Organic Pest Control for Spring

Written by David S.

Spring pest control sets the stage for the rest of the year. Plant-eating insects are around all year, even though we may not see them. That little fact is because of the lifecycle of insects. While we may not see the butterfly, it is present as an egg, a pupa, or caterpillar. While butterflies and moths are excellent, in the caterpillar form, they are massively destructive, especially moth caterpillars. The list of spring pests is quite long. For the garden, the pest list includes stink bugs, aphids, ants, earwigs, spider mites, thrips, larvae, and non-insects, such as sowbugs. Sowbugs are a crustacean. All of these organisms exist in your garden year-round. 

The Insect Lifecycle 

Most insects have a complete lifecycle, and others have an incomplete lifecycle. The difference is whether they pupate. Stink bugs, for example, do not pupate. Instead, they shed their exoskeleton several times until they reach adulthood. Those stages we call “instars,” and they are part of the incomplete lifecycle process. What all of this means for your garden or landscape is that you can knock back pest populations at certain times of the year before they become a devastating presence in your garden or yard. 

Another example of the insect lifecycle is the rose chafer beetles. We don’t see them in the winter, but they are there. In the soil, you can find the larvae or the pupa during the winter. The ground protects them from the cold. The adults will emerge as the roses begin to bloom. That process is called resource partitioning. The adult chafers feed on something different from the larvae. In that way, they are not competing with each other for the same food source. Beetles have a complete life cycle. They hatch from an egg into larvae, pupate and then emerge as an adult. 

Many insects and invertebrates use the soil to protect them from winter. An insect that does not is the Monarch butterfly. The adults migrate to warmer climates. They return when the weather is warm and use the milkweed plant to complete their lifecycle. The adults lay their egg on the milkweed, the larvae hatch and then form a chrysalis (pupa), and then the adult emerges, and the cycle begins anew. 

Reducing Pest Populations Before They Emerge 

Before the flowers bloom and the plant awakens from winter, you can apply pesticides that reduce the number of pests around your yard. Some pesticides are very target-specific, such as Sluggo, a bait that snails and slug eat and then die.  The ingredient in Sluggo breaks down into iron phosphate, which is naturally present in the soil. Sluggo is organic and non-toxic to humans and pets. Sluggo is an excellent example of a target-specific pesticide. 

Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew 

Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew is a broad-spectrum pesticide that features organic ingredients. The main ingredient is Spinosad, which is a mixture of two chemicals produced by soil biota. The concentrated formula works well to kill insects that dwell in the ground and on plants. The toxic levels of Spinosad breakdown in 8-24 hours, making this an excellent product for vegetable and fruit trees. Spinosad has low toxicity to humans, and because it does not remain active for very long, it is ideal for handling most pest control issues in the garden. 

A word of warning about Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew: it will kill bees. For that reason, we recommend that it not be applied to plants or fruit trees that are in bloom. Use before or after the blooming cycle ends. 

Use Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew to kill ants, aphids, thrips, beetles, larvae, caterpillars, leaf miners, and more. Use the product to soak the ground around plants that show signs of predation by pests. The plant will take-up the toxin, and the pests will consume it, then die. Many plant pests are sapsuckers. Stink bugs and other hemipterans use a straw-like mouthpart to pierce the plant or fruit and then extract the juices. As they do, they take in Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew and die. Other pests damage the blossoms or buds. These include thrips and chafers. 

The Evolution of Insects and Plants 

Like the monarch and milkweed, some plant relationships with insects are singular. With insects, such as thrips, you find more generalized predation with plants. There are species of thrips that are also singular in that they prefer the plants in one plant family. Understanding the relationship between plant and pest is crucial in finding the correct product to remove the pest. Sluggo and Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew are just two examples of organic pesticides that are safe to use on food-producing plants. A topical product may not kill off leaf miners as the leaf they predate protects them from the pesticide on the leaf’s surface. 

If you are concerned about pest issues, we encourage you to stop by one of our locations and talk with our plant experts. Bring a sample of pest damage sealed in a Ziploc bag, and we can help you identify the pest and recommend one of the many products we stock. Our selection of pest control products includes pesticides, physical traps, and other options that may work better in your yard. Keeping pest control as specific as possible helps to prevent the death of beneficial insects. Speaking of which, we carry a few types of live beneficial insects such as ladybugs.  

When it comes to pest control around the yard or garden, you’ve got options. We are here to help you select the best product for your yard and garden. Whether you need a one-time application or an ongoing time-release product, we are here to help. 

If you are looking for something specific, we recommend giving us a call to make sure it is in stock. Some products we can order, or we can recommend a substitute product. 

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