How to Control Pests the Biological Way, with Live Predators

Embracing Live Predators

Live predators are a game-changer in the battle against troublesome pests. These little creatures provide a natural, eco-friendly alternative to pesticides with no nasty chemicals or toxic residues, ensuring that helpful insects, wildlife, and not to mention your crops, remain unharmed. Furthermore, live predators can sustain their presence in your grow space for prolonged periods, multiplying and providing long-term protection, ultimately saving you money (as well as a lot of headaches). 

Incorporating live predators proactively, rather than waiting for pest infestations to emerge, is a wise strategy which will help to keep your indoor garden as healthy as possible. These voracious predators will keep pest populations under control, preventing the situation from ever getting out of hand. Incorporate live predators into your integrated pest management and make the most of a sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective solution.

Spider Mite Predators

Spider mites are tiny, eight-legged arachnids that pose a significant threat to your indoor garden. Despite their size, these pests can cause serious, extensive damage, primarily due to their frenzied reproduction rate and their piercing mouthparts which they use to feed on plant cells, sucking away nutrients and inducing extreme stress. Spider mites are named for the fine, silk-like webbing they create on plant leaves and stems, which provides protection for their colonies and is often a key indicator of their presence. When these pests infest a plant, they typically target the undersides of leaves, where they pierce the plant tissue and extract the plant's fluids, leading to discoloration, spotted or mottled foliage, and in severe cases, plant death. Furthermore, spider mites can transmit various plant diseases, exacerbating their destructive impact. Their resistance to many chemical pesticides makes them a particularly tenacious pest, making prevention and early detection crucial for maintaining a healthy garden. The two main live predators used for treating spider mites are Phytoseiulus persimilis and Amblyseius californicus.

Phytoseiulus Persimilis - Great for Treating Infestations

Phytoseiulus persimilis, which belongs to the Phytoseiidae family, is a predatory mite used by professional horticulturalists to target spider mites, particularly the well-known two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae). The female mites lay their eggs near spider mite colonies, where they also feed. After hatching, the larvae and subsequent nymph stages actively feed on spider mites, gradually growing and moulting until they reach adulthood. The life cycle of Phytoseiulus persimilis is completed in about a week under favourable conditions, allowing them to multiply rapidly. These predators depend on the presense of spider mites to live, which makes them ineffective as a preventative in indoor environments (see just below for a solution to that issue). If you've found evidence of spider mites and you're looking for a way to take them out, then these predators are a great choice. The recommended application is five to ten mites per square metre, though if the situation is getting out of hand you can go a lot higher - 50 mites per square metre and beyond. These predators have short life cycles that allow them to bed in quickly and get the job done!

Amblyseius Californicus - The Perfect Preventative

Amblyseius californicus is another predatory mite that's commonly used in the professional horticultural industry to destroy spider mites. Unlike Phytoseiulus persimilis, these mites aren't dependent on eating spider mites to survive, as they can dine other materials, which makes them ideal for use as a preventative treatment. Just add one sachet for each plant and these predators will get released into the grow space over a six-week period, controlling populations by killing off spider mites before they ever become an issue. It makes sense to use Amblyseius californicus pre-emptively as it has a longer life-cycle than the abovementioned Phytoseiulus persimilis, so it can take a little bit longer to get bedded in. This isn't a problem, though, because you can introduce them early on (thanks to their varied diet). Go for Phytoseiulus persimilis if you need a quick fix and californicus if you're doing the right thing and planning ahead. Use these live predators at a rate of one sachet per plant.

Thrip Predators

Thrips are small, slender insects belonging to the order Thysanoptera. Typically, less than 1mm in length, these tiny pests can be a total nuisance. Thrips feed by piercing plant cells and sucking out their contents, causing discoloration and distortion in the plant tissues. This feeding mechanism results in visible signs of damage, such as silvering or speckling on leaves, and can lead to stunted growth, reduced flowering, and even plant death in severe cases. One of the distinctive features of thrips is their fringed wings, which they use to drift with the wind or fly over short distances. This makes them highly mobile and capable of quickly spreading to new plants. Additionally, many species of thrips can reproduce asexually, leading to rapid population increases. Thrips are also potential vectors for plant diseases, notably the devastating Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. Therefore, early detection and control are crucial to prevent substantial damage in your garden or crop fields.

Amblyseius Cucumeris

Amblyseius cucumeris is effective against a wide range of greenhouse pests, but it's most commonly used for destroying thrips, feeding on their eggs and larvae, and thus preventing these pests from reproducing and causing further damage to your crops. Additionally, Amblyseius cucumeris predators are easy to apply and have a long shelf life, making them convenient and cost-effective. Use one sachet per square metre or one per plant and these predators will be released into the grow space over a six-week period.

Fungus Gnat Predators

Fungus gnats are tiny, flying insects that are usually about 2mm in length, and they are often mistaken for fruit flies due to their similar size and appearance. Fungus gnats are a particular concern for environments with high humidity levels. Fungus gnats are attracted to moist, organic-rich soil, where they lay their eggs. The larvae, which are the primary concern, feed on organic material, plant roots, and occasionally plant tissue, causing yellowing, wilting, and stunted growth in affected plants. They are particularly harmful to seedlings and young plants, as they can cause significant root damage, affecting the plant's ability to absorb water and nutrients effectively.

Hypoaspis Miles

These predators like to hunt fungus gnat (sciarid fly) larvae and other 'soil' pests, including springtails, thrips pupae and root mealybug. They dwell within the soil and have a lifespan of several months, and these tough little creatures can survive for up to 50 days without food, making them well-suited for use in situations where the pest population is very low, as they'll be able to battle through periods with no pests to much on. This makes them ideal for use as a preventative treatment. They are used at a rate of 100 per square metre, so a tube of 10,000 mites goes a very long way!


Nematode Worms

Steinernema Feltiae & Steinernema Carpocapsae

Steinernema feltiae and Steinernema carpocapsae are species of beneficial nematodes, microscopic worms that act as biological control agents in your garden or grow space. These nematodes are efficient predators of a wide range of soil-dwelling pests and are especially valuable for their effectiveness against harmful insects in their larval stages, nipping the issue in the bud before it ever gets out of hand.

Steinernema feltiae is best known for its ability to control fungus gnats, a common pest of indoor plants and greenhouses. These nematodes actively hunt for gnat and thrip larvae, entering their bodies and releasing symbiotic bacteria that kill the host within a few days. Besides fungus gnats, Steinernema Feltiae is also effective against a variety of other pests, including several species of root-damaging weevils, leafminers and beetles.

On the other hand, Steinernema Carpocapsae is a very versatile nematode used for controlling a broad spectrum of pests, including cutworms, armyworms, and certain types of grubs. Incorporating these nematodes into your pest management strategy offers several benefits. To effectively control soil-based insect pests, apply these nematodes by watering them into the substrate. For optimal results, ensure the soil temperature is at least 12°C. One pack will cover you for an area of up to 60m², so it goes a long way! This application rate provides comprehensive coverage and maximizes the product's effectiveness in combating insect pests. Furthermore, because they are living organisms, they can adapt to changing pest populations, unlike chemical pesticides that pests can develop resistance against. 


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