In today’s episode of Farm Small Farm Smart
Pests are one of the most common problems we encounter when growing our crops. As farmers, it’s understandable that the first reaction to having pests on the crops is, ‘I have to get rid of it.’ If it were you, what would be your first choice to combat these pests? Would you go for chemical sprays? Organic sprays? Or perhaps something else entirely.
And by ‘something else,’ I mean integrated pest management (IPM) that includes beneficial macro biology the likes of insects and nematodes. If you have never heard of using beneficial biology, then buckle up because we have Sheri Frey, long-time owner of Arbico Organics, to tell us about the benefits of using mother nature’s agents themselves to get rid of the pest problem plaguing your system.
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FSFS230 - Sheri Frey
Diego: [00:00:00] Today, it's all about beneficial insects, predatory, insects, parasites, and ways. You can use them to control pest problems on your farm. Stay tuned to find out all about that. Coming up. Welcome the farm, small farm smart. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO. Today we're talking beneficial insects. And to do that, I'm talking to longtime owner of Arbico Organics, Sheri Frey. Sherry's been in the bug business since 1979. And along the way, she's learned a lot about using biological methods to help control pass on farms. She's worked with growers of all scales from small-scale growers to large farms that occupied tens of thousands of acres.
So if you have a bug that flies, hops or crawls in is creating a problem on your crops, there's probably a beneficial insect out there that is looking to hunt. The one that's causing you. A lot of problems today. We'll learn about some of those insects and how they can help your farm and how things like integrated pest management can help reduce pest pressure.
Overall, if you want to learn more about the insects that we talk about in this episode, you can do so at Sherry's website arbico-organics.com, but let's jump right into it. Sherry Frey insects are an integral part of IPM. When it comes to that concept of IPM or integrated pest management, how do you define that if a grower asks you about that?
Sheri Frey: [00:01:38] The pest management, is really a, in many ways it's permacultural because what we're looking at is all facets of growing with pointing our finger at specifically at insect pest issues. And so with IPM, what we're going to be doing is we want to first be able to detect and monitor, figure out when an issue.
If you do have a pest issue. and simply as simple as sticky traps or traps that have pheromones in them are used for monitoring. once we see that we have a past, part of IPM is that we're going to look at all the different ways that we're going to attack the pest. Obviously we have the different stages of development. And so what we're looking at is to have an arsenal of choices so that we never let that pass get out of control. So we're going to be looking at ways to control a past in its egg stages, perhaps in his juvenile stages and even in the adult stages, depending on the pest.
So assuming we now know what pests we have, we're going to look at a biological control solution because that's the one that's makes the most sense by irrational a, as opposed to coming over right in with an insecticide, even though it may be an organic insecticide, organic insecticides generally are going to kill everything.
And so the idea is to create this bio balance in the. In the area that we're growing. And so what we normally would do is look for a match up between the past and a beneficial insect or predatory insect, or even an organism. And so we'll begin to apply that, what we call. As part of the IPM program in, on a programmatic basis.
So the way that biological pest control begins is with, setting up a program so that we never let the past get out of control. And what I mean by that is that bio-control works by. First of all applying the biological prior to, or an onset of infestation. Unfortunately, a lot of people wait until they're already eaten being eaten up by the insects.
And it's a little bit too late then for bio biological control. However, if we are using monitoring devices and we're out there watching, when we see the very, the onset, then we can begin by programmatically applying, beneficial insects, organisms, or predators, every. Usually every week to two weeks throughout the duration of the pest infestation.
Along with that, we're going to be looking at other things that we can do in an integrated pest management program. And I actually referred to eco pest management, ecological pest management, because we're often we're focusing on the symptoms, which of course are things like having, diseases and insect pests, and instead not focusing on the actual cause.
So in an integrated pest management program, we're going to be looking at all the different ecosystems that are involved. Oh then of course, what are we focusing on really? And should be, of course, it's the fertility situation. If we can keep a plant healthy, it's naturally going to resist insect pests, healthy plants have high bricks has sugar.
And what we do know about insect pests and Hybrix plants is that an insect will not suck too, or perforate a plant that has a high bricks. Simply because they cannot expel gases. And that's, that is what we refer to as an IPM program. So when someone comes to me with a question about pass, of course, I always want to refer to let's talk about your soil.
First of all, we have to take care of the pest issue. And as I stated before, depending on the type of pest, we have, an arsenal of biological control tools that we can pull out, that we can. apply right away to that particular pest and get the program started.
Diego: [00:05:20] And thinking of the people listening to this, there's going to be a mix of really certified organic growers and then functionally organic growers who aren't certified, but they try and use organic practices.
And then there's some combination of them that. Don't spray at all organic meaning they're not even using organic sprays. When you think about IPM and wanting to bring in healthy. Insects or good insects, beneficials, whether that's pollinators or predatory insects. How should someone think about a spray program and beneficials and predatory insects?
Or are they incompatible? Meaning if you want to bring in predatory or attract predatory. Then, regardless of whether that sprays organic or not, you don't want to be using it because I want to set that at the beginning here because people it's part of the picture as we're going to go on through this episode,
Sheri Frey: [00:06:19] The most important thing about insecticides that are plant-based botanicals and even the microbiologicals, they tend, many of them do not have an effect on the beneficials. pests are fight phyto, meaning plant they're plant feeders. Beneficial insects and they're all beneficials, of course, we'd all agree with that because they're pollinators and they're part of the ecosystem and they're food for other animals as well.
However, if we're just focusing on, the beneficial insects, they are into a mafia, Gus, so they feed on insects. So what we find is that a lot of our, a lot of. Insecticides, they will actually kill the pest, but they're not going to kill the beneficial. So as opposed to synthetics that come right in and just wipe everything out
Diego: [00:07:09] spray, just be careful to check the label. If you feel the need and see what insects populations that could potentially target the plant feeders versus the insect feeders.
Sheri Frey: [00:07:21] Exactly. And, remember if you don't have any pests, you don't have any colleges up there. that's just normal. you don't have a gopher or a bowl or a mole, or you don't have a deer or you don't have, aphids mice, thrips white flies.
