Scouting for Insects
Trap and Monitor the Pest
Early and correct identification of pests is a key to determining the best strategy for further action – or even for taking no action. For some, it can be difficult to grasp that it is not necessary to eliminate the pest in order to protect your lawn, trees, and plants. If pest levels are not causing significant damage, they may be necessary to maintaining a healthy garden. The healthy garden has many insects and you have to have the pest insects in order for the beneficial insects to come to your garden.
Monitoring for pests has three stages: inspection, recording and identification. Inspections can include visual inspection of the plants or the environment or the use of lures and traps. Important information is gathered during inspection and it should be recorded – consistently. In the field or greenhouse use a form that will allow the observer to gather all pertinent information. Some of the items you may want to include on the form include:
- Weather conditions (e.g. temperature, relative humidity, sunny, cloudy, rainfall, etc.)
- Pest density
- Pest growth stage
- Description of the pest (e.g. healthy, unhealthy)
- Affected plants & growth stage.
- Interventions taken.
- Fertilizer and other soil amendments used.
Using traps will help you grow better in several ways. Use them to:
- Early and correct identification of pests.
- Determining the best intervention strategy - which may include taking no action.
Over time when observations, trapping and monitoring are consistently done and records kept, the gardener/farmer can develop an understanding of the relationship between environmental factors and the onset of pest problems.
Additional tools for monitoring included using specially designed monitoring devices to attract and trap insects. These traps work either by color attraction, pheromone attraction, or odor attraction.
Yellow sticky traps are used to attract and trap aphids, leafminers, whiteflies, leafhoppers, and thrips using the color. There is a sticky substance that captures the insects. Blue sticky traps attract and trap thrips, certain flies and leafminers - they also use the sticky substance to capture the insect. Sticky traps using the color spectrum are easy and affordable to use.
Pheromone traps are specific to individual pests that can be found for virtually every pest insect. Pheromone traps use the pests' nature against them by using synthesized sex pheromones to attract males. By isolating and trapping the males, you can better identify the pest and the size of the infestation. A side benefit of the pheromone trap is that the reproductive cycle is broken or reduced by removing males from the population.
Identify the pest
Monitoring and trapping as well as careful observation of the plants will help you know when an infestation is causing enough damage to intervene. This is called identifying the action threshold. In order to most effectively intervene it is most important to identify exactly which pests are causing damage that has reached the action threshold. There are many resources available to help identify a pest. Try your county extension office, a free service for pest identification.
Identifying the action threshold is important so that over-reaction and over-treatment of problems is avoided. The point at which one takes action to control a pest is different for every situation. It is important to know whether your limit is one pest (such as one wasp in a classroom) or a modest outbreak that may keep beneficial's interested in working in your garden, farm or greenhouse.