Natural enemies and native pollinators are beneficial insects

Homeowners and gardeners are encouraged to join MSU Extension May 3, 2014, in Saginaw for a workshop on how to identify and manage beneficial insects.

Beneficial insects can be seen as natural enemies and pollinators. Natural enemies can be introduced in our gardens and around our homes to provide biological control for pests through predation and parasitism. Examples include ladybugs, nematodes and some wasps. Nematodes are microscopic “worms” that can’t move very far on their own, but can be tank-mixed with water and sprayed like conventional chemicals. Parasitic wasps and predatory mites can be purchased as eggs and strategically placed around greenhouses to control aphids and plant-feeding mites. Even larger insects like green lacewings and lady beetles can be mass-reared and purchased for releasing in a larger environment.

Pollinators come in many shapes and sizes. While many organisms perform the role of pollinator, bees are the most critical. Some are domesticated, but far more are wild native bees that live independently without a colony. You can manage these wild native bees by making the environment more favorable to them. One way is to provide insecticide-free flowers for them to forage on. Another way is to provide a nesting habitat. Certain bees like nesting in naturally occurring holes caused by wood-boring insects, woodpecker holes or broken hollow grass-stems. Others take matters into their own hands and dig tunnels for themselves in the soil or in wood. Bumble bees are attracted to the cover and space of empty animal burrows, woodpiles or blown-down tree root structures. Leaving certain tree snags and soil surfaces undisturbed will encourage their residency. You can also fabricate some nesting habitats for these wild native bees.

Dan Keane of the Saginaw Conservation District and I, Ben Phillips of Michigan State University Extension, are putting on a workshop May 3, 2014, to educate homeowners and gardeners on how to identify and manage these beneficial insects. MSU entomology graduate student Joe Tourtois will get participants started with their very own beneficial nematode colony with household materials. Attendees will also have the opportunity to observe and learn about the unique lifecycle of the bumble bee and how they help pollinate in greenhouses, gardens and farms. You’ll see an observation hive from a national bumble bee supplier and learn how to encourage the residency of wild bumble bees in a hive of your own with a limited number of starter boxes available to purchase.

The Natural Enemies and Bumble Bees workshop will take place at the Abele’s Greenhouse and Garden Center in Saginaw, Mich. Registration is $20 per individual and $30 per couple through the Saginaw Conservation District.

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