"Natural" insect control

Cathy Craig batlette@cox.net
Sun, 14 Jul 2002 10:09:00 PDT
Mechanical methods are a good line of first defense (like cutting
caterpillars and slugs in half with scissors) and provide food for other
garden inhabitants. You can take out a lot of slugs if you can stay up
beyond 11pm.

Putting up bird houses also helps a lot. We have a new batch of baby birds
(John thinks these little birds we have so many of are tit mice but neither
of us is any great ornithologist) just hatched about 5 days ago. Mom and Dad
do nothing else from dawn to dark but bring insects of every description
into the house to feed the babies.

We rarely see any snails any more because we've about wiped them off the
property - they are a lot easier to find and remove than slugs are.

One doesn't need to use poisen on slugs and snails any longer. The bait
containing 1% Iron Phosphate is widely available and my understanding is
that it is not a poisen but works as a biological agent. It works on their
digestive system and prevents them from feeding and is said not to adversly
affect other garden inhabitants. We have plenty of lizards around, but I
haven't used any of the slug bait since the delphiniums were babies (about 3
months ago). Personally, I think most animals and insects are too smart to
eat stuff that isn't good for them (except of course when there are
attractants built into them for specific insects).

I customarily spend a couple hours every other day cleaning up the beds and
dead-heading. Being out amongst the plants on a regular basis also helps one
spot problem pests and they can be dispatched then and there or treated for
a large infestation.

A spray of straight rubbing alcohol on the hipps and Crinums will take care
of mealy bug with two or three treatments as necessary over a period of a
week or two.

There are many biological agents out there for sale that also work well to
break the cycle of a major infestation. They are too expensive to buy all
the time and if the chain of a major problem is broken, usually the ambient
good insects that inhabit most gardens take care of the day-to-day pests
that occur in normally low proportions.

John is on the leading edge of ant control but I don't know what he is using
just now. If there is sufficient interest, I will ask him and spread the

We have had nearly 100% success with the gophers (John insists we have
gophers and I still think they are moles) using our custom mix containing
cold-pressed Castor Oil as the primary agent. If anyone is interested I will
post the formula. We have found, like Kelly Irvin, that it absolutely must
be sprayed every 90 days to remain effective. We get (when we're lucky) 10
inches of rain a year, almost all of which comes in winter. It is possible
that people with more rain must spray more often - although getting the mix
watered into the soil and lawn well is a must - so perhaps people with more
rain would actually be better off and not need to apply it more often.

We have periodic episodes of pill bug infestations (mainly around our
sprinkler solenoids/manifolds and under some foxglove plants) that I treat
with a chemical toxin but these can be treated in a very localized and
short-term (as in one time only) fashion. I don't have a biological for pill
bugs. Are there any out there? It would be nice to give up this one poisen
for something not so toxic.

Cynthia wrote:
Paul Tyerman wrote of his experiences using snail baits...I, too, have
wondered if putting out baits or even poison for snails and pillbugs here in
Central Texas would mean killing skinks, lizards and small toads.  What do
others think?

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