1
So what’s the difference between growing aquaponically and growing using moretraditional methods? There are many fewer pro...
However, I do think there are lessons that can be learned from the more traditionalgrowing methods, and one of them is the...
4
The best offense is a good defense – growing plants in a properly balanced system iskey, as well as monitoring the plants ...
The action threshold is simply the number of insects that when observed indicatethat action needs to be taken. This number...
In order to implement that action threshold concept, you have to be surveying yourgrowing area on a regular basis. The sur...
And it’s very important to keep records of your observations. I created this systemmap that was used to monitor insect pop...
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of IPM, let’s get to the most wanted list. Thislist is based primarily on my experienc...
Aphids are small six legged pear shaped soft bodied insects with distinctive ‘dual-exhaust’ tailpipes, called cornicles. T...
I first became acquainted with aphids in aquaponics when my partner Jesse called mein to take pictures of the aphid infest...
It’s hard to imagine anything causing plants in an aquaponics system to wilt, butwhen aphids get out of control, they can ...
Aphids have a huge advantage that most other species on the planet lack. Almost allaphids are female, and they don’t need ...
This photo, one of the few that I did not personally take, shows the live birth processthat aphids undergo.               ...
15
The lovely ladybug. Ladybugs can be ordered from many IPM/biocontrol companies.Most species are native to California, wher...
Ideally the ladybugs that you release will want to settle down and raise a family.                                        ...
When they do, you may notice ladybug eggs on your plants. Here are some, next to awinged aphid for size comparison.       ...
The eggs are incredibly tiny, and it’s easy to miss them!                                                            19
4-10 days later, tiny little ladybug larvae will hatch out of the eggs. At this stage theylook like tiny black ants, and i...
During their one year lifespan ladybugs consume over 5,000 aphids, and the majorityof those are consumed during the larval...
As they grow they shed their skin and get larger with more well defined orange spots.In this picture you can see a larvae ...
This is a photo of a larvae in one of the final stages, or instars, before pupating andbecoming an adult ladybug. This lar...
After four instar stages, the larva pupate, attaching themselves to a secure surface.3-10 days later, an adult ladybug eme...
All stages of the ladybug are valuable predators of aphids, and to a lesser degree,mites and other small pests.           ...
It may seem to take while, but give ladybugs a chance to work their magic against anaphid infestation and pretty soon you’...
27
28
Spider Mites are small (.3-.5mm) eight legged tiny mites (not insects) that arecommonly found on ornamental and vegetable ...
Luckily, there are some biocontrol options for those of us that have had to deal withspider mite infestations. There are s...
Here is a photo of the Phytoseiulus persimilis mites facing off against a spider mite.                                    ...
32
Thrips are small oblong winged insect pests that are known for their tendency totransmit over 20 plant viruses. The adults...
Thrips feed on plants with their rasping and sucking mouth parts. The thrips firstscrapes at the plant tissue, damaging ce...
35
Fungus gnats are tiny weak-flying fruit-fly like insects that are generally seen in adultform in aquaponic systems. The ad...
Control of fungus gnats can be accomplished using several techniques. If you have amedia filled bed, the first step is to ...
Caterpillar damage can be devastating, happening seemingly overnight. There areover 110,000 species of caterpillars, many ...
And as they grow larger, their appetite grows with them. One of the tell-tale signs ofcaterpillar infestation, other than ...
Some varieties of caterpillars are very interesting looking, like the tomato horn worm.                                   ...
Hornworms can grow to four inches in length.                                               41
Strategies for caterpillar infestations really vary depending on the situation. Sprayingwith BT variety kurstaki, commerci...
This brief introduction to IPM and commonly encountered insect pests is only onesmall step toward finding the best approac...
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Molly Stanek - Insect Control in Aquaponic Systems

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Originally given as a presentation at the 2011 International Aquaponics Association conference. Learn the unique challenges of pest management in aquaponic systems, the basics of Integrated Pest Management, and learn more about the 5 "most wanted" pests in aquaponics.