Yes, those are, that's just natural. If you're going to have them. And in particular as growers, we. We tend to grow things that are not necessarily native to the area in which we're planting, that need amazing inputs, because let's face it a tomato plants not gonna grow naturally in our desert here in Arizona, a lot of inputs to fix that.
And, so you have, you've got to be working with fertility, with water, with pH you're working with a whole number of factors, so that you can. And be sure that you can grow what you want to grow. And of course, every time we do that, we're changing the culture of what normally grows there that would grow there without any input.
it would be better for me if I were a gardening to be growing, a cactus,
Diego: [00:08:17] thinking about these natural systems, you're a company that sells predatory insects, and there's obviously a market for that. Why is there a market for that? Meaning. Is there a shortage or a natural deficiency of predatory insects in the wild in, so that's why growers need to bring them in when they have a pest problem.
In other words, if we are thinking this whole systems approach, when a pest problem shows up, why aren't these predatory insects there to begin with? and why is somebody looking to bring them in artificially?
Sheri Frey: [00:09:02] It's interesting. I used to show a slide show that would show how, if you actually left everything alone, eventually the beneficials should come in enough to where you would actually break the cycle.
What happens though is that people are in business and they can't withstand, the damage. And They want everything to be, first of all, cosmologically. Beautiful. So it can't have a Mar on it in any way or a stain. and we're, we get, mixed up between cooperating with nature and arguing with nature.
And so what happens is, the pest comes in. And of course it starts to feed on everything and everybody goes into a panic because they're there in distance. So what do they do? They say, let's bring in some issue. And the aphids is just eating everything in sight. So they bring in some lady, bird beetles, or some aphid parasites or say.
green lacewings and at a very minimum amount of money, they go out at the end of the day, they sprinkle out these insects and lady bird beetles are in the adult stage, GreenLake, Sweden coming, a variety of stages. They can be sold as we sell them as eggs as larvae and as adults. and Mike.
Excuse me and aphid parasites who sold in their adult stage. So my point is that you put them out and they immediately go to work feeding on those insects. There's no shortage of anything, nothing. It's just our farming prep. Excuse me. Our farming practices are fighting with nature. And it makes sense.
It could, because it's clean, it's easy, it's affordable, and it's fun. it's really cool to go out and, and put out these insects and you come back about a week later, everything's cleaned up. it's really fun. but if you're too far gone, yeah. Go with your. you go out and you say, Oh my God, I've got mites and they're everywhere.
if you have more than four mites per leaf, you're going to have to do something. And in that case, what we would, we recommend is you're going to use. Use a natural insecticide for knocked down. Then you can go right in, right away with the predatory mites. And they'll start feeding on all stages of the mic test that you're trying to get rid of also, synthetics, whether people realize it or not.
Anytime you use a synthetic insecticide, you get the plant takes a hit, it will, and then you have secondary and tertiary PEs such as. diseases and then you and weeds. So if you get on this treadmill, and you can't get off, it's just one thing after another. And so it makes sense.
we never, I never suggest to anybody just use a bio-control program without me at least mentioning a fertility program. I want people to, give me a soil sample. Let me see what you've got because you're F. Efficiencies and your deficiencies are going to be the telltale signs. It's going to be the story that tells you what's going on with your plans.
Diego: [00:12:10] This idea of using a spray, a buyer to do some knockdown is something I wouldn't have thought of. And I think that makes a lot of sense. I think a lot of people assume that if you bring in a biological control, That it's going to handle that whole pest issue by itself. Just thinking macro, not Ladybird specific, not green lacewings specific, but just macro.
Is there that limit, there must be if you're recommending it, that once it gets past a certain issue, like you just can't bring in enough beneficials, the problem is too far gone and you have to get it back to a level that these beneficials can manage. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Sheri Frey: [00:12:53] Absolutely. And this happens a lot. One day, everything's looking great and the next day you go out and, Oh my God, I've got a great vine, mealy bug problem. And depending on the kind of passage that you have, I talked about primary, secondary, and tertiary pester, Sheri pests are things like weevils and, they're horrible.
that's a pepper weevil, for example, it will. It bores a hole into the pepper, then it actually uses its fecal material to seal a hole close, and then it just stays inside of there. Just chewing the fruit up. So how do you get to that? there aren't insects that will actually go for that past when it is already inside of the fruit.
So you have to use something that's systemic. there are beneficials that will catch it, but the weevil right before it goes into the fruit, we're talking about. depending on what you're growing, high cash value crops like peppers and, cucumbers and tomatoes and table grapes and strawberries.
They have to be beautiful. What I mentioned before. And you can't withstand even the tiniest little, pest issue. You everything's got to look great. that's why we. We have a cadre of amazing insecticides. It's just incredible, mostly from botanicals, Rosemary and clove and, time and mint and combinations and, all sorts of, microbiologicals as well that use bacillus and whatnot.
it's really an amazing thing for me to see how our agriculture has shifted. First of all I monitor. If I have something, I put out my biologicals, my beneficial insects, my organisms, I'm always monitoring. Then I look at my soil. I've got to look at what's going on, because for example, if you have a cutworm issue, you almost always have a calcium deficiency.
So those are the kinds of things that we look at over the years. and what we saw was that it was that if, if a person. Wanted to grow something in their garden without synthetic pesticides. Why would they want to put synthetic pesticides in their home? Why would they want to put synthetic pesticides on their livestock or on their pets?
of course not. And so that's how it grew from. We sell one need and another needed another need and another need. And, but it's the same thing over and over again. if you call me on the phone, I have friends calling me all the time and they say, Hey, I've got this problem on my pack of Sandra plant.
and it's a it's Nathan. I said, Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to say, I need some traps. I'm going to send you some green lacewing, probably green lacewings because they're really inexpensive. I would send what I call a healthy soil recipe, which is a balanced fertilizer in Simes and microorganisms.
I would also send them some, if they need to knock down, I would send them a three in one product so that it takes care of insects mites. And also is antifungal. And auntie wrote it. and I'd send them a little packet of seeds that they can plant as a habitat crop. So they have plenty of they've got everything going on.
