of all damage. If you feel that your garden is without a natural population of ladybugs and lace wings then I recommend that you release them. In most cases these are the only two that I feel it is necessary to release, if for some reason you do not have a good natural population.

Organic Insect & Disease Control with Ladybugs

When introducing ladybugs – Buy them at your local garden center—(they don’t go through the mail so well.) They should have been kept in a state of false hibernation by being stored in the refrigerator at the garden center. Take them straight home and put them in your refrigerator until the sun is very low in the sky ( around 7 or 8 PM). Add a sprinkle of moisture to the straw that is in the bag with them and place some of the straw and ladybugs at the base of the plants where you have an infestation. They will instinctively crawl up towards the top of the shrub- laying eggs as they move up. They will ingest a small amount of the infestation as they go. Release them 3 times your first Spring until the end of June to make sure that you get them established.

The reason that you should buy recently refrigerated ladybugs and get them re- refrigerated as quickly as you can is that you want them as healthy as possible to get a good start on being established in your garden. Their metabolism starts going the minute that they warm up and start to move –so they need nourishment of water and food quickly—if they have been awake too long without nourishment they aren’t as healthy.

The reason that you need to wait until late in the day to release them is the adults that you buy will have come from California or Arizona –so they will want to go home and they will fly straight for that sky towards the sun if it is high instead of crawling up your plants –laying eggs , nibbling on pests and waiting for the morning sun to guide them.

The reason for releasing 3 times is this – you will –“for sure “ hit it right on one of those releases. ( Space them about 2-3 weeks a apart after danger of frost. Ladybugs are very beneficial and cost very little compared to the money many gardeners spend on short term –( kill everything) pesticides over and over. Note –even includes organic pesticides. The reason for releasing between late March – mid April depending on how mild spring is –—is— During this time is when ladybugs usually wake up in the garden -and the ones you buy as adults until the end of June would have been in this hatching—these insects are the egg layers— the eggs laid on your plants produce the larva and this stage offers the best control of any pest infestation. The lady bugs hatched later (in your garden) then have the ability to over winter which means you won’t have to ever release again ( unless you use something that kills them) and that hatching also ingests a large amount of pests as well as pollen.

The reason that you will see the first adults that you buy- fly off the next morning and then notice that you still have pests on your plants is —- This egg laying momma is more interested in laying her eggs in places where she finds food for them that will be there when they hatch (remember that good bug food is pest eggs and larvae) She doesn’t eat much of it— but leaves it for her babies. She may dine a little on the infestation but will be content with pollen from flowers to meet her needs for hunger and leave the bulk of the pests for her babies to devour –this is when you will reap the benefits of releasing the adults that you bought. (So be aware of this– and don’t feel so forsaken when you notice the next morning , after release ,that the ladybugs are gone and you still have an infestation.) Your control will come as soon as the hungry little larva have hatched –(The eggs will hatch in about 6 days at the most. )

ladybug eggs on the underside of an infested leaf
Ladybug larvae emerge from the eggs and do the clean up
The larvae eat for 3-4 weeks or until the pest ( food) is gone and then turn into a pupa stage.
The pupa stage looks very much like a shriveled adult and you will see it clinging to leaves and other parts of the plants—and may think it is a dead adult—leave it alone to turn into the adult that your garden will evermore be home to. The pupa stage lasts for about 6-7 days .
Pupa stage
Adult Ladybug
These Adults will stay in your garden as long as your garden provides a safe habitat— they were born there and it is their home. All they need are flowers with pollen and a few pests to nibble on –so whatever you do don’t choose to spray a pesticide when you see that the adult that you put out didn’t immediately clear up the problem—be patient.

FYI_ —if the egg stage hatches into the larva stage and it finds no food it has the ability to morph into the pupa stage right away .

Click on the link below for a great real life video of all of the ladybug life cycles

Organic Insect & Disease Control with Lacewings

Lacewings are another beneficial that I like to be sure all of my projects have flourishing in them.They lay eggs on plants and structures on slender (almost invisible) umbilical cords to keep them safe. The eggs turn into Larvae that feeds on pests for about 3 weeks. The larvae turns into a translucent cocoon that produces a new adult in about 5 days. I do not have a lot of faith in lacewing eggs hatching after they have been harvested from their little umbilical cords that the adult fixes them on in nature . As a result of this– I recommend that you order already hatched larva from a good insect supplier like Arbico.