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Molly Stanek - Insect Control in Aquaponic Systems

  1. 1. 1
  2. 2. So what’s the difference between growing aquaponically and growing using moretraditional methods? There are many fewer products and practices that are friendlyto all three of the living organisms in your system, plants, fish and bacteria. 2
  3. 3. However, I do think there are lessons that can be learned from the more traditionalgrowing methods, and one of them is the concept and practice of Integrated PestManagement. This quote from the EPA website states incredibly clearly what IPM isall about. 3
  4. 4. 4
  5. 5. The best offense is a good defense – growing plants in a properly balanced system iskey, as well as monitoring the plants for nutrient deficiencies.In outdoor systems, there are fewer options available in terms of controlling thegrowing environment, but there are more opportunities to work within a largerecosystem and use that to your advantage; for example, providing attractive habitatsfor beneficial insects and wildlife.In indoor systems IPM focuses much more on environmental control, because oncean insect pest finds its way into a greenhouse or a building, there often are fewnatural enemies to keep the growing population in check. 5
  6. 6. The action threshold is simply the number of insects that when observed indicatethat action needs to be taken. This number will vary from growing environment togrowing environment, and from season to season. Recommendations can be foundin IPM literature for a variety of conditions and insects.For example, when I was monitoring aphid populations at Sweet Water Organics, wedecided that when we found more than 5-7 aphids per lettuce plant it was time totake action. 6
  7. 7. In order to implement that action threshold concept, you have to be surveying yourgrowing area on a regular basis. The survey tools and methods that you use will varygreatly depending on the scale of your growing operation.Yellow sticky traps can be very useful in monitoring insect species such as wingedaphids, fungus gnats, leafminers and others. Greenmethods.com (one of my favoriteresources for IPM topics) recommends 1 sticky trap for every 250-1000 square feetdepending on operation size. Blue colored sticky traps are also available which targetthrips.It’s also possible to just hand inspect plants for infestations, carefully looking at boththe top leaf surfaces and underneath.Once you have found the insects, it’s very helpful to have a lighted hand lens, such asthe one shown here, to identify what you’re looking at. 7
  8. 8. And it’s very important to keep records of your observations. I created this systemmap that was used to monitor insect populations during our weekly surveys. Astimes passes these records will become incredibly valuable, as it is very possible thatpatterns will be noted and preventative measures will be able to be implementedbefore problems occur.For example, if every spring aphids were noted in the top left part of the map, itwould suggest that there is either a way that aphids are coming into the growingenvironment if it’s in an indoor situation, or perhaps the environment is just perfectfor aphids and that’s why they have more success. In either case, aphid predatorscould be introduced before aphids even appear, to ‘nip the problem in the bud.’ 8
  9. 9. Now that we’ve gone over the basics of IPM, let’s get to the most wanted list. Thislist is based primarily on my experiences, although I did read over the Bug Battlethread on the Aquaponics Community site to gain some insight into what othergardeners have been experiencing as well. 9
  10. 10. Aphids are small six legged pear shaped soft bodied insects with distinctive ‘dual-exhaust’ tailpipes, called cornicles. There are over 4,000 species of aphids, 250 ofwhich are known as pests in agriculture. They come in many colors, from green tored to nearly transparent. They damage plants by inserting their stylet, or mouthtube, into the plant tissue and sucking the juices out of the plant. In doing so, theycan also transmit plant diseases and viruses. They also secrete a sugary substancecalled honeydew which can in turn cause sooty mold problems. Some aphid speciesare actually farmed by ants for their honeydew, so if you see ants around youraquaponics system make sure to look for aphids. 10
  11. 11. I first became acquainted with aphids in aquaponics when my partner Jesse called mein to take pictures of the aphid infestation that he had noted on his first couple ofvisits to Sweet Water Organics, before our employment there. We sent this picture toa university extension entomologist, and almost immediately heard back from them,saying that this was one of the most extreme problems they had ever seen. If youlook closely you can see at least 5 generations of aphids on one leaf of lettuce! 11