And guess what? I have been trying to put myself out of business for over 40 years, almost 40 years. And so far we haven't done it because people never want to focus on the fertility. They want to focus on, I got to get rid of that aphid mites, rips issue. they don't ever want to focus on the soil.
Diego: [00:16:15] if we think about a healthy natural ecosystem, one where your neighbors aren't heavy chemicalized and they're not, they haven't killed a lot of the biology around. If you think about a past in and infesting crop, say aphids. How long should it take predatory insects in the area to show up, to start working on that problem?
And I know that it could be depends. It varies, but from a very zoomed out 30,000 foot view, how does that cycle look past shows up about how much longer till predator shows up and you should see something happening in a healthy system.
Sheri Frey: [00:17:00] It's a good question. and it depends because think about it.
We're pushing growth, pointing, where we're growing things in where they're not natural, where they're not truly growing. So they're not native for growing them in, in strange environments that we've altered, by providing. shade, clots and greenhouses and special watering systems. And so we're just taking lady bird beetles, the icon of what's good in organic agriculture and one of our most favorite, beneficial insects.
They. They actually spend certain two times of the year, they're up in the mountains and they're there have to be in areas where it's cold, they're covered with snow and it's usually Rocky. And so when, so what happens is in the spring time, they, when the snow melts, they come down into the valleys and they begin to feed on aphids mites.
Thrips why flies your basic pests. And what happens is if you're. If you're well, and after they fed, then they have enough, they have what we call fat bodies on them, and then they go back up into the mountains and they stay there, reducing the fat bodies until they're hungry again. And they come on down.
So imagine if you're growing something and. They're still stuck up there in the mountains, because we're doing it artificially, we're pushing it. We're shelving it. We've got heaters. We have all kinds of things that are, we're on a time schedule. So we're trying to push out and force something to grow faster, quicker, sooner in an environment that it would never grow naturally.
and so there's where you have the disconnect between what naturally would be happening and what. Is artificially happening, even though it's done organically, quote unquote, we can't expect the insects to the force themselves ahead so that they can be there ready to go when we want them there, which is why we have biological. Pescatore cool.
Diego: [00:19:01] Predatory insect in the wild needs food to survive, like any predator, a Wolf needs. Food to survive. If you take away the prey, then the wolves go away, or the population at least dwindles. If you're running a pretty clean system, is it safe to assume that, and you have a larger farm? Is it safe to assume that there's predatory insects hanging out in the local biology, dealing with problems in the local flora and fauna that could.
Hop over to your manmade cultivated
Sheri Frey: [00:19:39] patch. Yes. Yes. and one thing that is really important to understand is that there are many, parasites parasitoids and generalists that are not available on a commercial basis. when you're out looking at. You're in you're on your farm near turning over leaves and looking you may find all kinds of beneficials and you should, because there are, in other words, there may not be enough of a demand from a marketing standpoint to rear them.
as far as, what we w what we're as, entomologists and insect growers, we grow what. Is the most in demand. And so there are plenty of others that are out there all the time. and surface flies over flies, all sorts of parasitoids that, that are naturally occurring and are always there creating that bio balance.
And they're actually supporting the beneficial insects. That are already out there and give you an example with regard to biological flight control, we rear a variety of species of fly. Parasitoids they're little tiny insects that parasitize the pupil state at the fly. And so every people from I've got, horses and pets to, feed lots, dairies, poultry, swine facilities, and every major racetrack in the country use our little insects for biological fly control and people say, how does that work?
R w we're just aren't we. You going to put something that's not naturally occurring in the answers? No, they're already there. And that's exactly how biological control works. The beneficial insects, like lady bird, beetles in green lacewings and a trick, a gram of wasps and predatory mites.
They're already there. All we're going to do is we're just adding additional amounts to what's already naturally occurring. Curry to break down the cycle. so they're all working together. The commercially available, beneficial insects and predatory mites and the ones that are out there naturally.
So it's, it is actually a. we've got a universe of things going on, where we're growing, whether it's small comb gardener, or whether it's a very large farmer. Those are that is going on all the time.
Diego: [00:22:04] Is there any worry? For importing in predatory insects that could prey upon localized insect species that are part of a local ecosystem.
Sheri Frey: [00:22:18] Now that's a very good question because, Yeah, it's not a farmer situation. What it normally has been in the past. So like Jeff Vinny's beetles, for example, they were brought in, from Asia obviously by their name. And they are non-native. And as a result, they're a pest now.
generally we're as far as I know, we can't, we don't bring in a quote unquote beneficial, although we have in the past with Asian Ladybird beetle where some, a buddy it's USDA had a brilliant idea that they would bring in. Asian lady bird beetles so that, they could, work against aphids and whatnot.
And what they found is that while the lady bird beetle does it does work against ACE it's in particular, what they don't go to the mountains. They have a completely different, biology then. Say heap Davia conversions, which is the poster child that we talk about, the lady bird beetle that people are familiar with.
and what they do is they go into people's homes in the winter time and they cause a lot of. Stinky mess. And so while they're not, it's not hurting a plant ecosystem, it's really bothersome for people in the winter time. So there have been situations where insects have been brought in on purpose and also come across that are, pest because when we think of a Ladybird beetle, we don't think of it as a pest.
We think of it as a beneficial insect, but it became and is a past because we help people, deal with it all the time. That as far as, a beneficial, remember the benefit. Officials are there the anti-mafia Gus guys, they eat the they're the ones that are either parasitizing or feeding on, or doing a combination of both, which is a parasitoid.
and they, they're when they're done with their, with the eating their food, they just move on. and the other thing is really important is that beneficials versus PEs, their life lifecycle is really different. A PESTEL. Outbreed many more times more quickly than the beneficial, the beneficials have never eradicated or taken over any past because they don't breed as quickly.
Beneficials on the average art, we're talking a generation of maybe a one to three months and on the, past we're talking, days. So I remember because those insects are there for other animals to eat. So they're part of the food chain, just like we are.
Diego: [00:24:47] it's just more incentive to keep in pollinator and beneficial habitat, hedge rows, those types of things, of mixed species to allow these insects to come in and hang around longer than our annual vegetables might want to hang around.