Organic Insect & Disease control - lacewings for the garden

Lace larvae frame –contains 400
The live Larvae comes packed in this frame that contains 400 tiny compartments and some nourishment—the frame needs to be opened immediately upon receiving it—it will be mailed out via next day air on Monday-you will receive it on Tuesday . as soon as you can get it out of the mailbox –go dump it on any plant with an infestation-anytime of day—it has no wings in this stage –it can’t fly home—It is this predacious offspring that get the job done.—it will eat for about 3 weeks or until the infestation (food source) is devoured and then morph into a cocoon that produces a new adult. Adults can live for up to 6 weeks depending on when they are produced. The cocoon laid late in the fall will over winter on the plant and turn into an adult the next spring.

Once your beneficials are established, pests( bad bugs ) become nothing more then good bug food. You will keep your gardens in good balance with ladybugs, lacewings and other beneficials that will just be there naturally-after you quit spraying pesticides. Remember that even some organic pesticides- can kill everything-so stick to the ones that follow at the end of this newsletter that are allowed on my program.

Using trap plants that pests will choose to live on— (as soon as they reach a stage in their life when they are able to make that choice and lay eggs )- will keep the pests in several easy to find locations- (sort of organize them.) Your beneficials will look at these plants as host plants and lay their eggs on them as well to keep them cleaned up. See companion planting attached to this issue of your newsletter.

Creating a balance in your yard to handle your pest problems instead of using pesticides will lead to a more positive overall situation. You will still have what you consider “ bad bugs” but because they are controlled by the beneficials, you won’t have damage. If you continue to use pesticides after releasing the benificials—even most organic pesticides—you will not keep the beneficials in your garden because the pesticides will kill them as well as the pests or because they have nothing to eat to keep them there. Once you have been on the program for a while you will relax and learn to be more passive—because you will understand how all of this organic stuff really works—but if you feel that treatment is what you really want—- then there are some products that you may use that won’t ruin or undo a balanced program—- if you use some common sense along with them.

If you are having problems with any kind of caterpillars eating foliage or hanging down out of trees you may either dust the plants with Dipel (BTdust) or spray liquid BT into tall trees. (Apply liquid BT in the late evening.) Only dust or spray the damaged plants—not everything—never treat butterfly larvae plants-because these products will kill all caterpillars which include butterfly babies.

If you choose to release beneficial wasps ( which do control caterpillars ) you will be releasing an uncontrollable control—they target all caterpillars-including butterfly caterpillars and you have no control over what the wasps attack –once released. If slugs are a problem there is a product called Sluggo that is very organic and harms nothing else—it does chase off snakes [ snakes eat slugs and snails]—but for most people that is a plus. Sluggo Plus is another product that is allowed on the program.

Organic Insect & Disease Control Products

My Fire Ant control of choice is Natures Guide Fire Ant Killer—use it by mixing 4 tablespoons of the powder to 1 gallon of water per average mound and pouring the mixture directly into the mound—do not disturb the mound first. Be sure that you have used enough mixture to fill up the whole cavity below the surface by continuing to pour until you see water puddle up. Do not expose unused product to direct sunlight –it is UV sensitive– after 8 hours of exposure to direct sun it won’t work as an instant control.

I have also found a bait that works well—Organic Green Light Fire Ant Control with Conserve. These products target ants only. Often you may not know what the damage that you are seeing on a plant is –Insect or Disease—Green light RTU ( ready to use)Rose Defense will systemically take care of either cause of the problem—so it would only affect an insect that bites or sucks on the plant. On food crops use RTU Green Light Fruit Nut and Vegetable spray.

For large jobs there is a concentrate of both products—be sure to mix these concentrates in hottest tap water (120 degrees) to emulsify the oil and mix it with the water—otherwise it could damage plants–it cools off right away —use all liquid mixture up for the one application .

Damaged leaves won’t get better—even after treatment the best we can do is cut those plants back a bit to make it possible for the damage to be covered by the new healthy growth.

Have a fun, easy to manage, organic garden using these principles and products—Love & Luck, Lucy

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