Earth Friendly Bug Control for the Garden

Overview

Bugs are both the gardener's ally and nemesis: some pollinate, protect and exist peacefully with the plants while others cause only damage. The wise gardener doesn't want to inflict more damage with pesticides than might be inflicted by the pests themselves; after all, not only is an individual plant effected, but the soil and surrounding plants. Fortunately, there are options for dealing with insect pests that don't involve harming the environment.

Significance

Bug control of any kind is significant for the gardener: you're dealing with pests such as aphids, pill bugs, cutworms, slugs and beetles. You want your plants to survive and to look at produce their best, which means leaves free of holes and scales, fruit free of rot. Choosing earth friendly bug control gives you the methods to care for your plants without harming the soil and water supply or increasing the toxicity in the environment. If you want your plants to qualify as organic, toxic pesticides are not an option.

Types

There are several different types of earth-friendly bug controls available to the home gardener. The first consists of sprays or dusts that are made of natural substances rather than chemical pesticides. They can be as simple as a soap spray which is easily made at home and is quite effective in ridding a plant of pests such as aphids, stinkbugs and mealybugs. The second type of bug control is something that needs to planned out: strategic companion planting. This method involves either putting in plants as "insect bait" so that the insect attack these instead of other plants, or putting in plants which are naturally repellent to most insect pests. Many herbs, such as basil and mint, are unattractive to insects because of their strong odor. The third type consists of botanical insecticides; these are derivatives of plants which are extremely effective, though indiscriminate, insect killers. Examples include rotenone (a dust), ryania (a dust) and neem oil (an extracted oil).

Considerations

An important consideration in using earth-friendly bug control is that of decomposition. Because these pesticides are made of natural substances, they break down very quickly. This means they have little or no impact on the surrounding environment, but it also means that they won't be effective for very long. Frequent reapplication is necessary with most earth-friendly bug control methods such as sprays and dusts. Another factor to consider is that of which bugs will be effected by natural pest controls. Commercial, chemical pesticides are generally indiscriminate; they simply kill bugs, any kind. Natural methods, however, differ; for example, soap spray tends to target spider mites, spittlebugs, stinkbugs, crickets, grasshoppers and aphids, while ryania is effective against caterpillars, codling moth and corn earworm.

Warning

It's easy to assume that because a substance is earth-friendly, it is inherently safe for everything and everyone. But some earth-friendly bug controls are still strong enough to damage plants when applied at too high of a concentration; soap spray at a higher concentration can cause leaf burn and sever damage. Some earth-friendly bug control methods are toxic to people and animals: rotenone, for example, is toxic for pigs and fish and can effect humans. Sabadilla, another plant derivative used as a pest control, can irritate the mucuos membranes.

Expert Insight

Lelia Kelly, a consumer horticulture specialist at Mississippi State University Extension Service, states that keeping plants healthy is important for controlling damage from bugs, not just buying an earth-friendly pesticide. Healthy plants can handle a few bugs. Kelly recommends that gardeners worry less about a "perfect garden" and more about a healthy one, which may include a few bugs but can survive the small amount of damage they cause.

Keywords: pest control, organic bug control, organic insect control

About this Author

Annie Mueller is a writer, editor, professional blogger, website designer, and tutor. She attended Missouri Baptist College and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Mississippi State University, with a Summa Cum Laude standing. She has written extensively on gardening, parenting, education, and personal growth for women.