And you're in Arizona, I'm in Southern California. There's a lot of people listening to this in more warmer climates. The South. Is it safe to assume that predatory insects are more active in warmer client emits for a longer portion of the year? Just because you're not getting that winter cycling or do most of these insects fall a.
Active hibernation or breeding pattern that rotates seasonally. So for me in California, should I expect to see lady bugs most of the year or praying mantids most of the year where somebody in Portland, Maine, obviously isn't going to see them in December, but they're probably going to see them in July.
Sheri Frey: [00:25:47] Absolutely. So we pretty much have what we refer to as three main latitudes in the country. So a is the South, the middle part is B and C is the Northern parts. And what we notice is that insects generally start to, become an issue in the Southern latitudes, starting around the third week of February.
Give or take and they are, they continue to be a PEs, or continue to be pesty, until about October 1st part of November. Now we, we've noticed over the, over the years that they start sooner now and they last longer because of the heat. Now, if we're talking the be latitude, they start around the third week of March and they go till about September.
And of course we're talking. See, they start around the fourth. maybe the third or fourth week of April or the first week of may and they, and sooner. And so of course, and I'm only talking about outdoor growing. If we're talking about indoor growing, that's a whole other thing because, that's, we have a different, environment is being altered all the time, so yes.
And so what we know is that. If we're talking biological flight control, fly start to be a pest, in here in Arizona and Southern California, not the second or third week of February. And of course there are situations that, change, for example, if we have a cold snap, then you know, they're not gonna, they're not flying around there.
They know to stay, put it insects. Remember they hibernate, Depending on the type of insect. So you have talked about your pragmatic that's, that's, the egg mass was laid, in, at the end of spring and it goes through the winter. And then when you have what we call enough heat units, then those beneficial insects and the pests begin to hatch.
And so you need about, three days consecutively of about 40 degree temperature. The ambient. Temperature, w very, isn't very hot for insects to begin to start hatching and breeding, believe it or not. one of the things that's really important for your audience is to understand that way before it actually gets warm.
Those guys are out there already breeding doing their thing. And that's why it's so important to have a way to monitor traps are just the best way with a few exceptions, because, Mites, for example, you can't, they don't, they're not attracted to traps. But worm pests are, and so are all the other insect pests.
so it's great for you to be able to look at something and go, Oh my goodness, I've already had, I already have something happening. Most people think that it starts happening much later, but three days consecutively, a 40 degree temperature as the high, not as the coolest. So isn't that amazing?
Diego: [00:28:46] Yeah. So really in warmer climates, you could get that happening year round. if you're never seeing. Highs below 40. That cycles happening more.
Sheri Frey: [00:28:56] Absolutely. And that's what we have people that are on programs all year round, especially the, the perennial crops, w where, they grow all year round.
they never stop it now. they reduce. Yes. and it depends on, obviously if you're growth, let's just talk about asparagus for a second. Cause that's a perennial crop it's grown in, In a hot climate, the largest asparagus grower in the world who we work with is in, is located in Mexico about four and a half hours from Tucson where I live.
And, they have, Oh, something like 50,000 hectares and unfortunately it's all conventional. but my point is that the. The way asparagus grows as is, it's a great, big, huge burn most of the year. And then it gets chopped down and the shoots come up and that happens in.
for this part of the world in the Northern hemisphere, in Caborca Mexico, they harvest starting in November and then they'd harvest all the way until may when it gets too hot. And so then the asparagus starts to become a big burn. And so my point though, is that at all stages, they have to use beneficial insects and organisms.
And things, because even though they're not cutting the shoots, they're still have to protect the plant. And the, and they're on programs all year round. The other largest growing spot on the planet is Peru. And it's an interesting thing. If you look at the globe, exactly. They are equal, distant from the equator where, so when we, when Mexico stops growing asparagus, That's when or stops cutting it.
That's when Peru starts cutting, which is interesting. And we work with these guys, so had a lot of experience with them and with their pests. So that's so what I'm saying is if you're growing something is perennial, even though it may, you may have already harvested it's still growing.
And so it's still taking on pest issues, whether it's in the soil, soil past, most lepidopteran pests. Kept Caterpillar's worms. They fall into the ground and they pupate. And so we catch them when they're in their larval stages, using our beneficial nematodes. We are the largest provider of beneficial nematodes in this hemisphere.
And we are the only company that has an MRI, nematode. Which we're very proud of.
Diego: [00:31:23] Yeah, it is really cool. And just for certain terminologies, a couple of things that came up so far, and I wanted to make sure people understand and I fully understand predator versus parasite. What are the differences?
Sheri Frey: [00:31:36] So a predator is a, it feeds on the insect.
it's part of it's food. So we're talking like, we have generalist predators, like Ladybird beetles and assassin bugs and, green lacewings. And remember they're not just green lacewings or Brown lace. So these are all kinds of species of lacewing. Same thing goes with, with Ladybird beetles.
so just so we understand that, we're not talking about a Mon you know, we're talking about a huge universe of these beneficial insects of what's. We have taken just the easiest to rear the ones that are the most common, the ones that make the most sense for how to ship, because we're gonna talk about that, Understandably.
We are contortionists when it comes to shipping and packaging, because everything has to arrive alive and ready to go. so generalist, predator, feasts on everything like assassin bugs. So we are the only producer of assassin, bugs, Ellis Bernardi in the world. And so we're very proud of that because when.
beneficial, Ladybird beetles are not available because they are not reared in an insectory. They're actually collected in the mountains with those guys. Go back into hibernation. Then what happens is we have, we have to look at other, out other, choices. So as I said, green lacewing assassin bugs.
Now there are generalist predators. And there are specific predators, so they only go for certain types of insects and they're feeding on them. And I'll give you an example, for example, critical Amos mantra we'll area, which is Amelie bug predator. while it will feed on other insects, if it has no other food, its primary food source is, are mealy bugs.
And that's what we call, that is a specific. predator, then we have an MPR. For example, we also have mite predators and there's certain light predators that are only going to feed on a particular type of mic. They're not going to feed on another mic, but their theaters. So then we have parasites are, for example, an eighth, third parasite.
