New App for Home Gardener Insect Identification

New App Can Identify this Critter for You!
Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Scientists at Clemson University have developed a new app designed to allow home gardeners the ability to identify insects plaguing their garden.  The app called IPMLite costs $9.99 is and is available for both iPhone and Android platforms.  The app also gives tips about garden maintenance and timing.  The app’s name comes from IPM which stands for integrated pest management; a new movement in professional horticulture utilizing organic pest control, predatory insects, and scheduled maintenance to minimize insect damage without trying to eradicate the bugs entirely.

Choosing a Miticide: Don’t Show Up to a Gun Fight with a Knife!!!

When you are taking a leisurely walk through your garden and notice the telltale yellow speckles on the topside of your leaves (a dead give-away of your arch nemesis the spider mite) what do you do?  Do you grab for the nearest bottle of Neem Oil and a sprayer? Quickly covering everything in reach with a fine mist of that “garlicky” smelling organic insecticide; only to realize that it is 10 am and the weather report is calling for a beautiful sunny day?  Your attempt to eradicate your foe has likely sealed the fate of your precious garden.  In a few hours your garden will be basking in bright sunlight, and covered in oil will likely be burned to a crisp.  Maybe we can rationally deal with this pests in another way.  

Remember that a single female mite can produce a population of over 1 million mites in 1 month.  This incredibly fast rate of multiplication allows them to quickly form resistance to chemicals, and that multiple applications are almost always necessary to eradicate them completely.  Read my other blog to learn more about the life cycle of the spider mite.

First: We need to know what kind of mite we are dealing with.  There are over 48,000 different types of mites out there but most are not garden pests.  As gardeners we are mostly concerned with spider mites, southern red mites, citrus mites, rust mites, gall mites, broad mites, cyclamen mites, Lewis mites, and the thread-footed mites.  By far the most common of the garden mites are the two-spotted and the red mite.  There is a  helpful websiteIf if you need help identifying a mite .

Second: Determine the severity of the infestation by closely examining all plants in your garden and any close by vegetation.  If there is only a few visible mites with little visible damage then you may choose to use an organic or mild miticide.  If the infestation is severe (having larger mite populations and webbing) you may choose to use stronger professional grade chemical miticides.  

Third: Differentiate between plants that are edible and/or consumable as opposed to ornamental.  When treating infestations on edible plants you are limited by the types of miticide that are safe to use.  Using Chemichals on ornamentals on the other hand generally poses less risk to people because there is no fear of humans or animals ingesting them.  

Fourth: With the above information choose your miticide or insecticide.  Consider your crop type; ornamental or consumable, any necessary application tools or safety gear, as well as any chemical rotation necessary to ensure that the mites do not become resistant. Also keep available the MSDS sheets (material safety data sheets) should they become necessary. 

Fifth: Read all instructions before applying insecticides.  Follow all instructions to ensure you and your crop remain safe.  Also note the REI (the restricted entry interval) this is how much time must pass between the application of the insecticide and safe reentry into your grow-room / greenhouse without any safety equipment. Also note the maximum applications per cropping cycle, as some heavy duty miticides can only be used once or twice per crop.  

See the table below for some helpful information regarding different pesticide / miticide choices.

