One of the joys (and constant distractions) of working outside in the orchard are all the fascinating insects that live in our fruit trees. It might be our work space, but it’s their home.
Our journey into organic farming has revealed a rich and incredibly diverse world of insects that thrive in fruit trees and soil, and we’ve come to appreciate many of those we previously thought of as pests; each one plays a part in an intricate web of life that is well beyond our understanding.
Our policy these days is not to kill any insects in fruit trees, unless we’re positive it’s doing more harm than good, and only if we’re sure we can be very selective and not damage anything else. The first rule of farming (at least here on our farm) is: “First, do no harm!”
Earwigs are a terrible pest in stone fruit (see what they do to apricots above, and peaches below!), but they also eat woolly aphids, which are a pest in apples, so we’ve decided we can live with them.
The lifecycle of most insects unfolds throughout the season in the same way our fruit trees do, so in early Spring, we often come across scenes like this…much to the consternation of many a wwoofer! (If you’ve never heard of wwoofers, it stands for Willing Workers On Organic farms…check out our wwoofer photo gallery.)
Many of the insects we see are ‘beneficial predators’, which means they eat the bugs that eat our fruit, so we love ’em!
Of course most insects are predators in some way, but we only call them ‘beneficial’ if their diet happens to suit us (as if we are the most important part of the ecosystem!)
Of course none of us would be able to eat fruit or vegetables without insects, because we rely on them to pollinate the flowers that produce the fruit…
The web of life is so complex that some insects ‘farm’ the others, to ensure a reliable food source. In the bottom left hand corner of this photo you’ll see one of the many ants that were busily moving and protecting this colony of aphids, so they could enjoy eating the sweet honey type substance the aphids exude.
And occasionally we get a little reminder that if we’re not careful, we’re not always at the top of the food chain!