Eco-Budget Pest Control

A few weeks ago I wrote about how parasitic wasps and ladybird larvae were helping to control aphids and thrips on my pepper plants. Well they have more than helped, now they have polished the lot off! But they weren’t the only ones. Last week, (when there were still a few thrips around) I found a third helper on the scene. On one of the leaves was a strange creature that looked cross between a maggot and a clanger, shaking its snout around vigorously...
 
 
 
Many people would be tempted to squash this, as it looks like it may damage the plant, but it is actually a hoverfly larva. The way to recognise them is that they travel pointed end first. The strange shaking action is it searching for its next meal – a poor aphid or another soft-bodied insect who will be subject to being punctured and having their insides liquefied and sucked out. The adults, have much better manners and are vegetarians. They only have short mouthparts, so to be able to access both the pollen and nectar they need for a complete diet, they need flowers with a short tube structure. Members of the carrot family are ideal for this, so don’t throw out parsley or coriander, once it has bolted as the flowers will do a great job of bringing in hoverflies. The worse you treat them, the quicker they will flower! In fact, I happened to have a flowering carrot in the glasshouse to save seeds from, so it may have tempted my friend to come in and lays its eggs.
 
Coriander will not only attract hoverflies, but you can use the seeds when they are green. I haven’t tried this yet, but according to Stephanie Hafferty of ‘No Dig’, they have a zingy flavour of citrus and coriander combined. So you are getting as much value from one plant as possible: leafy herb, pest control and spicy seeds.
 
Now, I have a bit of a puzzle over my broad beans and field beans. Most people have complained that their broad beans are plastered with blackfly and it has been one of the worst seasons for them. This doesn’t seem to be the case here. In fact, there is not a single blackfly in sight, not even on the tips. I am not being smug, just puzzled. About 20 m away, we have some feverfew growing. The flowers have gone over now, but they are completely smothered in blackfly. So there are definitely blackfly around in the garden. Is the feverfew drawing them away from the broad beans? I am not convinced that this is what is happening or if it would be enough to result in a completely clean crop of broad beans. Answers on a postcard or in a Facebook post please!
 
More about Anton...
Anton is a Knowledge Officer at Garden Organic, where he has worked for 16 years. He is looking forward to writing a series of blogs on how to garden using little resources.
 
Click here for a full list of our Organic Gardening Blogs. There's something to interest everyone, from frugal gardening, wildlife and starting out, to wellbeing and allotment growing. Each series is written by a member of our staff, touching on their own personal experiences. We hope you enjoy reading.
Posted: 
Monday, 6 July 2020