It’s no surprise to many people that relying heavily on pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals to beautify your garden is a less-than-ideal strategy when you’re also concerned about the well-being of your family and pets. There’s also reason to be concerned about the long-term effects these substances may have as they work their way through the ecosystem.

There is, however, a more natural, earth-friendly alternative that’s been proving its effectiveness for many years. It’s called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. The University of California defines it like this:

“IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and nontarget organisms, and the environment.”

That reference to “biological control” is where Organic Control’s beneficial bugs take center stage. As the natural predators of specific pests, the insects we supply support a healthier garden ecosystem without overreliance on chemical products. We also support healthy ecosystems wherever our bugs are collected, by committing to responsible-resourcing practices that maintain sustainable insect populations in the wild. Organic Control’s founder, Steve Hazzard, has been involved with Integrated Pest Management practices for decades. His top five professional tips can help you put an IPM strategy to work in your own garden:

  1. HABITAT MANAGEMENT: Habitat management comes first. This could include removing nesting areas of pests, trimming the affected parts of plants, checking for resting pools of water that can harbor mosquitos, and performing general maintenance on your yard.
  2. TARGETED BENEFICIAL INSECTS: Use a specific beneficial insect, one that only targets the pest involved once a problem arises. For example, use ladybugs or green lacewings for aphid infestations.
  3. PREVENTATIVE INSECTS: Use more general predators and beneficial wasps, such as Trichogramma, to preemptively attack a pest problem. Inoculating your soil with beneficial nematodes will control the larvae of many pests that grow into adults during the summer.
  4. BE SPECIFIC: If all of the above fails, use a very specific pesticide that only affects the targeted pest.
  5. CHOOSE WISELY: If the infestation is bad, carefully choose stronger chemicals, such as Organocide®, that won’t hurt beneficial insects or cause long-term environmental damage.

Organic Control supplies a variety of insects with natural appetites for specific pests. This lets you precisely address whatever is causing problems in your yard. Here’s a general list of the predators we provide and the pests they prey on. You’ll find more details, including application rates and methods here.

Ladybugs – Prefer to eat aphids, but also will attack scale, mealy bugs, boil worms, leafhopper and corn ear worm.

Green Lacewing – Beautiful and non-predaceous as adults, lacewing larvae are an effective natural enemy of aphids, mites, whiteflies, mealybugs, leafhoppers and thrips.

Beneficial Nematodes – Work beneath the soil to interrupt a grub’s life cycle before it emerges as an adult. Also kill fungus gnat and flea larvae, and control fire ants by killing queens, workers and larvae.

Trichogramma Beneficial Wasps – By laying its eggs inside the eggs of its prey, this tiny wasp helps control more than 200 species of pest insects, and has been used successfully against most caterpillars in all kinds of habitats throughout the world.

Praying Mantids –Younger mantids consume aphids, thrips, flies and maggots, small caterpillars, leafhoppers, white grubs and other soft-bodied insects. Mature mantids devour larger caterpillars, earwigs, chinch bugs, sow bugs, beetles, grasshoppers and other large insects.

Predatory Mites – Seek out and kill pest mites, particularly the common spider mite. They will also attack thrips.

Delphastus – A beetle about one quarter the size of a ladybug, Delphastus adults and their larvae feed on the eggs and larvae of several species of whitefly, including greenhouse, sweetpotato (silverleaf) and avocado whitefly. They also will attack spider mites.

When a pest infestation is too severe for beneficial insects to handle, it may be necessary to use a product such as the Organocide® BEE SAFE products (Insect Killer, and 3-in-1 Spray) which are safe around beneficial insects such as bees, beetles, lady bugs & adult butterflies when used as directed. Organocide kills the eggs, larvae, nymphs and the adult stages of over 25 soft bodied insects including (but not limited to) aphids, hemlock wooly adelgid, citrus rust mites, leafrollers, mealy bugs, scale insects, spider mites, thrips, whiteflies, and fungus gnats. The quart concentrate can be used as a soil drench and is extremely effective at eliminating the life cycle of fungus gnats and mites.

There’s an easy way to incorporate beneficial bugs into your yard. Just buy them when purchasing the other items you’d normally get for prepping your garden right before spring. When you go to your local garden center or nursery to get soil amendments, plants, or gardening tools, be sure and ask for beneficial insects and add them to your cart.

No matter what size your garden, an Integrated Pest Management strategy can help you take an effective step toward making it a greener, healthier world for your family and pets—while also protecting our environment from the long-term impacts of chemical pesticide use. The beneficial predatory bugs we’ve just discussed are here to help. So are other beneficial insects such as soil-improving earthworms, and docile but powerfully pollinating mason bees. To find them, look for an Organic Control dealer near you, and make Mother Nature your gardening partner.