Organic Pest Control with Parasitoids
Organic pest control using 'Parasitoids' is a fascinating topic. These are a group of insects that are born, grow up and feed upon a host insect. They can literally spend their entire lives inside of another organism.
Unlike true parasites, parasitoids kill their host rather than just taking nutrient from it and coexisting side-by-side. Just think in terms of the movie 'Aliens', if you have seen it, where an alien creature gestates inside of a human host until it bloodily springs forth killing the human host in the process.
If introduced to your garden these insects are extremely effective; so effective, in fact, that they will give the term 'organic pest control' new meaning!
The popular selling parasitoids are mainly small, stingless parasitic wasps, generally 1/4 inch long (6 mm), who lay eggs inside of another insect, hatch and feast. Here is a list of some of the more popular varieties used as organic pest control:
|This tiny parasitic wasp has been used as organic pest control around the world since the 1920's. It goes after whiteflies and is used mainly on the whiteflies that attack tomatoes and cucumbers. Sold as eggs, 1 egg per square foot of garden works best to be repeated every 2 weeks for 4 times.|
|Extremely small parasitic wasps (5 fit on the head of a pin) that attack caterpillars. Very popular with small growers, they attack cutworms, tomato hornworms, corn earworms, codling moths, fruitworms, cabbageworms, armyworms, cabbage loopers, corn borers, webworms, and cane borers by laying their eggs inside of moth eggs preventing the caterpillar from emerging. They are sold as strips of paper containing 5000 already parasitized moth eggs. Hang the paper near the caterpillar infestation and it is all over for the caterpillars.|
|The entire Aphidius group consist of small parasitoid wasps that love aphids. They are sold as already parasitized aphid mummies which will hatch wasps. The adult female wasp will seek out and parasitize an aphid by following distress signals from plants. Generally 10 eggs per square foot of garden works best for organic pest control to be repeated every week for 3 times.|
|Small (2mm) parasitoid wasps that attack leafminers. The female wasp seeks out leafminer larvae and lays her eggs next to or within the larvae. The small wasp hatches and feeds upon the larvae. One female can parasitize up to 360 leafminer larvae. They are generally sold as pre-hatched, pre-fed adults and released at a rate of 58 per square foot, every 2 weeks for 3 releases. The Diglyphus Isaea species is adapted for summer and warm climates while Dacnusa Sibirica is adapted for colder climates and even winter.|
|Parasitoid wasps who parasitize the Mexican Bean Beetle (pictured here). They are sold as parasitized Mexican Bean Beetle mummies in 'units' where 1 unit contains 20 bean beetle mummies and approximately 500 wasps. One unit covers 2 square feet. These wasps should be released when the weather is calm and there are yellow beetle eggs present. When the wasps hatch they will immediately find and parasitize the beetle eggs.|
|These parasitic wasps feast on scale. They are shipped as adults and once established the females will search out scale larvae and lay their eggs in it. When the wasp hatches it will consume the host. 1 to 2 wasps will control 1 square foot of garden and must be released weekly for 3 intervals.|
|Another parasitoid wasp native to desert areas and favoring all kinds of whitefly. It is shipped as eggs packed in bran and these eggs can be spread around the base of plants to hatch in a couple days. When releasing be careful that ants do not take the eggs away. The female wasp lays it's eggs next to whitefly larvae and when they hatch the baby wasps spend 3 to 4 days burrowing into a whitefly nymph. After they enter the nymph they become dormant until the whitefly pupates and then they release digestive fluid to start dissolving the whitefly.|
These parasitoid wasps do their job but are not cheap to buy. None will survive a winter with the exception of Dacnusa Sibirica and, in fact, many will die within a couple of weeks or simply leave when the food supply runs out.
They are usually shipped out overnight or 2nd day and when received, can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days before use. Storing in a freezer will kill them.
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