A healthy organically grown farm relies on a delicate balance of predator and prey species to control pests and bees for pollination
2012 was the fifth year that our honeybee friends from Headwater Farms enjoyed the Tupelo bloom at Treehouse Farms. Bob the Bee Keeper, leaves Fort Meyers, Florida, in January and heads to southern California for the almond orchard bloom. After leaving California, they journey to Treehouse Farms to catch the spring tupelo bloom in late March.
Honey made from the tupelo nectar is coveted for its taste and because it’s high fructose content (versus sucrose) will not granulate. Honeybees harvest the nectar from the White Ogeechee Tupelo (nyssa ogeche) tree that grows in the Ogeechee River, the Apalachicola, and the Chattahoochee River Basins of northwest Florida. These river valleys are the only place in the world where Tupelo Honey is produced commercially. Bee hives are placed along the water’s edge so the bees will spread out through the Tupelo blossom rich swamps during April and May. After the tupelo bloom, the bees hives are on their way to Maine to feast on blueberry and cranberry blossoms. Once their job in Maine is finished, they journey one more time, back to their home to enjoy our wonderful Florida orange crop.
Agriculture depends greatly on the honeybee for pollination. Honeybees account for 80% of all insect pollination. Without such pollination, we would see a significant decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables.
Raising ladybugs became a big business in the 1800's after they were successfully used to combat an Australian aphid infestation in orange and lemon crops, and farmers around the country began buying and using ladybugs to control pests on their farms. Today farmers buy ladybugs to have healthy plants without having to use pesticides.
The best ladybug species to use in the garden or on a farm are called hippodamia convergens. You can recognize these ladybugs by the two white dashes that are on the back of its body above the hard wing casings. These ladybugs can eat a ton of aphids in no time, and they will stick around to protect your garden for a long time, too. However, only the ones that don’t fly off as soon as you release them will make your garden a home, so be sure to get more than you think you need to accommodate for the runaway ladybugs.
In the world of biological pest control weapons, praying mantises are howitzer cannons. They are efficient carnivorous predators that consume some of the more problematic species. Mantids put a big dent in leaf-eating pests. They go for beetles and grasshoppers in both vegetable and ornamental gardens.
They are among the few nocturnal hunters capable of catching and eating moths. While moths themselves aren't a problem for gardeners, the moth's highly destructive larvae can devastate whole plants in a matter of days. Best of all, mantids love to eat roaches.
Beneficial mantids, lacewings and ladybugs are vital to keeping plant damaging insects under control. Just one blanket application of chemical pesticides can wipe out whole populations of mantids that can take years to reestablish. In the meantime, plant-damaging pest insects will return in droves to infest the garden, proliferating without any threat of predators.