It’s a challenge to keep insects and diseases at bay in greenhouse production. Pests that bother plants that grow “out in the wild” often have their natural predators living nearby.
By introducing beneficial insects in contained populations, we can control the pesky insects in a simple, economical and environmentally sound way that brings the use of pesticides to a minimum.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an important tool in the management of these pests. And that is precisely what we are trying to achieve by using IPM; management, not eradication. Every little bug and insect plays a part in the circle of life on this planet (except maybe mosquitos).
United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization defines IPM as,
"The careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.”
At Country Basket Garden Centre, Paul and Jamie are our 'scouts', who conduct weekly inspections of greenhouse crops to spot the signs that pests may be lurking nearby.
Damage to leaves, waste left behind from pests and a crop's general “failure to thrive” are key indicators.
Once pests are identified, the correct biological controls can be introduced in order to have the maximum effect on striking the pest’s life cycle at it’s weakest time. The most common pests in a greenhouse include aphids, thrips, whiteflies, fungus gnats, mealybugs, scale and leaf miners.
Sometime around the end of March or beginning of April, small pouches of beneficial insects are placed in hanging baskets. As you can see in the video, the predators stay in their environment until there is nothing left to eat.
By the time it is safe to buy plants and hanging baskets and put them outside in Niagara, the little pouches you see in your basket are empty. While no harm will come from leaving them in your plants, you can discard them by putting them in your regular household garbage.
While creepy and ugly, the most common greenhouse pests that we encounter are not harmful to humans.