Fear and suspicion of insects

Almost every week, one of our Grow Great Fruit members gets in touch saying something along the lines of “help, there’s a bug on my fruit tree!”

Back before we were certified organic we took a different approach to insects, treating them mostly with fear and suspicion, and we aimed to eradicate them, mainly with terrible toxic sprays.

We didn’t understand just how much damage we were doing, and it was an important part of our journey to learn to appreciate them.

A cicada on a fruit tree
A cicada on a fruit tree

There are so many hundreds of thousands of different insects that identifying a specific bug can be difficult (particularly as we’re fruit growers, not entomologists).

A macadamia flower with insects (look carefully...)
A macadamia flower with insects (look carefully…)

This is a close-up of a macadamia flower from our macadamia tree, and if you look closely there are 3 different insects hiding in there (admittedly, the one in the middle is very hard to see!).

We use one key factor as our guide to how we respond to any insects in the orchard – do we have evidence that they’re damaging either the fruit or the trees?

A caterpillar on an apricot
A caterpillar on an apricot

We reckon it’s so important to learn how to really LOOK at your fruit trees (rather than have a knee-jerk reaction to seeing bugs on them) that we’ve written a short course called “Learn to Diagnose Your Fruit Trees“.

If your monitoring shows that yes, the insects are doing damage, then the next step is to get to know as much about the insect as possible, particularly its life cycle, looking for a weak point where you can interfere in such a way as to stop the damage occurring, and this is one of the strategies we explain in the next course that’s relevant to the topic, Protect Fruit Trees from Pesky Pests.

We take this approach because it would be a huge challenge to try to learn about every insect in the garden, their interactions and whether they’re pests or predators.

Insects, birds, plants and even the microbes in the soil have complex relationships that we’ll never begin to understand in our lifetime, but what we’ve observed over many years is that as long as there is lots of diversity in the garden, populations tend to keep each other in check and become more balanced over time.  

Fabulous green bug
Fabulous green bug

Our experience on the farm has been that as long as we encourage LOTS of biodiversity, and take measures to protect our fruit without interfering with nature too much, we usually manage to live in harmony with all the critters in our orchard.

We prefer this to the “scorched earth” approach of killing everything that moves because, honestly, it’s very easy to do more harm than good once you start killing things in the garden.

3 thoughts on “Fear and suspicion of insects”

  1. There’s heaps of apps online to help identify these insects- and there is also the opportunity to send your insect photo to a panel of experts that can help with ID and integrated pest management ideas if it’s a pest of concern. Check out extensionaus.com.au
    I’d like to add to report any pests of exotic status to Ag Vic and the reporting of Queensland Fruit Fly to the relevant local organisation in place to co-ordinate a response in the region. Area wide management does not need to use broad spectrum chemicals, and we are all in a better place (less reliant on chemistry) if QFF can be detected early and not allowed to spread too far!

    1. Thx for your post Bronwyn.
      Have been inundated with Fungus Gnats in my hothouse. Thousands and thousands of them everywhere. . Never seen them before or even knew they existed!
      Glad to have the site you mentioned . Thanks . Elle

    2. Thanks for the suggestion for reporting QFF and exotic pests Bron, and just a reminder for anyone in our region that there’s a QFF Emergency Outbreak Plan that advises where and how to report any QFF sightings (here’s the link to read the Plan: https://growgreatfruit.com/mydocs/HVFF-EOP-final.pdf?goal=0_8547c8e0ae-7a0213bc39-76022005&mc_cid=7a0213bc39&mc_eid=45407f83d0). But of course most of the insects most people will see in their gardens are harmless and part of the highly biodiverse environment we want to be encouraging. (And a word of caution re integrated pest management recommendations, as they often include chemical treatments that can inadvertantly do more harm than good).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *