The natural predator method is widely known with gardeners who've had to deal with pests like aphids, caterpillars and slugs.
But your garden is actually the first tier of your home prone to a security breach. The same magnificent predatory bugs can actually be used against household pests, as a form of pest prevention. If they can't get past your garden, they can't go inside the house.
The enemy of your enemy is your best friend, right?
Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.
Step 1: Flea Control: Nematodes
Flea infestations are extremely susceptible to the natural predators method. Within days, you could reduce the flea population in your yard noticeably and in the case of this pest, it's really a numbers game.
Predator: Beneficial Nematodes
Your best chance against a flea infestation in your yard is the Steinernema carpocapsae nematode. It's a flea solution that is tough on the pest and elegant in its execution.
Strength: The strength of the flea-killer nematode is it targets the insects in their pre-adult, pupae, and larval stages, which amounts to over 95% of the entire population. It parasitizes inside the insect's body and once it's dead, it uses the body to reproduce in. What's important is it doesn't in any way affect humans, animals or beneficial insects. And the beauty of the plan? When all the fleas are gone, the nematodes die of starvation and degrade back into the earth. That means this is a self-limited pest control system that balances itself out once the pest problem has reached its solution.
How to use: You need two components - darkness and moist.
Mix the purchased nematodes with water and apply them around dawn or dusk using a watering can, hose or spray. The sun needs to be low, because these creatures are photo-phobic organisms.
To make sure your nematodes do the best work they can, conduct a little experiment first to determine the ratio of water to nematodes.
Place a small amount of food colouring in the hose end sprayer container that you will be using to make the application. Mix this with a specific amount of water of YOUR choosing, go out to the area you need to spray. Then walk and spray until the food colouring is gone. Eyeball what percentage of your area was covered – was it 10%, 25%, 50%?
Once you figure out how far that initial mix went you can easily do the maths to determine how much of the nematode package to use with each re-load.
If you have nematodes left over after the first round, just re-do the process and increase the mix rate of nematodes to water.
Also, temperature is crucial when it comes to this method. If you are going to store them inside a refrigerator, make that no more than 2 weeks at 42° F max. When applying, the air temperature should also be no lower than 45° F.
Step 2: Flea Control: Ladybirds and Fire Ants
The nematode is the number one choice in a battle with yard fleas, because it has been designed to target this particular pest. Nonetheless, you need all the help you can get.
Ladybugs are a recognized exterminator of fleas, and not only.
Strength: They are known for their healthy appetite of over 50 insects a day and soft bodies bugs like fleas are a typical course in their daily meal. That, along with their wide availability across local gardening shops, is their strength as an eligible garden warrior.
How to use: First slow their metabolism down by putting them in a refrigerator. Then, release them in evening hours in small groups after spraying the plants with water.
Do not release them in a garden that has recently been treated with pesticides!
If you'd like to attract ladybugs naturally, you should consider building an insect hotel. The biggest challenge with ladybirds is keeping them in your garden, so a ladybird box might come in quite handy.
Predator: Fire ants
Finally, fire ants are your wild card.
Strength: Despite getting rid of flea larvae effectively, they are not among the most welcome guests in anyone's garden. Often wrongly considered as pests, they really just have a bad reputation for being stinging insects, while doing some overall minor damage to crops. However, fire ants can come to your advantage in the form of making a good thing out of a bad situation.
How to use: If your garden is already a habitat for fire ants, consider limiting them to one area instead of removing them completely. Like we said, you need all the help you can get.
Step 3: Fly Control: Parasitic Wasps and Spiders
Flies also happen to be on the losing end of the bug wars, since they have determined and pest-specific natural enemies. There's an easy and efficient way to remove both fly larvae and adult flies.
Predator: Fly Parasite
You can probably guess by the name, this insect is not playing around. The Muscidifurax zaraptor fly parasite is actually a tiny wasp that targets pest fly pupae and gets rid of them efficiently.
Strength: The parasitic wasp removes flies before they become a problem. Female fly parasites deposit their eggs in fly pupae and the newborn warrior baby eats the insides. The best part? Fly parasites will actively search for pest flies only and are not a threat to anything else, including humans or animals.
How to use: Once purchased, fly parasites are best released in small portions and not all at once. For best results, do so over a short period of time and combine with other methods such as sanitation, waste management and trap setting for the adult flies.
It's most likely you don't have to do anything in order to attract spiders to your garden. They are on the job 24/7, ridding your property of flies and don't really need any of your help. The best you can do is not remove any spider webs from the outside of your home, because that's how you'll lose your ally.
Bonus predator: Carnivorous plants! If facing a fly infestation problem, a Venus fly trap might be just the perfect addition to the pest warriors in your garden.
Step 4: Cockroach Control: Parasitic Wasps, Beetles, Centipedes & Others
Ironically, the pest you'd probably most like to get rid of is the pest least vulnerable to natural pest control. At first glance, cockroaches have everything to their advantage - they have the numbers, the resilience, the adaptivity. But perhaps there might be a glimmer of hope in reducing their access to your garden, and therefore to your house.
The most effective (and yet not entirely sufficient) natural predators of cockroaches are parasitic wasps of the Evaniidae species, which use cockroach egg cases to hatch their larvae and therefore deprive the pests of reproduction.
There are many insects that are predators of adult cockroaches, such as beetles and house centipedes, yet they have nowhere near a success rate high enough to remove an entire population.
There are, however, cockroach predators outside of the insect kingdom that do make a difference. Birds and reptiles are known for eating, and most importantly, intimidating cockroaches. You can invite birds into your garden by placing a bird bath in your yard or garden strategically.
The Advantage of Biological Pest Control and Natural Predators
Despite half-humorously calling the process of biological pest control "bug wars", the natural predators method actually promotes quite the opposite. Introducing predatory insects into your garden improves balance and biodiversity. You let nature take control and simply reap the benefits!