Gardening With Laurie: Beneficial insects important to natural balance

Most of us in this area have been very fortunate to have received some really good amounts of rain the last couple of weeks. In fact, some have actually received more than enough - 8 to 9 inches in some spots. With that much rain at one time, many gardeners are losing crops because of too much water. But I haven't heard anyone complain about the rains. We all know how badly we need it.

Rainfall can many times bring out certain types of insects. Unfortunately, it's usually the pests. Keep a close watch on all your plants. It is much easier to control a few pests before they become an infestation.

Releasing beneficial insects is a common practice among organic gardeners. Releasing good insects can be a big help to eliminate bad bugs.

Some gardeners think that a single release of beneficial insects is all they have to do to establish a fair amount of the good guys. It is a bit more complicated than that.

To create and sustain a good-sized population of insects, there are certain requirements that need to be met. For example, good or bad insects will both require an uninterrupted food supply (plants for pests to eat and pests for beneficials to eat).

In addition, there will need to be a water source, shelter, breeding habitat and more. Removing any of these important elements will cause the population to collapse.

In the case of beneficial insects, once they eliminate the pest population, their main food source, the majority of them will move on to find other food sources or die. If the pests were to return, the numbers of good insects would be low at best. It would again take time for any of the remaining good insects to build up another population. Nature would then only build the population to a level of balance and nothing more. Nature always works to keep things balanced.

Nature will always respond to an imbalance by introducing good or bad insects or diseases to create balance. Gardeners, on the other hand, usually want totally pest-free gardens.

Beneficial insects are very important to the natural balance that nature requires, but so are pest insects. Releasing beneficial insects is needed at times, but nature will always bring conditions back into balance with time.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.