Got worms?

22 06 2013

I got worms… but not the kind you might expect

It seems as though there are too many garden pests these days. Aphids, stink bugs, cabbage loopers, and now even some of the larger garden pots have ants crawling through them. How do I control these pests without blowing up the yard, killing the neighbors dog, or destroying the last surviving bee hive on the planet?

It’s time that I gave nematodes a try. Nema what? Nematodes. Pronounced “NEEM-uh-toads”.

Oh… you mean like these?

Not at all. In fact nematode aren’t toads at all. They are microscopic worms that go after garden pests. But aren’t nematodes a bad thing? Wasn’t there an article somewhere talking about how much damage they cause to crops?

Well, think of nematodes as your neighbors. There are the good ones that invite you to a party or bake you a pie. There are the bad ones that lock people up in the attic for years. For our example, we’ll assume they are not one and the same. I don’t want to wake up after eating a slice of cherry pie, wearing nothing but my birthday suit and shackled to the wall. I learned my lesson the last time… What a lousy attic party… Eh, too soon…

Back to the worms. Yes, there are nematodes that attack crops. We will avoid those. In a plot twist that would make the best mystery writer proud, parasitic nematodes are actually beneficial. They are wonderful little assassins, with an interesting method of dispatching their victims. Apparently, they enter the target through various orifices (take your pick), then proceed to release a toxic bacteria that kills the target pest and turns it into a great food source and great place for the nematode to reproduce. “My oh my, Mrs Nema, I’ve heard that the dead grub school district is a great place to raise kids.”

I decided to try the Heterorhabditis bacteriophora nematodes, as they can get rid of the ant queens residing in my planters. The package I ordered was intended to cover 1600 square feet. The package that arrived was a plastic container the size of a small deck of cards. It looked like it contained several clumps of sawdust.nematode2

I followed the directions and applied them to my garden beds and planters. Actually, I sort of followed the directions. I did not mix them enough, I did not use a sprayer, I applied the entire package over less than 200 square feet. Let’s say that enthusiasm got the best of me.

I think I know the question you want answered- Did they work? They jury is out, but the results look promising. I will provide periodic updates on the pest population in my garden.


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