  12. 12. It’s hard to imagine anything causing plants in an aquaponics system to wilt, butwhen aphids get out of control, they can cause damage such as this. 12
  13. 13. Aphids have a huge advantage that most other species on the planet lack. Almost allaphids are female, and they don’t need males to reproduce. In fact, the majority ofthe time, aphids reproduce parthenogenetically – the females give birth to morefemales in a live birth process. In fact, some species actually have telescopinggenerations – a female aphid will have developing female offspring inside of her thatare already reproducing, meaning that the offspring are already born pregnant! Eachcycle takes 20-40 days, meaning that one aphid female can lead to thousands ofaphids in one growing season.There can also be sexual reproduction when food becomes scarce or when lightperiods change, leading to eggs that are able to withstand winter conditions to hatchin the spring. Winged aphids can be either sexually or asexually produced when foodbecomes scarce. 13
  14. 14. This photo, one of the few that I did not personally take, shows the live birth processthat aphids undergo. 14
  15. 15. 15
  16. 16. The lovely ladybug. Ladybugs can be ordered from many IPM/biocontrol companies.Most species are native to California, where they are gathered from the wild with bugvacuums every fall when they gather for hibernation.Adult ladybugs do eat aphids, but what you really want to happen when you releaseladybugs is something slightly different.(In this picture you can also see a large number of white flakes, which are from theaphids shedding skin as they grow. These flakes are an important thing to watch forin surveys.) 16
  17. 17. Ideally the ladybugs that you release will want to settle down and raise a family. 17
  18. 18. When they do, you may notice ladybug eggs on your plants. Here are some, next to awinged aphid for size comparison. 18
  19. 19. The eggs are incredibly tiny, and it’s easy to miss them! 19
  20. 20. 4-10 days later, tiny little ladybug larvae will hatch out of the eggs. At this stage theylook like tiny black ants, and it’s hard to believe that they can eat aphids that arebigger than they are! 20
  21. 21. During their one year lifespan ladybugs consume over 5,000 aphids, and the majorityof those are consumed during the larval stage. 21
  22. 22. As they grow they shed their skin and get larger with more well defined orange spots.In this picture you can see a larvae that has just crawled out of its old skin. The lightcolor of the body will darken slowly over several hours. 22
  23. 23. This is a photo of a larvae in one of the final stages, or instars, before pupating andbecoming an adult ladybug. This larvae seems particularly proud of the winged aphidit’s munching on, doesn’t it? 23
  24. 24. After four instar stages, the larva pupate, attaching themselves to a secure surface.3-10 days later, an adult ladybug emerges. 24
  25. 25. All stages of the ladybug are valuable predators of aphids, and to a lesser degree,mites and other small pests. 25
  26. 26. It may seem to take while, but give ladybugs a chance to work their magic against anaphid infestation and pretty soon you’ll see ladybug larvae in every stage all over theplace, and the tides will have turned in the bug battle. 26
  27. 27. 27
  28. 28. 28
  29. 29. Spider Mites are small (.3-.5mm) eight legged tiny mites (not insects) that arecommonly found on ornamental and vegetable plants. The most common species isthe “two spotted” spider mite, which has two dark dots that can seem to form asaddle.Because of their small size, they are usually not detected until webbing occurs. Thiswebbing is actually silk that the mites produce to provide a sheltered area for theireggs, as seen in this photo here.Spider mites cause damage by sucking plant juices out and killing plant cells. Thisdamage appears as tiny yellow speckling or stippling on the leaf surface. Despite howtiny they are, they can reproduce quickly and cause serious damage, even plantdeath.Spider mites are survivors, in the winter they take on a red form and can crawl intocracks and crevices in a structure only to emerge in the spring. They prefer hot anddry conditions. 29
  30. 30. Luckily, there are some biocontrol options for those of us that have had to deal withspider mite infestations. There are several notable options.Phytoseiulus persimilis, pictured here, are fierce predators that actively seek out anddestroy spider mite populations. They reproduce at a faster rate the spider mites andcan really bring a population under control.Other options include a mixture of three predatory mites as well as hypoaspis miles. 30