Brand Name Active Ingredient REI Mode of Action Target species Target stage Food Safe Effectiveness
Avid abamectin 12 hours GABA Blocker Southern Red, Two Spotted, Broad, Cyclamen, Eriophyid, Spruce Nymphs & Adult NO Medium
Azamax azadirachtin none IGR, Antifeedant, Anti Ovulent Spider Mites & Mites Any Yes Medium
Beethoven TR etoxazole 12 hours Not Yet Understood Spider mites, Lewis, Pacific, Spruce, Citrus, Southern Red, European Red, Two Spotted, McDaniel Egg & Nymph NO High
Bifen I/T,   Attain bifenthrin 12 hours Sodium & Potassium Channel Disrupter Broad, Clover, European Red, Spider Mites Adults Varies by Crop Medium
FloraMite carboxamide 4 hours GABA Blocker Two Spotted, Southern Red, European Red, Spruce, Citrus Red Eggs & Adults YES High
Forbid spiromesifen 12 hours Inhibitor of Lipid Synthesis Two Spotted, Southern Red, Euonymus, Tumid, Lewis, Rust, Broad, Cyclamen, and False Spider Mites Eggs, Nymphs, & Adults NO High
Insecticidal Soaps potassium salts of fatty acids none Contact Dessicant Spider mites,  Two Spotted, European Red, Broad, Citrus, Rust, Russet Eggs, Nymphs, & Adults Yes Medium/low
Magus fenazaquin 12 hours Mitochondrial Electron Transport Inhibitor ALL Mites NOT Spider Mites Eggs, Nymphs, & Adults NO High
Neem Oil  neem oil none Suffocation Spider Mites Adults Yes Low
Organocide sesame oil none Suffocation Spider Mites Adults Yes Low
Pylon chlorfenapyr 12 hours Prevents Conversion of ADP & ATP  Two spotted, Broad, Rust, Cyclamen, & Citrus Mites Nymphs & Adult Yes High
Spider Mite Knock Out, Don’t Bug Me, Pyrethrum TR, Doctor Doom Fogger pyrethrum/ pyrethrins 12 Hours or less Sodium Channel  Modulator Spider Mites Adults Yes Medium

The Life Cycle of a Spider Mite: What You NEED to Know Before Going into Battle!

Spidermite webbing and mites on heavily infested tomato plant.

As many of you, my gardening friends know big damage can come from small pests!  One of the most ubiquitous foes of indoor and outdoor gardeners alike is the Spider Mite.  This creature which is not a spider as the name may imply, is actually a member of the Acari (mite) family Tetranychidae.  Their similarity to spiders ends with their ability to spin telltale webs which can often be the first clue to their presence in your garden.  These little garden pests can multiply so quickly under the right conditions that a single female can spawn a population of over one million in under 1 month.  They reproduce quicker under warmer conditions and prefer low humidity as it helps them excrete the water they ingest as they suck the life (sap) out of your plants.  The two-spotted spider mite can hatch in as little as 3 days, and become sexually mature in as little as 3.5 days. One female can lay up to 20 eggs per day and can live for 2 to 4 weeks, thereby laying 800+ eggs. 

This capability for exponential population growth, coupled with the speed at which each individual mite itself becomes reproductively mature allows spider mites to rapidly adapt to novel pesticides.  This ability to become resistant to pesticides has caused millions and millions of dollars in damage to food and ornamental crops every year.  This is why it is imperative to rotate pesticides in your attempts to control them.  Any pest management program should be a rotation of at least three different pesticides, each having a unique mode of action; not just a different active ingredient but a unique way of killing the mites.  For example some will be mitochondrial electron transport inhibitors while others may be neuronal inhibitors or GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) blockers. 

Spider Mite Life Cycle

       
Grow-Room Temperature in °F

60

64

70

90

Number of Days from Egg to Adult

30

21

14.5

3.5

Now that you understand what you are up against read my next blog about miticides that will cure your mite problem quickly and painlessly.

Studies Suggest Common Pesticides Might Be Responsible For Bee Colony Collapse

Atlantis Hydroponics, honey bee, organic pesticide, bee colony collapse, neonicotinoid, bayer cropscience

Try Atlantis Hydroponics organic pest solutions…don’t let our honeybees vanish.
Image by Anthony Bennet

Several pesticides in the neonicotinoid family (most commonly used Imidacloprid made by Bayer CropScience) have been scientifically linked to the decline of the bee population. This bee colony collapse if not corrected, will exacerbate food shortages worldwide.

Help save the bees. Check out Atlantis Hydroponics’ comprehensive selection of organic pesticides and beneficial insects.

Click here to read the full article by Carl Zimmer of the New York Times.

A Bug Army For Your Garden

Last blog I wrote about controlling harmful insects using pesticides and an Integrated Pest Management approach.  A necessary part of any IPM program is the use of beneficial insects.  Think of them as your own little army fighting for a pest free grow-room 24/7/365.  Having released thousands, yes thousands of Hippodamia convergens (ladybugs) in my grow-room I will say I became more comfortable with insects crawling on me but 99% of the time they were on the job, on a search and destroy mission for any pest intruder attempting to sabotage my garden.  There are lots of beneficial insects to choose from but you must match the pest to the predator, although many predators are not picky and will eat a variety of harmful insects.  Using the chart below you can easily match the kind of insect problem you may be experiencing with the correct predatory insect.

