What Bugs Our Produce?
Growing organically, we pride ourselves in providing foods that you can trust, using only organically approved pest deterrents, but provide the same quality of taste to critters looking to snack on them in our fields. This year we have encountered some usual suspects, deployed our own team of protective insects, and met a new species that has begun transitioning to the northeast with climate change. Knowing what to predict and how to protect can help us protect insects from bugging our harvest!
Corn harvest is now in full swing, but our field has been monitored for months leading up to these weeks to protect corn borers from eating the ripe ears. Corn borers start as a moth egg laid onto a cornstalk, and once hatched the larvae will consume the corn.
Their attack is two fold, with young larvae creating holes and borrowing through the leaves and stalk before maturing to crawl into the ears of corn themselves. This can cause damage to our corn weakening their stalks and introducing pathogens that could eventually lead to rot. Once the larvae have matured this threat also can affect the ears themselves, as the corn borers migrate toward the sweet kernels, eating away what we intend to enjoy ourselves!
This cycle is able to repeat each season as some fully matured corn borers make their way into the thick stalks of over winter vegetation and weed before they hatch in the spring as a mature moth, ready to lay eggs. We can anticipate this cycle as we move into corn season, and take action organically through the use of a predatory bug that will consume the borer larvae and ensure a strong harvest.
Wasps are an insect that usually get a bad rap, and can be feared for their painful sting, but the trichogrammaostriniae is a smaller (and much less intimidating) wasp that takes on the large role of protecting our corn rows. Our predatory wasps arrive at the farm in small hanging packets filled with eggs, kind of like a “do not disturb” sign from us to the pest in the field!
These young wasps will hatch dispersed throughout the rows to lay eggs to hatch their own larvae that feed on the eggs of corn boring worms. Not only does this allow us to stop the spread of the corn eating pest, but also ensure we target right at the source with these diligent bugs searching specifically for these invasive eggs to lay their protective ones. After a few introductions into each planting, they repopulate and stay active.
Leek moths are another pest we see throughout the summer now. They lay their eggs in the palm like fronds of the leek plant allowing them to borrow and eat our precious allium layers. Though they are called leek moths, they will infest other alliums like onion and garlic, but tend to shy away from red varieties. They are less of an issue in garlic and onions because those crops are topped during harvest, leaving the larvae in the field. When planning our crops for the following year, we look to see where these larvae may have been left to overwinter so we are sure to plant crops the leek moths won’t be attracted to. Leek moths are a relatively new pest here (circa 2009) and have now appeared on our leeks this season. The changing of climate patterns is a catalyst for species transitioning into new territories and we won’t be surprised if we see some other new species come our way.
Though, learning how to organically defend from these pests is still ongoing, some results have been seen when predatory bugs are released in a similar way to our corn. To protect future harvests, UVM has begun conducting a study on protective pests like wasps to become a natural predator for leek moth larvae. So far some results have been observed when predatory bugs are released in a manner similar to our wasp releases in our corn. Pete’s Greens is participating in this study and we hope that the data and experience gleaned will provide guidance in organic practice that can be used against these pests! If you want to learn more about the study we are partnering in with UVM click the link.