Organic Growing Means Insect Diversity

Last week Health Canada quietly announced its intent to cancel all remaining registrations of the neuro-toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos.  It is a broad spectrum insecticide in the organophosphate class. It is one of the most widely used insecticides in the world, and has been shown to cause brain damage to insects (the ‘target’), to birds, to mammals and is suspected to in humans.

It is our hope at Transition Garden that imidacloprid, a neonicotanoid, will be next on the banned list for Health Canada.  This is also one of the most widely used insecticides in the world and more toxic than chlorpyrifos.  Because of their known toxicity to bees, most pollinators, and pretty well all insects, birds and mammals, the ‘neonics’ has been banned in the EU since 2018.  The ‘neonics’ have been accused of causing the Silent Spring of our age (referring back to Rachel Carson’s famous book published in 1962 about DDT).

We added a second bee hive to our apiary last week, purchased from a local beekeeping and queen breeder.  They quickly got down to business in their new location after scouting the terrain for everything in bloom.  They caught the last of the peach blossoms and many other flowers, and are now starting in on the pear blossoms, which just bloomed yesterday.  We have two pear trees, an Anjou and a Bosc, which cross pollinate.  They are just starting to produce a serious harvest after taking 15 years to fully mature.

In addition, we are noticing lots of activity from bumble bees and several kinds of solitary bees. Each seems to prefer certain kinds of flowers depending on the length of their tongues and the depth of the nectar within the flower – pointing out to us how different species of flowers and pollinators co-evolved specific relationships with each other.

Organic growing creates a need for close observation of insect and plant interactions, and a need to add in book-learning about certain insect life cycles.  This helps us stay ahead of some of the insect and other kinds of pests.

For example, we planted bok choy in the wrong place this year, as the flea beetles quickly found it and ate holes in all the leaves.  They will be laying their eggs under the plants.  We will be moving plants that they love well away from the area of infestation for this year.

The same thing can happen with potatoes and the potato beetle, which lay bright orange eggs on the underside of potato leaves.  If they show up on potatoes one year, we move the location of the potatoes for the next year.  We have the advantage of two gardens (the ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ gardens) which are separated by 60 feet of forest.  Moving potatoes from one garden to the other usually evades those beetles.

We transplanted out three kinds of spring kale – Red Russian, Borecole (curly leaf) and Italian – next to the lower greenhouse.  We will need to keep an eye out for slugs!!  One of our favorite sayings is that “something wants everything,” and in Transition Garden we work to understand these relationships and work in ways that keep plants healthy and one step ahead of most of the predators.



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