What it does is it hatches out. have a mummy. So it hatches out as an adult. And what it does is it finds an aphid and it actually has it's sticks it's it has a little stinger and it sticks a stinger inside the aphid and it lays its eggs inside the aphid, those eggs that becomes then the host.
And so those eggs stay inside of that parasite. Developing until they finally hatch out into a, an adult. And so that adds how parasites work and then you have parasitoids, which are combinations of predator and parasite. So they actually feed on the past and they lay their eggs inside of the they're, the larval or the pupil stage of the pest.
And then as those eggs, Develop, they feed on that developing host and that's how the host gets killed. So that's a parasitoid. So we have predators that are generalists. We have pair of predators that are specific to insects or mites. We also have, Paris parasites, which lay their eggs inside of another insect.
Or I might. And we also have parasitoids, which do both, they feed on the host and they use the host for reproduction, by the way, most insects, when they hatch out, they, the first thing they do is they have a little romance and the men insects, the boy insects, the males they die and most male insects don't even have a mouth.
Diego: [00:35:37] Fascinating how nature has evolved to this. And one thing I want to do is hit on some of these more popular ones. So if we start with the generalist predators, Assassin bugs. You guys them. Why would somebody think about getting these?
Sheri Frey: [00:35:53] So Sasin bugs are generalist predators, and so they'll feed, they'll eat everything.
And many of the General's predators also eat each other. So if you have a green lacewings and they've taken care of all of your efforts might strip sweat flies, guess what? They're going to eat each other. Same thing for almost all the generalists, they will they'll, Hey, you're looking pretty delicious.
There's nothing else out there to eat. So each other, it was just something you have to be careful about when you're rearing a generalist, because you think about it. if they, if you don't give them enough food, all of a sudden you've just lost your key. You've lost your culture cause they just ate each other up.
So mantas do the same thing. you, and by the way, not all mantas, eat the head of the male. just a few you do that. I just want you to know anyway. so yeah. so the assassin bugs are quite remarkable because they'll, they feed on everything they are, they're just downright.
voracious. They love to kill just for the sake of killing. And they'll just about take down anything. They even take down flies, which is quite remarkable.
Diego: [00:37:03] I'm reading some of the descriptions on the website here. So assassin bugs, active and high temperatures and low humidities. All life stages are predatory.
High reproduction rates without specific food sources, two month lifespan things people need to think about, hot summers, humid summers. Would you approach that differently with a just hot but dry heat? So you have Arizona versus Atlanta. Different bugs, given the humidity difference?
Sheri Frey: [00:37:33] Absolutely.
For the most part, I'll tell you why it mainly has to do with my predators. they are very specific to the type of environment that they prefer, gallon dramas. for example, oxidant talus, it say might predator for high heat. So areas where they have really high heat and low humidity, you would want to use that particular, my predator.
I want to make it clear too, that we have, an amazing team of bio-control experts that anybody is welcomed. The call, whether you purchase anything or not, we're there to help people as part of our service people call and they go, I've never done this before. I've got this particular issue.
how do I deal with it? And they'll take you step by step by step so that you have a personally tailored program for your particular situation, whether you have one tomato plant or whether you're growing now, 50,000 hectares of, Grapes. it doesn't matter. we're there to help going back to your question, on the Mike predators, we have, a funeral catalog.
When you're looking at the mic control, for example, in the description, it will tell you the temperature, for example, are I'm , the temperatures are moderate, say 40 to a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, the relative humidity high, if in higher tamps. And as opposed to say, what I was talking about before with the, let's say the, The L w let's talk about longer piece Missoula as long a piece, which is also my press editor.
it's known for quick cutting skills in warmer and very dry conditions. So it's temperature 65 to 90 and the relative humidity, 40 to 60%. So in the mite world, we have learned that. and because my predators have become more and more available because they're really easy to rear compared to some of the other insects or mites, predators, the drought they're, they are very specific.
And when we first started the business, we only had one. My predator fight is Celia persimilis, which is the spider mites, but now we have. Like 20 varieties. which has been really exciting, same thing for beneficial nematodes. When we first started out, there was only one species Stein, Steiner name, a copper Copsey.
And now we have five species and genera since species of a beneficial nematodes. and there are many out there, but these are the ones that are being reared, that cover the most for the best coverage, depending on what your particular, pestos.
Diego: [00:40:04] And thinking about the lifespan of some of these.
So assassin bugs two months, lifespan means I release them. I can assume that as long as there's a food source for them, they could be going after prey for two months. And it's towards the end of that time, I would either need to look for another solution. Re-introduce more. We're assuming those are breeding out, but how, when it comes to a life span of two months, looking at some of these insects, assassin bugs, green lace wigs lady bugs is two months, a long time.
Is it the short time?
Sheri Frey: [00:40:41] It's actually a long time. those guys have a long lifespan. they're big. They get very large. Actually some of the insects that we sell are teeny can barely see them. for example, tree. So grandma wasps, which are Paris toys, they, their, their function is they get rid of warm PEs.
So as it, as you see the MOTS come in and the butterflies to all the Lepidoptera, sometimes we'd go, Oh, look at those beautiful little white butterflies. those are probably cabbage moths. And what happens is they lay eggs trick. The grandma come in and they parasitize those eggs. They are also feeding on the eggs while they're growing inside that egg.
And That's why they're called parasitoids as well. And they hatch out and they start the cycle over and over assuming there's a food source. the way that, the way it works is. They're not in an adult stage generally for two months, the assassins are, and they're laying eggs and they're going through their cycle as well.
But most beneficials only have at the very most a month. And so they come in, they parasitize, but the reason that you are going to, you're going to be adding additional insects. Diego every seven to 10 days is because you want to catch all the. The elevating stages. it's not like everybody starts and ends at the same time.
There's, everybody's starting different stages. And so you're wanting, you want to be sure that you've put out enough beneficial insects to break down that reproductive cycle. So when you see the first light of moths come in to your particular growing situation, that's when you know, and that's why you have traps.
so say that you have a. Tomato hormone issue on your tomatoes in come the MOTS and you would have, ideally you'd have a trap that would have a lure in it. For tomato horn worm. And so the minute you start to see the adults, that get attracted by the lore, into the trap, and then he gets stuck on the trap.