Beneficial Insect IPM Chart

Some interesting facts regarding these insects are:

  • You never should worry about your beneficial insects eating your plants as they will only feed on harmful insects
  • One Lady Bug may eat 5,000 aphids in 1 year
  • Green Lacewings will eat 200 aphids a week
  • Spider mite destroyers will eat 40 mites a day
  • Predatory Nematodes will kill over 250 different types of insects

The Bad Little Beasties Inside

All of us have dealt with some sort of critter, varmint, beastie, or #$*%@#% as I sometimes have called them. I am referring to insects that attack our gardens. There is nothing more frustrating than putting in all the labor involved in making a perfect indoor garden and then having some little critters come in and lay waste to all of our efforts! How these little #$%$@ know to attack our best & most prized plants I will never know. In my time I have battled and waged all out WAR on several different destructive insects. Sometimes I am the winner and sometimes not. So what are we to do?

My suggestion today is accept the things we can not change, change the things we can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Wait…why does that sound familiar? The point is that it can be very difficult to eradicate an insect population, however like in a natural ecosystem we can establish a balance where an “acceptable” level of insects are left in our garden and an ongoing treatment regime is utilized. To maintain this balance we will use beneficial insects, and organic or non-toxic pesticides (as needed.) This approach has gained a lot of support as of late, and is better known as IPM or Integrated Pest Management. IPM is an approach that combines a wide array of crop production practices with careful monitoring of pests and their natural enemies. IPM practices include use of resistant plant varieties, biological controls (such as beneficial insects), and judicious use of pesticides. IPM systems anticipate and prevent pests from reaching economically damaging levels.

Next blog I will discuss beneficial insects, today I would like to talk about my favorite organic insecticides. The first group of insecticides we will call sufficants include the following products: Neem Oil, Organocide, Einstein Oil, Safer Insect Killing Soap, etc. These are oils and soaps that work by covering the exoskeleton of insects which they breathe through and literally suffocating them to death. This type of insecticide is an effective method for spot treating of insects that are slow moving. However, it is less effective on fast moving insects, flying insects, and egg or larval stages of most pests.

The second class of insecticides is the knock down type. This group works by impairing the central nervous systems of most types of flying and crawling insects, blocking nerve junctions so that nervous impulses fail, and the insect dies. The most common active ingredient in this type of insecticide is derived from the chrysanthemum plant and is called Pyrethrum. It can be found in products under the names: Doktor Doom Spider Mite Knock Out, Pyrethrum TR, Don’t Bug Me, or Safer Houseplant Insect Killer. Beware of the synthetic or manmade Pyrethroids which are not organic. Pyrethrum is highly effective on most pests but is only effective if it comes in direct contact with the pests. It is short lived as it deteriorates in the presence of light within 12 hours.

Now my personal favorite Azamax, this insecticide is derived from the Neem plant but is not a sufficant. It was discovered that plants treated with Neem oil seemed to show some future resistance to insect attacks. Research found that there is a compound in Neem oil called Azadirachtin which was responsible for this insect resistance. Azamax is essentially Neem oil distilled down to get a much, much higher concentration of Azadirachtin. Azamax has 3 modes of action to control insects. First it prevents insects from feeding on the treated plant surfaces resulting in damage prevention. Second it reduces the hatchability of insect eggs resulting in population reduction. Finally it interferes with insect reproduction resulting in reduction of egg-laying. All of these combine to drastically weaken, and over time destroy populations of harmful insects. One of the best things about Azamax is it is systemic meaning absorbed into the plant’s tissue so you do not actually have to contact the insect with it. It is also proven that Azamax’s effect of weakening insects makes other insecticides much more successful because the insects in question are already weak and thus more susceptible to insecticides such as Pyrethrum. Azamax is most effective if it is used before an insect attack and reapplied on a regular basis. Azamax is also not harmful to beneficial insects or bees.

Remember it is better to prevent an insect attack than to have one, but they will eventually find your garden. Integrated Pest Management will allow you to control the damage caused by pests and not devote all your time to pest control.

– Doctor Dave