Now that gardening has fully begun, it brings to mind the fact that so many of our fruit and vegetable crops are pollinated by insects. According to the Crops & Soils Magazine for certified crop advisers, agronomists, and soil scientists; more than a third of the food we eat depends on pollinators. Because of this, we need to make sure we are doing what we can to protect and reduce the damage to bees and other pollinator insects.
Bee populations have decreased in the past few years due to a problem called Colony Collapse Disorder, which is still being researched. The scientists are calling the reduced bee populations Colony Collapse Disorder and are attributing it to pesticides, a mite, and poor bee nutrition due to a lower diversity of flowers for the bees to forage. There are things we can do to help the bee populations, including planting a wider variety of plants for the bees to forage for pollen.
Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a good way to help reduce pesticides in the environment and help our bee populations. IPM is a method of managing weeds, insects, or diseases by using multiple techniques. Control methods for IPM would include mechanical such as hand pulling, cultural such as tillage, biological such as allowing natural predator insects to survive and chemical such as using pesticides.
IPM practices for insects would include
- Tilling the garden after the growing season
- Hand removal of the insects
- Inspection for eggs to remove prior to emergence
- Utilizing row covers to protect the plants from damage
- Scout your gardens often to reduce an insect pest problem while the population is small
- Try to avoid killing all the predator insects such as ladybugs, praying mantis’, and ground beetles.
The main idea behind managing weeds in your lawn or in your garden is to reduce locations where they grow and have healthy plants that can out-compete the weed species. IPM practices for weeds would include:
- Hand pulling
- Mowing grass at the recommended 2.5-3 inches
- Mulching around trees and gardens
- Fertilizing correctly to ensure all plants are healthy
- Planting the right plant in the right place
For a disease to occur there must be a susceptible plant host, a disease causing organism, and the proper environment. IPM practices for diseases would include:
- Watering plants early in the morning
- Avoiding watering over the top of the leaves
- Spacing garden plants and trees correctly
- Planting resistant cultivars
- Removing exhausted plant material in the fall to reduce possible diseases to overwinter where the plants will be next spring.
Chemicals are often a good way to manage pests in our lawns and gardens, however if we use an IPM program we may not develop a pest problem in the first place. If a pest problem does occur and chemicals are necessary, just make sure that you are applying the pesticides correctly. Use pesticides only as prescribed on the label, in the correct environmental conditions, and using the correct personal protective equipment. Also, if insecticides are necessary for an insect pest, be sure to apply them later in the evening when bees are no longer active for the night to avoid harming the bee population. It is also best to avoid spraying insecticides on plants that are blooming, so bees cannot be harmed when foraging that flower for pollen.