Then you go, okay, I've got the, I've got the issue coming up. So now I'm going to put out my trick of grandma. So the trick of grandma, they arrive and you begin to release them. And you do it every seven to 10 days because the flight of MOTS continues to come in. They come in on waves. so the first day, the second day, third day, and they're continuing to lay eggs.
So that's why we always want to support, each, session of. A mod with something right behind it so that you can never let that pass. Get out of control. If we can use TRICA Gramma for four Leben doctors' past, most were in past, then. You'll never see the worms. The ideally that would be the thing because every worm gets parasitized.
Ideally. if a worm doesn't get parasitized, then you're going to have to look at other things like, bacillus, thuringiensis, Kris stocky, or, an insecticide that is either a systemic that you apply to the plant. And when the worm eats the plant, then it kills it or something that affects it.
as you spray it onto the past, it kills the past. that's how, that's why we have to be supporting over and over again, because there's so many different stages of the pest coming in.
Diego: [00:43:55] Let's say somebody has an infestation that they can visibly see. Aphids, I think is a common one. I see some plants covered in aphids.
I release a predatory insect and let's say I release it over. A period of weeks in these stages at the end, should I expect to see zero aphids or just less than when I started? Because I think this is where some people question buying predatory insects is they like, I released them, but I still see them.
What is the realistic expectation of the results you should get by putting predatory insects out there?
Sheri Frey: [00:44:39] It depends. I've seen eradication. I, but I generally tell people you're not, we're not talking eradication. We're generally talking about bio balance. There's always going to be a few pests out there and that's okay.
You can live with a few. but I've been in Mexico and pecan groves and with a yellow aphid infestation, that was so heavy that the, honeydew. Looked on the ground, looked like the ground was wet and we applied a gallon of lady bird beetles per 10 acres. I came back a week later. You couldn't find a single if nothing.
It was amazing. Now, I've seen at work also with, I'm trying to think of what the pest is called. they're tunnelers and, and, Melons. And, we put out, digress, Visalia, which is a, A parasite and, walked 10 acres, putting them out and come back a week later and not find a single pest.
it's very interesting. but I. I tell people, look, if you're using a biological fly control program, you're always going to have a few flies, but there are people that say, I don't have a single fly. It depends because everybody has a different management threshold of what they're willing to.
if we're talking horses, for example, some people are much better at cleaning the manure. Some people don't have, neighbor, same thing for farming. if you have a conventional grower, next, you say you're growing organic melons in right next to you is cotton.
the minute that they come in with a defoliant, all of the pests that are over there, say the white flies in particular are going to come flying off. Over to your place, so it, a lot of it has to do with neighbors. A lot of it has to do with how you manage, what kind of water you're using, what your pH is What your soil is like, if you have wins one day, you're fine.
The next day you had a big wind. And, we see this a lot in the Southeastern part of the United States, where they have hurricanes, everything's going fine. They have the hurricane. And the next thing they know, they have all these pests that have come in from the Caribbean. there are many factors.
but what we do know is this is that biological control does work. the better we manage it, the more conscientious we are, the more realistic about our expectations. Everybody has a different way of growing.
Diego: [00:46:57] And one of the things I see a lot of market gardeners doing is they are covering crops with insect netting.
So I think that's a legitimate strategy as part of an IPM protocol. You're just keeping the insects from reaching the crop. And this is a lot done with cabbage maggots for people growing turnips. If somebody was to introduce a Parris, a date or a predator, And they had a cabbage maggot problem. Do you think you could eliminate the netting?
Which why I asked is because it's another step it's cumbersome, it's a pain to deal with. It would be great. If an insect could just do that work for you.
Sheri Frey: [00:47:43] I like your question. One of the things that people don't think about is in particular, when we talk about maggots larvae, LEPA doctors' password pass is that eventually not a hundred percent, but almost a hundred percent that worm, that magnet goes in the soil.
That's part of his life cycle. So they hatch out as adults. They go around just putting their eggs on everything, the eggs metamorphose into larvae, the larvae are the ones that are feeding, doing all the damage. And at some point they drop onto the soil into the soil where they burn burrow in and they pupate.
So how do you get rid of that? How do you stop that cycle? the easiest way to do it is using beneficial nematodes. beneficial nematodes are microscopic non segmented war arms. They are in the earthworm family. And what they do is they are parasites of any type of pasts that has a soil dwelling stage in the soil.
So not only are we talking we're in past, but we're talking. Maggots of all types, including fly maggots. we are talking, for example, on apples, Apple maggots, codling moths, any kind of pass that will eventually drop off into the soil. If you use beneficial nematodes in the soil, they will kill them.
And break that cycle. And so in bio-control it's not a one-time thing. it's programmatic. So you do it three times a year, maybe four times a year. And you break that cycle very well with some caveats, because if you're doing it and your neighbor's not doing it, you're going to get some drifts.
You're going to have, tests coming from other places, but, at least work on your own situation. So the way these nematodes work is they're, as I said, they're microscopic you can't see them with the naked eye. you should have. Look at them under a microscope. And what do they look like? they look like little translucent, thread, like worms really tiny.
And, some. Some are shaped like a C and some are shaped more open, like a straight, but they're not all straight, they're moving. So they're like undulating back and forth to me. They look like the way under the water, see fans going back and forth and back and forth. So it's very interesting that it's hypnotic the way they move and there they go in and you apply them with what.
Sure super easy right into the drip system. Or you can use a watering can, or you can use any device. You want to water them into the soil and like all insects and organisms. You apply these things at the end of the day at the end of the day, B Y. Cause they're phototoxic beneficials. they have to have a place just like us.
They need food, water, and warm place to be. And so when you're going to apply them, you're going to do it at the end of the day or else really early in the morning so that they can get out of cover from predators. They can get a drink. You always want to give everybody a D you want to apply them after you've watered so that there's plenty of food, water, and of course, a place to hide out.
So the nematodes go into the soil. Or on top of the soil and they burrow down looking for their host. So with the cabbage maggot they'll they would bore into the ground. They'd be, they're watered into the ground through drip, as I said, or any other way, you want to do it. And they find their host.
