Does every creepy crawly creature give you the heebiest of jeebies? We hope you can learn to appreciate some of our best friends in the insect world. Not all bugs are unwanted in the organic farmer’s fields. An infestation can wreak havoc on an organic farmer’s year, but when it comes to insects, beneficial insects like the lovely lady bug, the sensational syrphid fly, or the lively lacewing (all “good bugs”) are key to helping us control the pest insects like aphids and thrips (“bad bugs”). It’s another way that organic farmers work with the natural ecological order to grow strong, healthy crops.
Beneficial insects help us by eating adult pests, eating pest eggs, or by becoming parasites inside pest insects themselves. Many a farmer has a story about how a particular field looked like an aphid infestation might make the crop unharvestable, only to come back a few days later to find that the good bugs have tamed the bad bugs and all’s right in the field.
Some of the beneficial insects we use, and the pests they prey on are:
Host Crops as Habitats for Beneficial Insects
We build populations of beneficial insects by planting borders around our fields or rows through our fields with “host crops,” flowering plants that the good bugs like to make their homes in. We generally use plants such as yarrow, coriander, baby’s breath, California poppy, bachelor buttons, cosmos, nigella, and alyssum. Oh sure, we do feel a little bad calling the pest insects “bag bugs.” Nature made them that way. But they are bad for our crops…and good food for the “good bugs.”
If you want to get immersed in the culture of good bugs and the work they do to help us control bad bugs, our Carmel Valley Farm Stand offers period Bug Walks on selected Saturdays during our event season.
More Resources on Beneficial Insects and Organic Farming:
Download our Beneficial Insect ID Chart here.
Download our kids’ activity book featuring Lilly the Ladybug here.