WWOOFers* Of The Insect Kind

(*WWOOFers stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms and is a group that connects voluntary workers to organic farms in exchange for food and accommodation.)

The Beneficial Lady Bug

In the big picture that is Planet Earth, all insects undoubtedly have a role. But to the farmer, horticulturist and home gardener, those insects which damage or destroy plants are obviously most unwelcome. Such ‘pest’ species include chewers like certain moth larvae (caterpillars) and suckers such as aphids and mites.

So, as soon as we see their damage, our best choice is to immediately nuke ‘em with the nastiest insecticide spray we can use, right? Well no, actually. Did you know there are environment-friendly approaches which employ the pests’ natural enemies? These little guys, ‘good bugs’, can be your allies and are part of what is known as ‘integrated pest management’. Good bugs include lacewing flies; ladybird or ladybug beetles; predatory mites; Trichogramma wasps; parasitic wasps; assassin bugs; spiders. Other natural helpers include various birds, certain micro-bats and even some types of bacteria, such as Bacillus thuringiensis

Did you also know that pest insects tend to attack plants that are weak, undernourished or diseased? Improving plant health starts with healthy, life-filled soil. Organic techniques can be used to build soils which are full of worms, micro-organisms and other little beasties which make essential nutrients available to plants. In a nutshell, healthy soils grow healthy plants which are essential for healthy people…and of course a healthier planet!

Here are some words of wisdom from the University of California’s Davis campus:

‘Integrated pest management (IPM) uses environmentally sound, yet effective, ways to keep pests from annoying you or damaging plants.  IPM programs usually combine several pest control methods for long-term prevention and management of pest problems without harming you, your family, or the environment. Successful IPM begins with correct identification of the pest. Only then can you select the appropriate IPM methods and materials.

Preferred IPM methods include:
* Planting pest-resistant or well-adapted plant varieties such as native plants.
* Discouraging pests by modifying the way you design, irrigate, fertilize, and manage your garden.
* Altering the garden or home environment to deprive pests of the food, water, shelter, or other requirements they need to thrive.
* Keeping pests out of the home and garden using barriers, screens, and caulking.
* Squashing, trapping, washing off, or pruning out pests.
* Relying on good bugs in your garden to eat pests, eliminating the need for insecticides that can end up in our waterways.’

The full text can be found at —


An enormous amount of valuable information about good bugs and their role in integrated pest management is available online. Here are some helpful links:






The following Australian books are excellent resources, too:

Papacek, Dan; Broadley, Roger; Thomas, Michael — THE GOOD BUG BOOK (Australasian Biological Control, et al, 1995) — ISBN 0 646 24794 8

Smith, Dan; Beattie, GAC; Broadley, Roger – CITRUS PESTS AND THEIR NATURAL ENEMIES (Qld DPI and HRDC, 1997) — ISBN 0 7242 6695 X

Marshall, Tim — BUG: THE ULTIMATE GARDENER’S GUIDE TO ORGANIC PEST CONTROL (Harper Collins/ABC Books, 2009) — ISBN 9780733325014

Written by Peter W. Bracher

(former Chief Researcher, Trichogramma mass-rearing project, Bio-Protection Pty Ltd, Qld; now ‘Admin Support’ person at Summit Organics, Tyalgum, NSW)

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