A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column about the spread of integrated pest management in greenhouses. The almost universal response was: What about IPM at home?

Yes, it works. And more assistance exists than there was just a couple of weeks ago.

James Dill – who was one of the main sources for the greenhouse IPM column – sent me a link to a new IPM website for homeowners. It is pmo.umext.maine.edu/homeowner and I went to it and immediately blew a half-hour looking at pictures of pests that I have seen in the garden.

The site not only provides help for garden pests, but also for insects that you find in your home.

“The site provides identification not only for pests, but also for curiosities, like giant water bugs and other things,” he said.

And that helps, said Dill, because before you can use beneficial insects to control problems in the yard, you have to know what the pests are.

“You have to monitor your own situation,” he said. “You can check out your insects on the website, or you can send them to our lab, or if you have a digital camera you can just send us a picture of it.”

The samples should be sent to the Pest Management Office, University of Maine, Orono 04473-1295. You can print out a form clicking onto the Insect Diagnostic Lab bug on the homeowner IPM website or call 1-800-287-0279.

You can purchase many different bugs and other treatments that will help keep pests out of your gardens.

“The first thing to look for is nematodes, specifically Hb nematodes, with a big, long scientific name that you’ll never have to know,” Dill said. “Those work fairly well as an organic on white grubs.”

The white grubs in the lawn grow up to be, among other things, Japanese beetles, which feast on roses, raspberries, hops and other plants in your garden each year. In addition, the grubs can eat the roots of your grass, which makes it die in spots, and attract skunks, which dig up the lawn in an attempt to eat the grubs.

The nematodes – basically very small worms – come in a sponge that you put in water and then spread over the lawn.

Other biological controls that can be used are ladybugs to fight aphids.

“As an aside, I would tell you that probably by the strictest sense of the law you need a permit for these biocontrols, even if it is the ladybug that is found here,” Dill said. “But for the homeowner, no one is going to mind.”

One place Dill recommended for purchasing biocontrols is The Green Spot in Nottingham, N.H. The company website is greenmethods.com/website.

Mike Cherim, company director, said nematodes will work on the grubs into June and again later in the summer, so it is not too late to order them. But he also sells Sf nematodes and Sc nematodes.

“They (the Sc and Sf nematodes) work on fungus gnats and cutworms during the nighttime phase,” Cherim said. “The difference between nematodes is how deeply they go into the soil. The Hb cruises into the soil looking for grubs, while the Sc ambushes up top. A cutworm comes along and it will jump to it.”

The nematodes probably will have to be applied every year although some will survive the winter.

“It makes sense, because they depend on their prey,” Cherim said. “If they are effective, the prey has pretty much gone away, so they will go away, too.”

His company says ladybugs are effective on aphids, but some advertising for ladybugs implies they will do more than they probably do in practice.

“They will theoretically eat such things as spider mites, thrips and whitefly if they happen upon them, but they are really good at aphids,” he said.

Another biocontrol he sells is a moth-egg parasite called Trichogramma spp. Moths and butterflies are nice, but their worms eat a wide variety of crops.

“But you have to know what moth you are going after and when it hatches out for it to be effective,” he said. They are sent as ready-to-emerge grain-moth eggs, and include varieties that fight worms that damage cabbage crops, gypsy moths, tent caterpillars and so on.

But the key is knowing what pest you’re fighting, so you can use the right biological control.

“Google is your friend,” Cherim said. “You can find most of this online.”

Another thing he mentioned is that with biocontrols, you are not going to kill every one of the harmful insects. But if used properly, you are going to eliminate enough of them.

Dill said that another program in addition to his backyard IPM website is the Green Bug Education program.

The idea is to get box stores and any other place that sells pesticides to buy into the idea of educating consumers to use the right pesticides.

For example, he said, Bt is a popular organic pesticide used for caterpillars. But if you have sawfly larvae, it has no effect at all. And customers have to know that.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

[email protected]