Beneficial Nematodes: Nature’s Pest Management

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Grubs, thrips, beetles, moths—gardening is usually a headache generally! But it doesn’t must be. If you haven’t tried helpful nematodes earlier than, you need to contemplate doing so! You’re preventing nature with nature if you use helpful nematodes, so it’s a completely natural technique that poses minimal danger.

There are a couple of nematode species that gained’t hurt you, your pets, or your crops, so you may be ok with utilizing them! You can refrigerate them till you want them and apply them to your backyard and houseplants with water, in order that they’re tremendous straightforward to make use of.

Let’s get into what helpful nematodes are and how one can make the most of them in your gardening efforts to take care of fewer pests!

What Are Beneficial Nematodes?

Beneficial nematodes like Steinernema feltiae are used for pest management. Source: tonypenpinch

What’s a nematode, anyway? These helpful bugs are a sort of microscopic roundworm that lives within the soil and makes use of insect pests as its meals via its lifespan. You might imagine that roundworms aren’t secure to make use of, however the varieties which are helpful and used for pest management can’t harm you want a couple of worm species that infect folks and animals, nor will they harm your soils or plant matter. Even in the event you come into contact with them, you’re fully secure.

Beneficial nematodes are rightfully deemed helpful as a result of they aim pest sorts that we don’t need to encounter comparable to insect larvae, caterpillars, white grubs, and extra. One software of nematodes will make a dent in pest populations if the circumstances are proper: the soil moist, not too chilly or too scorching, etcetera. Two functions spaced inside two weeks of one another will guarantee your nematode species of alternative could have sufficient age variability to proceed to breed and thrive, all whereas feasting on pests in your soil.

Most nematodes are utilized to the soil floor as a result of they like darkish, moist circumstances and so they’ll discover these at or beneath the soil floor. Still, there are a couple of species that may survive being sprayed on plant leaves. Since particular species behave otherwise and have completely different goal pests, you need to use them to focus on pests in several areas of your backyard to get higher outcomes.

Soil-dwelling helpful nematodes have change into extra prevalent in gardens in recent times, however they’ve been used as organic pest management for over fifty years. They’re more likely to get extra in style as time goes on since increasingly individuals are turning to natural gardening strategies. No chemical substances are used with nematodes—it’s simply little critters attacking larger critters!

Life Cycle Of Beneficial Nematodes

Since nematodes are microscopic, you gained’t be capable of see their life cycle or the modifications that they bear, but it surely’s nonetheless an attention-grabbing course of to find out about. Like different bugs, nematodes have three fundamental phases: egg, larva, and grownup. There are 4 particular person larval phases, and it’s throughout the third larval stage after they discover an insect host to say as their very own. Most species enter via the mouth of the goal pest or one other opening, whereas some species will pierce the exoskeleton and enter via it.

Once the nematode larvae enter their goal pests, they unfold micro organism from their guts contained in the host bugs. This micro organism begins to interrupt down the insect pests’ tissues. The nematode larva then eats the bacteria-infected tissues, and the host bugs die. Nematodes can destroy hosts in a short time, and may lay eggs whereas dwelling contained in the host and persevering with to feed. Depending on the host, a nematode might be able to create one or two extra generations whereas dwelling inside an insect!

Types Of Beneficial Nematodes

Heterorhabditis bacteriophora
Heterorhabditis bacteriophora which have colonized a wax moth. Source: Peggy Greb, USDA Ag Research

There are many sorts of nematodes on the market, however solely a choose few are used for pest management within the backyard. Some nematodes are parasitic and aren’t secure to make use of round people and pets, whereas others eat plant matter, comparable to root-knot nematodes. Happily, the helpful nematodes will act as pest management brokers in opposition to these dangerous nematodes, too!

Let’s contemplate among the completely different varieties of those nematode good guys and what prey they select as host bugs!

Steinernema Feltiae (Sf)

Steinernema feltiae, normally marked as Sf on product labels, is usually used open air and in greenhouses. It’s good to make use of on indoor crops as effectively since it may well get rid of fungus gnat larvae, which is without doubt one of the commonest pests for houseplants. Sf is without doubt one of the commonest helpful nematodes that you just’ll in all probability simply discover in your native gardening heart, and one of many management strategies with nematodes that individuals are used to.

Aside from fungus gnats, SF may deal with beet armyworms, black cutworm, cabbage maggots, codling moths, corn earworms, crane flies, cucumber beetle, fruit flies, onion maggots, raspberry crown borers, root maggots, sclarids, shore flies, subterranean termites, candy potato weevils, thrips, ticks, and tobacco cutworm. It may destroy dangerous nematodes like root-knot nematodes or different nematode soil pests.

Heterorhabditis Bacteriophora (Hb)

Heterorhabditis bacteriophora (Hb) is one other widespread nematode product that you need to discover available. It’s typically used open air in lawns, gardens, pastures, fields, and orchards. If you’ve ant and Japanese beetle issues, you’ll need this type readily available to assist get rid of or management pests.

Aside from queen ants and Japanese beetles, these may even assault insect larvae of the asparagus beetle, banana moths, banana weevils, berry root weevils, billbugs, black vine weevils, carrot weevils, European and masked chafers, citrus root weevils, Colorado potato beetle, corn rootworms, cranberry root weevils, noticed cucumber beetle, flea beetle, leafminers, May/June bugs, root weevils, scarabs, sugarcane stalk borers, candy potato weevils, and ticks. They may even deal with a wide range of different borers, together with iris, tree, and vine varieties.

Steinernema Carpocapsae (Sc)

Steinernema carpocapsae (Sc) is the third commonest kind of helpful nematodes. This one is often used to manage fleas, so it’s preferrred if in case you have pets that spend numerous time open air. You can apply it to lawns, landscapes, fields, orchards, and it will also be used on indoor crops.

It may kill armyworms, artichoke plume moths, beet armyworms, black cutworm, black vine weevils, bluegrass weevils, caterpillars, corn earworms, cotton bollworms, cranberry girdlers, cucumber beetle, cutworms, fall armyworms, flea larvae, fly larvae, fruit flies, larger peach tree borers, lesser peach tree borers, massive pine weevils, leafminers, mint flea beetles, mint root borers, mole crickets, navel orange worms, strawberry root weevils, tobacco budworms, webworms, wireworms, and wooden borers. They may get rid of American, Asian, and German cockroaches.

Steinernema Kraussei (Sk)

Sk is often utilized in locations which have cooler climate, so it could be exhausting to seek out in sure elements of the US. It’s typically used open air or in greenhouses and is used to deal with most weevils, together with black vine weevils, sawfly weevils, and filbertworms. Although they’ve a choice for weevils as prey, they’re extremely efficient and are value having readily available in case your space is susceptible to weevil infestations.

Steinernema Riobrave (Sr)

Sr is one other helpful nematode that isn’t as widespread as the primary three we talked about, but it surely’s nonetheless value utilizing if you should purchase it. It’s usually used on orchards since it would goal pests which are drawn to citrus crops, but in addition is efficient on some garden pests.

These nematodes can get rid of armyworms, black cutworm, black vine weevils, blue-green weevils, chafers, citrus root weevils, citrus weevils, corn earworms, Diaprepes root weevils, larger wax moths, inexperienced June beetle, hive beetle, Indian meal moths, Japanese beetle grubs, masked chafers, May/June beetle, mole crickets, pink bollworms, plum curculios, purple flour beetle, strawberry weevils, and subterranean termites.

Using Beneficial Nematodes In Your Garden

Adding nematodes to a sprayer
Adding nematodes to a pump sprayer. Source: NYSIPM

Once what sort of nematodes you need to use in your backyard, it’s time to place them to make use of! 

The very first thing to know is that nematodes have a comparatively brief lifespan and can should be used quickly after buying them. Fortunately, they will final a couple of weeks if saved correctly. They can’t survive tremendous chilly temperatures, so don’t enable them to freeze. Store unactivated nematodes within the fridge instantly as soon as you purchase them, because the chilly retains them in a state of stasis. 

Follow the instructions on the package deal to wake them up into activated nematodes and to use them to the soil floor. Most nematode merchandise will probably be utilized the identical approach, however be sure you learn the applying directions simply in case! Activated nematodes are utilized with water. You can combine them with water in a watering can or use a hose-end sprayer for bigger areas. If you don’t activate the entire batch directly, retailer nematodes within the fridge to maintain them dormant till you apply them to the bottom floor.

If you’re undecided how a lot you want to cowl your crops, replenish a watering can, water your backyard, and see how a lot you’ve left. You can modify what number of nematodes to make use of with this technique. If you’re utilizing an finish hose sprayer, add a couple of drops of meals coloring to the sprayer and water your backyard. Once the meals coloring is diluted sufficient that it’s gone, calculate how a lot of your backyard you lined and use this info to measure what number of nematodes to make use of. Generally talking, 5 million nematodes will cowl 1,600 sq. toes, however in the event you’re utilizing a mix of nematodes to deal with a number of sorts of insect pests, chances are you’ll need to spray the soil extra completely.

The greatest time to use nematodes will probably be early within the morning or proper earlier than nightfall. Warm temperatures and direct daylight can kill helpful nematodes, so doing it when the temperatures are cool and there isn’t any direct daylight provides you with the perfect outcomes and provides your nematodes time to take shelter within the moist floor floor. Soil temperatures ought to be above 40°F and beneath 95°F to make sure the nematodes survive. For optimum outcomes, apply in spring or within the early fall. If you reside in a local weather the place freezes are widespread, apply in spring and skip the early fall software.

When you’re prepared to use nematodes, water your backyard completely first. Nematodes journey simply in water, so Keeping the soil moist will make it simpler for them to maneuver which is able to in flip make the applying more practical. It may even convey pests like white grubs or different insect larvae towards the floor, making it simpler for the nematodes to find their new hosts. Apply the nematodes in keeping with the label instructions, and observe that with one other watering to assist them into the soil.

Wait 1-2 weeks earlier than doing a second software of nematodes. This will stagger the ages and  life cycles of your inhabitants and assist the nematode populations thrive. It takes about two weeks earlier than your first spherical of nematodes to indicate indicators of being helpful, so including a second software proper as you begin to discover fewer pests will actually maintain the pest inhabitants down and provide you with optimum outcomes.

You’ll want to use nematodes in all of the areas you need them since they will’t journey far distances on their very own. They’re microscopic and solely journey brief distances that can enable them to discover a host. If you spray one location, don’t anticipate them to maneuver to a different space on their very own.

Beneficial nematodes normally survive for as much as 18 months or till winter climate constantly brings the bottom floor beneath freezing. Note that you will want to maintain the soil moist to make sure that your nematodes proceed to thrive and maintain going after pests. Soil moist sufficient to really feel damp to the contact is ok, however you don’t want it to be super-saturated or muddy.

Using Beneficial Nematodes On Houseplants

Mixing a batch of beneficial nematodes
Instruction in tips on how to combine nematodes with water for software. Source: Richmond Farm School

Using helpful nematodes to deal with pests in your houseplants isn’t a lot completely different than utilizing it outdoors. You’ll simply be utilizing a lot smaller portions until you’ve an indoor jungle! Even so, you seemingly gained’t be utilizing a whole package deal of 5 million nematodes, so chances are you’ll need to contemplate splitting a package deal between indoor and out of doors crops if in case you have each.

SF will seemingly be the most suitable choice so that you can use since it may well kill annoying fungus gnats, probably the most annoying pests within the residence, however SC can also be a sensible choice as a result of it may well kill fleas and cockroaches. Other pest pupae that linger in potting combine will also be stored in management this fashion.

Apply nematodes with a watering can in the identical technique as we talked about within the earlier part. Water your houseplants first, apply nematodes, and water once more. Be aware of how a lot water your houseplants can deal with—be certain it has drainage holes. You might discover it simpler to take your plant outdoors for a bit whilst you apply nematodes.

As with different types of nematodes, maintain the soil moist within the containers you’ve launched them to. Keeping that floor floor damp ensures they’ll proceed to thrive and to assault pests in your containers. If you don’t use all of them, retailer nematodes within the fridge and apply them for pest management elsewhere inside a pair weeks. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do helpful nematodes actually work?

A: When used appropriately, helpful nematodes stay as much as their identify and may eradicate whole pest populations. They’re dwelling creatures that require sure temperatures and moisture ranges, so that you’ll have to maintain these in examine to get the perfect outcomes.

Q: How lengthy do helpful nematodes final?

A: They can last as long as 18 months within the soil if the circumstances are excellent. They can’t survive in temperatures outdoors of 40-95°F. Store unactivated nematodes within the fridge for 2 or three weeks, however don’t freeze retailer unactivated nematodes. Once woken up from their hibernation, for optimum outcomes use these instantly in pest-prone, moist areas to assist management pupae or different pests that they use as hosts.

Q: Will nematodes kill earthworms?

A: Beneficial nematodes gained’t goal earthworms, however a couple of species of earthworms are inclined to turning into contaminated by the micro organism nematodes launch if they arrive into contact with it. Generally talking, you gained’t have points with the micro organism lingering within the floor; the nematodes which are good guys aren’t out to harm your different helpful critters!


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