Flower Seed Packs for Pest Management
A new report from the journal Environmental Entomology examines the claims of flower seed pack producers who market their products as natural pest management tools.
Organic gardeners can now choose from a variety of products at local nurseries or gardening centers to help them with pest management issues.
Beneficial insect seed products are one category of pest management products on the organic market today.
Seed pack companies have used an organic marketing campaign to promote products grouping seeds from plants and/or herbs attractive to beneficial insects. Use our product, the claims generally go, and the beneficial insects attracted to the flowers will help with pest control in your garden. The claims sound inviting to organic gardeners, who have long promoted the idea of using beneficial insects as one component of their pest management policy.
Sometimes pest management is a numbers game. The logic of the seed packet marketing campaign sounds simple. A team of North Carolina State University researches decided to test the logic. In a report called, "Insect Communities Associated with Beneficial Insect Habitat Plants in North Carolina", published by the journal Environmental Entomology 35(6): pp. 1541-1549 (2006) they state up front that there is little scientific research available to evaluate the validity of the marketing claims. They suggest their research be considered a first evaluation.
Their methodology consisted of using three separate commercial products and three native plants to serve as beneficial insect buffers in three different types of garden settings. The settings consisted of solanaceous crops (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant), brassica crops (mustards), and a corn and clover plot. Over a specific time of the growing season, they counted the number of insects in each of the test sites. When they evaluated the results they discovered that to some degree, all the commercial products and native plants did encourage the presence of beneficial insects. However, to some degree they all also encouraged the presence of pest insects in similar numbers.
In brief, the researchers suggest that the pest management numbers linked to beneficial insect seed products do not add up. If you are inviting as many pest as beneficial insects near your garden, you are not practicing effective pest management. They conclude by saying more research on the topic is needed.
The research suggests that organic gardeners should stay conservative in their pest management strategies. For example, if using beneficial insect plants has been a relatively successful pest management strategy for you thus far, you can supplement that technique by the direct introduction of beneficial insects into your garden.
As research on beneficial insect seed products continues, natural pest control results using plants will improve.© 2006-2013 Patricia A. Michaels