QUESTION: How can I control common insect pests?
Fire ants: Apply dry molasses to the entire site. Drench mounds with my fire ant control formula. Treat the site with beneficial nematodes and follow my entire Basic Organic Program. Spinosad products also are effective.
Biodiversity of microbes, insects and animals is the best long-term control.
To make my fire ant mound drench: Mix 1 part compost tea, 1 part molasses and 1 part orange oil. Use 4 to 6 ounces of this concentrate per gallon of water to treat fire ant mounds.
Grasshoppers: Spray plants with kaolin clay (sold as an EPA-registered product called Surround WP). It forms a mineral film that repels grasshoppers. Mix 1 quart of kaolin clay and 1 tablespoon of liquid soap with 2 gallons of water, or follow label directions.
Grasshoppers also can be controlled by dusting plants with a freshwater diatomaceous earth product.
Fleas and ticks: Spray infested areas with an organic fire ant mound drench or a mixture of citrus oil, compost tea and molasses. For tick problems, also spray shrubs, tree trunks, the sides of buildings, etc. Treat the soil with beneficial nematodes.
Dust pet sleeping quarters with freshwater natural diatomaceous earth, and bathe pets with herbal shampoos. The most effective products contain orange oil (d-Limonene) and tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia).
Aphids: Spray the garden with a fire ant mound drench or Garrett Juice, plus 1 ounce of orange oil per gallon of mixture. Lemon Joy dishwashing soap mixed at a rate of 1.ounce per gallon of water also works. Improve the soil and the health of your plants to discourage aphids from returning.
QUESTION: What are beneficial nematodes, and how should I use them?
ANSWER: Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms used to kill insect pests in the soil. Nematodes enter the insect through its mouth or another body opening and then feed on the host and reproduce until the food supply is gone. Then, many more nematodes emerge in search of additional pests.
The best technique is to apply nematodes before heavy pest infestations are expected, and to follow up with additional monthly applications. The period between the year’s last spring freeze and first fall freeze is the best time to apply nematodes.
Broadcast applications are best, but spot treating can be an economical option. One treatment per year usually is enough.
Beneficial nematodes kill thrips that are about to attack roses, young ticks, fleas, grub worms, termites, fire ants, roaches and other pests that have at least one life cycle in the soil. They do not harm beneficial insects.
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