|A Monarch butterfly larva feeds on a plant with adult lady bugs|
in the background.
I often get calls about which insecticide should be used on which insect and I always wonder about the folks who ask me these questions because they obviously don't know me that well; if they did they would also know I haven't used an insecticide in over eight years!
I am convinced we have to spray insecticides, because we have sprayed insecticides to begin with. Mind you, when I became the Gardenmaster at the Learning Garden, I did not embrace the restriction of no insecticides, and tried to skirt the rules, but as the garden thrived without insecticidal use, I began to have courage no insecticide use was possible. It's now my personal rule: no pesticides.
If you are using 'organic' insecticides, you are using the WORST insecticides because they are non-specific insecticides – meaning they kill whatever they touch. They are 'better insecticides' only in that they don't persist in the garden, but make no mistake, they are lethal to insects of all kinds as long as they are wet. (Point of fact, California law regulates when you can spray insecticides to early morning and early evening. If you ignore my pleas and spray anyway, please ONLY spray in the evening when honey bees have returned to their hives so you at least will not kill them! We already have a crises in honey bee populations, please do not make it worse.)
Remember, pristine produce, like what you see on the shelf of the supermarket, is an artificial creature placed before you in the interest of divorcing you from reality. Real food often has evidence that it is good to eat; it's approved by other species. This stuff we have come to think of as 'normal' comes to our table with a tremendous price tag on the environment and the other critters on this planet.
So when you use pesticides – especially organic pesticides – you are left with dead soil critters that make your soil more fertile and you've killed off the beneficial insects. At the Learning Garden, our plants may have hole or two, or show other evidence of being nibbled. It's good. It shows we are organic and it proves we are committed to a world without gratuitous violence to other species. In ten years, I have lost two crops to insects. One was my own fault for trying to get muskmelons to grow in an area with too much shade. They succumbed in short order. The next time I lost a crop, it was a lot harder to take: flat after flat of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale, something like 8 or 9 flats in all, were mowed down just after coming out of the ground by the cabbage looper. This is the white moth you see aimlessly flying thither and yon on a lazy, uninspired flight. Often considered a white 'butterfly,' this creature lays eggs near a cabbage family seedling and the hatchling 'worm' proceeds to defoliate the little seedlings to the point they cannot survive (mind you once the plants are larger, these larvae can munch all they want and it will not kill the plant so I have no concern by then).
|While at the same time, a few feet away, an adult Monarch rests on|
a California Matiliha Poppy