Mountain Bluebird_Johnson'sCorner-CO_LAH_2843(This is the last article in our series on Integrated Pest Management [IPM].)

Last month we explained how amphibians, such as frogs and toads, and reptiles, such as snakes and lizards, are beneficial to our gardens. This time we’ll focus on birds and mammals. Inviting these wild animals into ours gardens is yet one more way that we can control the pests that dine on our flowers and veggies.

Putting out bird feeders may seem like a favor for the birds, but it’s really the other way around! While most birds attracted to feeders eat seeds, many of those same species switch to bugs, with their higher protein content, during the breeding season.


Eastern Collared Lizard_DesertMuseum-AZ_LAH_4796Here it is the middle of winter. Garden pests are out of sight and out of mind. Yet, we know that those critters are out there, waiting for warm weather to bring out the first sprouts of spring—just so they can gobble them up! It’s a very good thing, then, that there are other creatures biding their time, waiting to eat those garden pests! We’ve already talked about bug-eating invertebrates. This time the focus is on those animals with some backbone, so to speak.


Apples_Browns-Tacoma_20091016_LAH_4005Q: I’ve planted resistant varieties and grown healthy plants, but I’m still being bugged. How else can I keep my plants pest free without resorting to spraying pesticides?

A: Let’s say you want to grow apples in your Colorado garden. You’ve selected a variety that’s resistant to fireblight (I discussed disease-resistant varieties in May), and your tree is thriving. In fact, after several years, it’s finally beginning to bear fruit. You pick your first juice, red apple, take a big bite, and… oh no! Yup, you find half a worm. Ewwww.


Q: My garden was really bugged last summer. What can I do for next year?

A: While 95% of all insects are either beneficial or benign, that last 5% can eat us out of house and home—or at least out of cabbage and broccoli. If insect invaders are on the attack, sometimes you just have to fight back.

Pests may be persistent, but we gardeners are not helpless. We need to remind ourselves that we are smarter than an aphid and more cunning than a flea beetle. When it comes down to a battle for the harvest, there are lots of tools at our disposal. Certified Colorado gardeners are taught the principles of Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. Rather than just reaching for a spray can, this approach is multifaceted. There are many ways to outwit a weevil.


Q: My houseplants are covered with tiny balls of sticky white fuzzy stuff. What’s wrong and what should I do about it?

A: With temperatures finally dipping well below freezing, the bugs in our gardens are either dead or in hiding. But before we collapse into that comfy recliner with a garden book and a cup of tea, we need to take a good look at our houseplants. It might be winter outside, but indoors the bugs are having a field day.

One common invader is the Mealybug. They’re about an eighth of an inch long and covered with gooey, waxy, white fluff. You can find them wedged into the leaf axils of many houseplants. Unfortunately, most of us are very familiar with these insect pests.

At first glance, it looks like the plants have cotton all over them. Upon closer examination, you can see the segments of the dirty-gray or tan insects intent on sucking plant juices from the stems and leaves. (For some reason, they conjure up an image of a herd of minuscule sheep on a green pasture.) All that sucking disfigures the leaves, and can eventually overwhelm the plant.