Insects Aplenty at Insectary Trial Farm Walk

25 March 2017

PPWCMA Regional Landcare Facilitator Karen Thomas hosted a farm walk yesterday of the ‘insectary’ trial she has established at Fielderberry Farm in Cockatoo.

A selection of native plants were established in August 2016 with the aim of attracting beneficial insects to help pollination and control unwelcome pest insects. The results have been great so far.

Insect populations have been monitored throughout spring and summer, recording parasitic wasps, ladybirds, spiders, predatory thrips and a variety of beetles as shown in photos taken at the farm walk.

The farm walk looked at:

  • which plants were growing well
  • which plants had flowered
  • matching flower times with the presence of beneficial insects
  • what had been observed with the insect monitoring
  • what had been learnt.

Everyone attending the farm walk indicated an increase in their knowledge and skills to plant native vegetation insectaries. One grower commented that they now looked at small vacant areas on their farm that they thought were ‘useless’ as an opportunity to plant with insectary plants.

Linda Thomson from Melbourne University has been analysing sticky traps. An example of the difference, even at this early stage of the insectary, is that 232 hover flies were counted in the new planting area in October 2016 compared with a total of 17 hover flies in the other 7 traps across the farm at the same time. Hover flies are great because their larvae feed on pests such as aphids.

With re-vegetation a part of good farm practice, incorporating native plants that provide excellent habitat for beneficial insects into re-vegetation projects will vastly improve conservation biological control as a crucial mechanism for good integrated pest management.

Developing and introducing methods, such as native vegetation insectariums which allow growers to better understand the diversity of beneficial insects on their farm, the services these insects provide, the timing of their abundance or critical life stages for bio-control alongside softer pesticide options, will mean growers can vastly improve their IPM strategies and environmental assurance.

A calendar of flowering native plants matched to peak abundance of beneficial and pest insects is available for farmers keen to develop their own insectary. A fact sheet about this trial will be produced in the near future and a video will be on YouTube soon.

This trial is part of Karen’s work promoting sustainable agriculture, funded through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme​.

Thanks to Alison Hoelzer​ for the cool photos of our insect friends.