So once inside they, they find the host, they go inside of the host either through the mouth, the spirituals or the anus, and, depending on the gender and species of the past that some don't some just go right through the walls, but most of them have to have a body opening. And so once they're inside, they do a very strange thing.
They vomit inside of the parasite. I'm not making this up. And that causes a hormonal reaction with th with that parasitic microscopic nematode to start reproduce the, and so what happens is, as it reproduces, is it visceral? What's the. The host. So in this case, it would be the maggot in the soil that is dropped off of the plant after it's fed.
And it literally this rates it from the inside out and kills it. Then the parasite, that's the nematode, the beneficial nematode. It moves to the next host and the next host and the next host in the next host. So you break the cycle and you do it three to three times a year, four times a year, depending on what your, what crop you're growing.
and that breaks the cycle. As I said, if you have, neighbors. That are taking care of their pasts. you may still see, other pests coming over, but remember if we can keep that bricks up and sex will not suck to a perforated plant. So because it can't expel gases. And I want to make sure for the listening audience, that when I talking about a beneficial nematode, I'm talking about a nematode that is Magus and Tomo.
We've talked about it before. As opposed to a pest nematode like mellow to GYN species that is say root knot, nematode, that creates these on roots and plants. The, these guys do not hurt plants. They hurt testes insects. They do not hurt earthworms. They are completely harmless to us. They only. Per day on pests in the soil.
So ants, so flies, maggots worms. It's amazing.
Diego: [00:53:26] Similar to the above ground predators. Do you guys have any evidence showing that they likely naturalized as well in the soil? And if you're putting some in the soil, some are going to stay around and breed and they'll establish each other so effectively, you're a knockout relating your
Sheri Frey: [00:53:47] soil.
As long as they have a host Diego, they will be there reproducing that if they run out of hosts, they die because they don't have food, they just don't have their food. So they have to have that. and that they do, They're very, they do last a long time, what'll happen is if you, we don't have any more cabbage, man.
I get, that's it, we're done. And then if you get the infestation again, you have to start all over, which is why you do these applications prophylactically. You want to put them out, whether you see the pest or not, that's the way it works. And, they will winter over in a pupil stage. and.
If there is a host, when the soil temperature goes up, then they will, they can, they continue the process. that's how it works. Everybody has a time, a timeout when it gets cold and they all go into hibernation and die applause. And that's when. Everything stops. And that's why you don't see insects flown around.
You don't have pests. But then once the ambient temperature, as I said before, three days, consecutive of 40 degree as a high Fahrenheit, that's when they start, everything starts all over again. And so we recommend applying it a toads in the spring, in the summer and absolutely in the fall. That's when you catch everything, nematodes will not.
Parasitize a pupa. So it has to, you have to catch it before it actually pupate in the soil, the pest.
Diego: [00:55:22] if we're switching over the above ground predators here, going back to something you said earlier. So level of infestation, tell me if I'm wrong here. If it's out of control, meaning somebody identified some volume of pass per some given of area that's above a certain threshold.
Then probably the best first step is to use some sort of insecticide to reduce that population and then introduce a predatory insect versus going straight after an out of control problem with predatory,
Sheri Frey: [00:56:00] it is never recommended to use any kind of a beneficial insect or predator. When you have a high infestation, it's not going to work.
It just won't work, that you, they cannot catch up fast enough now, for some of the cannabis growers, when we're talking very high cash value crops, where they have very high rate of return, they can probably do that. but most growers are not able to do that. They are going to be looking at costs.
And so it's a whole process that then you, as the grower, who's orchestrating you don't, you have to make those decisions based on what you're growing. they'll hire you if you have high cash value crop ups like that, or that's that are on the sit on your table, tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce and cabbage, as opposed to sauerkraut or, Applesauce or, jellies or, which are processed and you can't see if they have any insect damage on more than a shapen, or they're not exactly the right color or whatever.
it makes a difference because if you're, if your product has to be absolutely caused me to logically beautiful, you're going to have more inputs most likely than if you're a raising grower, you're or a wine grower for that matter.
Diego: [00:57:22] Thinking of this then, cause cost is a big factor here.
I think a lot of worry, people have around beneficials and bringing in predatory insects is going to bring them in and open the box and they're going to go wherever they go. And let's say I'm growing field crops. This is not releasing them in a sealed tunnel. So they're going to fly wherever they fly.
And. They're going to find pests. And those pests might be at my neighbors. They might be over in the woods or the meadow beside me, but they might not necessarily be on the crops that I need them to target. So that's probably a common question you get when people think about buying. These insects is how do I ensure that what I'm buying targets, what I am trying to target, not whatever it's own nature says, Oh, I want this.
Sheri Frey: [00:58:19] So as long as they, those beneficials have a food source. Food water and a nice place to hang out. They're going to stay put the minute they run out of food, they're going to get up in the Airstream and they're going to go someplace else. So they find more food. That's just the way it works and which is why we are always recommending.
A program in bio biological control will not work without a program. You can't put them out one time and that's it. You have to continue to add to the population that's out there, reproducing, feeding, reproducing, feeding, and it's okay. It'd be prophylactic. Many of our growers start. They know when they're going to, when they start applying insects prior to the infestation.
Diego: [00:59:05] Okay, let's do go through an example here then. So somebody's determined. Assassin bugs are the correct predatory insect for a pest they want to control, and then they have a crop in front of them, which is infested by some sort of pest. I have my assassin bugs that have been sent to me. What's the process for me getting the bugs that have came to me onto the past.
Of the effected crop. So I want to specifically apply them in a targeted area. How do I do that?
Sheri Frey: [00:59:42] Two questions here? I want to address number one is, why you would want to apply insects prior to infestation, which is, if you take thrips for example, thrips do a ton of damage and they do it before, before you can, even before you even found them, they've already done the dam.
That you've ruined your crop. And what I, so that's why you start applying generalists and threat predators, perhaps predators early so that you can catch them before they do their damage, because once they've done it, they've done it. but. Here's the way it works. you've called in and you said I've got a, I have a leaf hopper issue and on my grapes, and we will say, let's get you some, zealous Bernardi's and assassin bugs, because those guys love anything that jumps.
and you say, yeah, and I've got a few aphids. I noticed a few white flies could. Okay. let's go, let's get you some assassins right now. your box arrives, you opened it up. What do you see? You see a, what looks like a container that hummus would come in. So it's plastic container. It has a very special lid with a special little holes, so that there's breathability and then you would open it up and inside is a, would be cardboard, little pieces of cardboard that you actually pull apart.
