Good Bugs, Bad Bugs

April 2, 2012

Mount Auburn’s greenhouses are a visitor favorite in early spring due to the vibrant growth of flowers. But beneath these colorful flora is a hidden world of insects, living and feeding among the plants. Bugs are a truly significant component of our greenhouses and plant care, and learning about them can help you appreciate them in your own garden spaces – and hopefully make you less afraid!

As you stroll through the greenhouses enjoying the beauty of our flowering plants take a closer look at the little wanderers crawling and flying among the leaves, stems, and flowers. Just because an insect is not clearly visible does not mean that they are not around. Make sure to look closely at the undersides of the leaves, where most pests reside and feed. Pest damage is usually apparent in leaf foliage; leaves appear speckled, spotted, discolored, and distorted (curled), caused by insects that pierce the upper leaf surfaces. Aphids, thrips, mites, and leafhoppers love sucking the juices out of leaves. Leaves with holes and chewed edges are a sign of defoliators, such as caterpillars. Wilted plants may not be a symptom of water deficiency, but of root feeders such as fungus gnat larvae in the soil.

The principles behind our plant health program can be applied to pests you may find in your garden. We do not eradicate pests or use unhealthy pesticides; instead, we maintain pests at a threshold that allows our plants to thrive and add to the beauty of the Cemetery. We utilize organic methods, including a spray rotation program in combination with beneficial ‘Good Bug’ releases. These releases help sustain healthy good bug populations. Since our greenhouses are pesticide-free, other beneficial bugs from the surrounding environs also visit and stay.

Nature provides if we let her. A large variety of beneficial insects comes to the aid of your plants by acting as pollinators, pest predators (such as mites), and pest parasites (such as aphid wasps). You, too, can encourage beneficial ‘good’ bugs by: avoiding the use of pesticides that harm your beneficials; offering a diversity of plants to provide food, water, and shelter; and by growing small flowering plants so that small-mouthed beneficial insects can access their pollen. By embracing good bugs, a healthy garden can be had by all.

To learn more, attend one our Good Bugs Bad Bugs workshop at the greenhouses (check our web calendar for the next offering). You’ll discover ways to detect the presence of bugs, learn how to identify pests and the plant symptoms caused by their feeding, and understand the beneficial insects and organic methods that will help you control the pests.

Kelley Sullivan talks about good bugs at a workshop

For additional information:

University of Massachusetts’ Greenhouse Crops & Floriculture Program

About the Author: Kelley Sullivan

Greenhouse Technician View all posts by Kelley Sullivan →

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