  31. 31. Here is a photo of the Phytoseiulus persimilis mites facing off against a spider mite. 31
  32. 32. 32
  33. 33. Thrips are small oblong winged insect pests that are known for their tendency totransmit over 20 plant viruses. The adults are attracted to brightly colored flowers inyellow, pink and blue. This allows means that blue sticky traps attract thripseffectively.Like aphids, thrips are capable of reproducing parthenogentically, with no malespresent. A female thrips slices plant tissue open and deposits her egg safely inside.Some species pupate in the soil or media before emerging as adults.Thrips are able to reproduce rapidly and can cause serious damage to crops. 33
  34. 34. Thrips feed on plants with their rasping and sucking mouth parts. The thrips firstscrapes at the plant tissue, damaging cells, and then once the wound is weeping,inserts its sucking stylet to draw up the juices. This causes a distinctive damagepattern of silvery or bronze patches, shown in this photo here. 34
  35. 35. 35
  36. 36. Fungus gnats are tiny weak-flying fruit-fly like insects that are generally seen in adultform in aquaponic systems. The adults are annoyance, but they don’t actuallydamage plants. The damage is caused by the worm-like larvae, which live in thegrowing media and are known to feed on root hairs, especially troublesome in youngseedlings.Adult image courtesy Flickr user EBKauai, larvae image courtesy Colorado StateUniversity Extension 36
  37. 37. Control of fungus gnats can be accomplished using several techniques. If you have amedia filled bed, the first step is to lower the level that your water fills to at least 2”below the surface of the media.BT variety israelensis, commonly available as Mosquito Dunks, can be applied as apowder (pound up the dunks in a paper bag with a hammer) and then watered intothe media surface. Sticky cards can be used to capture significant numbers of adults,preventing them from reproducing. Parasitic nematodes are available which willcontrol larval stages, as are mites that seek out larvae within the media.When surveying for larvae, placing small chunks of potatoes on the surface of yourmedia and checking them once per week is a recommended practice. 37
  38. 38. Caterpillar damage can be devastating, happening seemingly overnight. There areover 110,000 species of caterpillars, many are unique to a geographic area, althougheveryone most likely has some in their neighborhood that will eat the plants that wegrow in our aquaponics systems.Even in their youngest stages, they eat an astounding amount of plant material.Because of this, if you notice any damage it’s best to shift your scouting to a dailypractice. 38
  39. 39. And as they grow larger, their appetite grows with them. One of the tell-tale signs ofcaterpillar infestation, other than the lack of leaves on any of your plants, are thedroppings that are left behind, called frass. 39
  40. 40. Some varieties of caterpillars are very interesting looking, like the tomato horn worm. 40
  41. 41. Hornworms can grow to four inches in length. 41
  42. 42. Strategies for caterpillar infestations really vary depending on the situation. Sprayingwith BT variety kurstaki, commercially available as Dipel is highly recommended. Afungal mycoinsecticide, Beauveria bassiana, offers another potential solution.Hand picking of caterpillars can be effective if the scale of the infestation is smallenough. Some growers feed the little buggers to their fish. Spined soldier bugs mayprovide some measure of control as well.Since some of the species of caterpillars commonly encountered hatch from eggs laiddirectly onto the plants by flying moths or butterflies, the best prevention may be theuse of lightweight floating row covers over susceptible plants. These non-woventranslucent fabrics let in the majority of light and air, but prevent insects fromreaching plant surfaces. We have successfully used them in both indoor and outdoorsettings. 42
  43. 43. This brief introduction to IPM and commonly encountered insect pests is only onesmall step toward finding the best approach for dealing with unwanted insect pests inyour aquaponics system. Bugs are everywhere (as you can see if you look carefully atthis picture) and we might as well learn ways of co-existing with them as much aspossible, using the least toxic methods of control and preserving as much life aspossible. 43

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