And you. You can hang on the plant. There's actually a little, like a little perf so that you can hang the eggs right on, on, on the brand of the plant and those eggs then will hatch. And assassins, when they had to they're very tiny. And so they get bigger beers. So they go through the, they go through metamorphosis, they start off as a Nance and then they get bigger beer until they're actually adults, but they feed the entire time from the time that they're middle guys to the time that they're big guys.
And so you go from. Depending on your level of infestation, say you just have a minor infestation. so maybe you would go, you put one per bed. or if you're, if you are expecting you have a little bit, more of an infestation than just a beginning infestation, but it's not too much of an infestation that you can't use.
The assassin bugs, then you're going to add, you'll put more out depending. and so it's pretty simple. Now all these beneficials it come in a variety of different sizes and shapes and stages of development. And We also ship adults. So you can with assassin bugs, you can have eggs and you can have adults that are ready to go.
And so do you see them crawling around in the container? You open up the lid and you tap the lid because they are hanging out on the lid and you just tap them out onto the plants. So you're sprinkling them on the plant. Yes as adults and they start to think they go into the foliage and they start looking for the pests and, you go out and you check and pretty soon everything is, died down.
And you may still have a few pests, like I said, but generally speaking, it's your infestation, is in control and you're having the results that you're looking for and you're going to use. as I mentioned, you'll use the insects in places where either smaller amounts, because you have to adjust the beginning infestation, larger mask.
Cause you have to have a little bit more of an infestation. And just beginning, as I said before, though, not so much that you have to knock down and if you have hotspots, you can add more into the hotspots. The other way, Diego is where you come in and you go, Oh my God, I've got way too much here when we were knocked down.
And then we bring in the beneficials
Diego: [01:03:31] in terms of some of these insects, like green lace wigs, you mentioned that you can buy them as eggs, larvae or adults. Why would someone want to look at one versus the other.
Sheri Frey: [01:03:44] So application can be really tricky. For example, I work with, we work with very large avocado growers.
in California, I was a big trees. And, it, it would imagine, you have a, an say thrips in the station. It would be really hard to. get up in a tree and put eggs all over the tree. So we've had to be very creative about application. So with regard to green lacewings you would release adults, the adult females, they know where to go.
They fly right up into the tree. They lay their eggs, right? Where the infestation is the eggs metamorphose into larvae and they go to work for you. So that's an example of. Why you would want to use adults? A lot of people in greenhouses love adults too, because they're releasing them all the time and those adults, they know where to go.
The females know where to go. So there, so you're, you have your own insectory so to speak, working for you in a different way than say, if you're growing tomatoes, and you all you're going to do is you're going to receive a little vial that has, some corncob grits in it, as it's a packing material and you're going to shake little eggs just onto the foliage of the plants.
And when those eggs hatch and the larvae, they will go to work for you. So it it depends on the situation larvae, a lot of. Growers like the larvae, because they're all ready to go. You don't have to wait for the eggs to hatch. You don't have to wait for them to, ha she didn't into the larvae.
So there's a delay when you apply eggs, as opposed to with larvae, your everything's rare. It's rare Indigo it's, they're voracious. They're going to eat everything in sight. The other thing is with, when you have big trees, orchards, it makes. Extense to, to put, to, add the adults and any flying insect for that matter, like assassins can fly up, like lady bird beetles can fly up anything.
And it's, that's an adult that will fly up to take care of the past. we developed all sorts of really interesting ways of how you apply insects and other, and predators because it's, you have to be very. facilitative and how you approach the PEs. You have male to female ratios that are so important.
Light is important. Humidity is important during the true pressure is important. if you start having, too much humidity and storms, they don't, they won't reproduce, they not doing it, sorry. It's not, I'm not in the mood for romance, So there's so many things you have to be looking at all the time.
Diego: [01:06:31] Out here in Southern California, we have Argentina and aunts, and a lot of times they are associated with aphids effectively, farming them further nectar.
Sheri Frey: [01:06:41] Is
Diego: [01:06:42] this a case where somebody would be better off targeting the ant than the aphid? Because the answer really manipulating the aphids, or do you want to try and solve both?
Sheri Frey: [01:06:57] Both and answer, they're perfect. They're they are absolute tenders of, of insects that have a lot of, mildew because I'm sorry, not honey. You rather sorry. like white flies. If you have white flies, you're always going to have that sticky stuff on your plants and that's called honeydew.
And, It's you've got frass and honeydew from the, insects dedicating. And but the ants love that and so they love to eat it. And so they actually come in and protect the pest there. You see this a lot with mealy bug infestations, too, where they'll come in and there's, they have a symbiotic room.
Relationship. And so they're protecting them and looking out for them because they're providing food for them. And then eventually that turns that a honeydew will turn into a city mold. And the plant's really in trouble then. So yes, you do both. And ants are easy to control with boric acid, diatomaceous earth, beneficial nematodes.
There were all kinds of, wonderful products that use botanicals, any kind of, essential oil products that we, that are, that we carry as well, because you definitely want to work on the ants. That's re very important, because they do help proper help with the propagation of, Of aphids and those kinds of pests that produce the honeydew
Diego: [01:08:24] lot of great information in this one.
I want to thank you for coming on and sharing your knowledge, people that want to learn more about your company and, or have problems on their farm. And they want to talk to somebody about identifying and solving these problems. What's the best next step.
Sheri Frey: [01:08:41] I would definitely suggest going for a website.
Our Bucko hyphen organics.com. That's a R B I C O hyphened organics with an s.com. And we cater to anybody from small to large, all sizes of growers, greenhouses, homes, pets, horses, whatever, where you might have. And we've got the whole start to finish a line of products. That are reasonably priced and hopefully, we'll help you with the success that you're wanting.
And thank you so much, Diego for having me on the show. It, you are amazing. I've really.
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