Are there such things as good insects? It may not seem that way if the only ones you see are the ones invading your home.
At Zweber Farms we have many good insects that help us out on our farm everyday. There are three categories of beneficial insects we have hard at work on our farm; pollinators, decomposers and predators. They each perform different yet equally important roles that allow us to produce food.
The pollinators are insects such as domesticated and wild bees, flies, ants and many more. Some of the most visible pollinators are the bumble bees which we seem to have a very large population of. Bumble bees are rather mean sounding and looking because of their size but will rarely sting you. I had one fly up my pant leg last summer while moving fence. After carefully but quickly unbuttoning my pants in the middle of a pasture he was able to escape and flew off without stinging me! Our farm is a friendly place to pollinator insects due to the diversity of crops we grow. There is always something flowering in the summer. We also do not spray pesticides on our fields, organic or not, because we don’t want to harm the beneficial insects.
The decomposer group consists of insects such as flies and beetles. These insects are important because they work to decompose the manure left behind from the cows. Dung beetles and many different types of flies will quickly get to work on the fresh cowpie. Dung beetles burrow in the manure piles and actually bury the manure under ground. It is easy to tell that dung beetles are around because the cows manure piles will have lots of little holes in them from the beetles. There are many different flies, some good and some bad, that spend their time as larvae in cow pies. Our goal is to encourage the good flies to out-compete the bad ones.
Predator insects include wasps, flies and ladybugs that eat harmful insects. Many people complain about ladybugs and Asian beetles because of their tendency to infest our houses. But ladybugs help by eating aphids in our alfalfa fields. Parasitic wasps help control the population of bad flies by laying their eggs on the larvae of other flies. The larvae of the parasitic wasp eventually eat the flies larve. Yellow dung flies hang out on new cow pies waiting for smaller insects to prey on.
Harmful insects can cause a lot of damage on our farm. Some carry diseases like pink eye, others feed on our crops. Even though we don’t utilize a full-out Integrated Pest Management System, we are learning more everyday. If we eliminate places harmful insects like to breed and hang out (moist bedding, puddles, etc) and encourage beneficial insects we go a long way to create a place where we can live in a more symbiotic way with the nature around us.
Tim and Emily
Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, http://www.zweberfarms.com