Controlling Pests Without Chemicals: A Guide for Gardeners and Farmers

Pest control doesn't have to involve harsh chemicals. There are a variety of mechanical and physical methods that can be used to trap, destroy, repel, or mitigate pests. Adhesive boards, noise-making devices, shiny films that scare birds, and insect removers are all examples of pest control devices. Biological control is another option, which involves using living organisms to suppress pest populations.This article will focus on the biological control of insects and related organisms.

Barriers such as window screens, floating covers for horticultural crops, and plant collars can be used to keep pests out of buildings and greenhouses. Natural enemies can also be released at the right time in the life cycles of the enemy and the pest, in an area where the target pest is abundant and disruption is minimized. Specific management strategies will vary from crop to crop, place to place, and year to year.Insect pathogens have also been successfully manipulated to achieve biological control of specific pests. The alfalfa weevil is one example of a pest that has been controlled by introducing new natural enemies.

This has led to a greater focus on integrated pest management, which involves preventing pest problems through a better understanding of pest ecology, improving plants' and animals' ability to defend themselves against pests, and creating populations of beneficial organisms.Centuries ago, Chinese farmers noticed that ants helped control insect pests in their citrus orchards by feeding on caterpillars, beetles, and leaf-eating insects. Today's pest managers need to know their pests, beneficial insects, and all available control options. Gardeners can identify pests using references or online field guides, or they can send photographs or samples of their pests to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension office in their county, the Insect and Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Maine at Orono, or the pest experts at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.Organic tactics can be just as effective as chemical sprays when it comes to controlling pests. Sideman and Garland offer gardeners tips on how to control pests without resorting to chemicals.

Farmers have also discovered that by collecting paper nests from a specific type of ant in the field and moving them to their orchards, they can better control some pests. The costs of using biological control are now much lower in Europe than those of chemical control.