Category Archives: Garden Pests

It’s That Time Again: Tent Caterpillars

 

Just some thoughts on the Tent caterpillars that are migrating from their nests…We’ve been heading into the upswing of their 7 to 9 (or so) year cycle. It’s amazing how many there can be. Some of us who have lived here a long time have been able to observe these cycles. Remember 1985? Cars were skidding on the streets because of the thickness of their bodies.

 

It helps to know some fun facts about our creepy crawly relatives and the meaningful place they hold in the bio-system. Their host plant is the Red Alder (called “red” because of how they look in the spring when the buds are swelling.) In the years when the Tent caterpillars’ numbers are large, they all but completely defoliate the alders. This opens up the forest floor to sun, rain and air circulation.

 

The fallen insect frass, aka caterpillar poop, provides rich nutrient to the baby conifer seedlings and saplings. When you hear the raining sound of something that isn’t rain, know that it is just Mama Nature fertilizing her garden. During this time the conifers enjoy a huge growth spurt and are able to get a boost past the understory brush. The Alder trees have the role of preparing the ground for the royalty of the great coniferous forest, primarily Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock. They take nitrogen out of the air and deposit it into the soil (magic, right?) If you pull a baby Alder seedling from the ground and look at the roots, you can see the little nitrogen nodules.

 

When the caterpillars leave their nests, they eat and eat and eat. It becomes our problem when they leave the Alder forest and head into our gardens. Their favorite exotic treats seem to be the leaves of apple and cherry trees and roses. Any leafy thing in your veggie garden will also do. At Bayview Farm & Garden, we can show you how to protect your garden plants in a non-toxic way.

To read the rest of this article, head to the Bayview Farm and Garden Expert Articles section.

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Aphids in the Pacific Northwest

When we consider the natural relationship between all living things, we realize the foundational importance of the insect world. In one square yard of soil and plants in the average Pacific Northwest garden, there can be approximately 2,000 different types of insects functioning as part of a highly complex web of life. From a purely ecological point of view, there is no such thing as a “pest”.

However, when the leaves and buds of our rose bushes are twisted and deformed or our ripening cabbage has layers of aphid stuffing between the leaves, we are inclined to interrupt this natural progression of things.

There are more than 4,000 different aphid species in the world. Each separate species is specific to certain host plants. Aphids are soft-bodied, sucking insects that are an important food crop for many beneficial insects. It is good to have some aphids in the garden, and they are easily controlled when the number get too high or they take up residence where you do not want them. To learn more about aphids and natural controls, visit our Expert Advice Article: The Aphids are in Bloom!

Ladybug Snacking on Aphids

Photo Credit:

Ladybug Snacking on Aphids: By Greyson Orlando (Own work) GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons