Pros and cons of biological pest control

Two ladybirds on a leaf

A conservatory or orangery is a perfect place to cultivate a thriving indoor oasis. The temperature inside in either hot or cold months can be cleverly controlled with heating, shades, blinds and fans. Humidity in the summer months can be kept at bay with smart ventilation systems, creating optimum air circulation.

With the right mix of perennials, plants, flowers, fruit trees, herbs and other foliage, the specialised care of conservatory plants can sometimes seem daunting. For many plants however, the biggest threat comes not from the climate, but from pests. The modern way to treat this threat is, counter-intuitively, more pests and biological control.

The scientific explanation of biological control reads:

“Biological control is an environmentally sound and effective means of reducing or mitigating pests and pest effects through the use of natural enemies” 

It has been used in China since the 3rd century when ants were sold to control citrus plant pests. Pesticides are not recommended for conservatory plants as conservatories are often used as playrooms, offices, home gym and other areas where people are consistently present. Spraying pesticides in such close proximity to where people are is a definite no-no!

Biological control does seem the more obvious, less harmful way of ensuring your conservatory plants are kept healthy and in regular bloom. With most things in life however there are some downsides.

Disadvantages

  1. Remember this is nature and as much as you think you can, you can’t control an enemy let loose in an ecosystem. It may well change its path and begin attacking your plants instead of it’s anticipated target.
  2. It’s a slower process than pesticides, which obtain instant results.
  3. It’s impossible to wipe out the entire population of pests as then the predators would die with no food. Therefore the biological control can only reduce the number of harmful pests.
  4. It may end up being a lot more costly than chemicals as the initial stages of biological control is very much trial and error. It can take time to determine the correct ratio of predators to pests.
  5. For some people no matter how effective biological control is, sitting in your conservatory beside a whole host of plants teeming with predators would somewhat hinder your relaxation – even if those predators were keeping pests at bay.

Advantages

Luckily there are many advantages:

  1. Biological control is a very specific science and 99% of the time the predator will concentrate its efforts on the intended pest. With no overspill, as sometimes occurs with chemical spraying, fruit and flowers will remain untouched and safe to consume or enjoy.
  2. Natural predators introduced to plants are capable of sustaining themselves, thereby requiring very little effort to ensure the system continues successfully.
  3. Biological control may be expensive at the beginning when predators are introduced to an environment, but over time it can prove extremely cost effective. It’s a once only setup fee that can sustain itself due to its self-perpetuating nature.

Amongst all the pros and cons it’s worth considering that the most important advantage is the outcome. Biological control, the introduction of specific predators to rid plants of pests definitely works! For advice on conservatories or orangeries give one of our experts a call or get some ideas here.

[Photo by RonBerg] Tags: , ,