So you’ve set up your aquaponics system; fish are swimming happily, plants are growing nicely, but then you see them… a bunch of gross little bugs munching away on your plants. How are you going to get rid of these little creatures, and keep them away?!
It’s time for some aquaponic pest control!
First things first: understand the meaning of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Environmental Protection Agency defines it as “an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combo of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.”
Methods to control pests need to be organic when it comes to aquaponics systems- you cannot do anything that is going to harm the fish.
After watching a couple videos, I learned a few things about prevention, observation, and intervention
First of all, know where you’re growing and what to watch out for. It’s easiest to deal with pests if you are growing in a controlled environment such as a greenhouse. Ensure that it is as sealed as possible; put insect screening over vents, seal corners and the floor. Also be cautious of what you are bringing into the greenhouse- watch out for bugs on plants that you bring in, and try to keep your pets outside.
Next is observing your plants. Inspect the leaves for bugs; they like to be under leaves and in small crevices. Use a magnifying glass to check for the really tiny ones, and check different areas at different times. I will explain below the most common pests found in aquaponics systems, and signs to look for showing their presence.
When it comes to intervening, only use organic solutions; you don’t want to harm the fish or your plants with bug balms and sprays. You can use organic spray solutions and insecticidal soap, but use them with discretion- anything you use will get to the fish and can coat the plants. If you find bugs on one of your plants, and the plant is small enough, use the washing method. Take the plant out, don’t worry- the roots should stay in a compact ball- and wash the plant off in one of your tanks. Leave the plant in the water for about 15 minutes; you will kill the bugs and feed your fish at the same time!
The five most common pests include :
- six legged insects that range from green to red to nearly transparent. These little pests suck the juices out of the plant and can also transmit viruses or diseases to the plant. They also secrete honeydew which can cause mold problems. Some species are herded by ants- they try and collect the honeydew the aphids secrete. If you see ants around your plants, have a closer look- there may be aphids as well. If you have an aphid problem, ladybugs can help. Ladybugs consume over 5000 aphids in their lifetime. You can order them in bulk- if you do so you should store them in the refrigerator, mix a spray bottle with 1 part flat soda and one part distilled water, and then mist them with the solution. The spray will give them an energy boost, rehydrate them, and temporarily glue their wings shut so they don’t fly away immediately.
- Spider Mites
- eight-legged mites that are often found on ornamental and veggie plants and are usually not detectable until webbing occurs. They suck plant juices out killing the plant cells; this appears as tiny yellow speckling or stippling on the leaf surface. They prefer hot and dry conditions. Phytoseuilus persimilis, a type of mite, can help take care of the problem.
- small oblong winged insects known for their tendency to transmit over 20 plant viruses. The adults are attracted to bright colored flowers in yellow, pink and blue. To get rid of them use blue sticky tape. Beware: they are able to produce rapidly. They scrape at plant tissue then suck up the juices; this causes patterns of silvery or bronze patches. Thrips can be controlled by predatory mites.
- Fungus Gnats
- the adults look similar to fruit flies and do not cause too much damage to plants, the damage is caused by the larvae which feed on the root hairs. To get rid of them try lowering the water beds or using sticky cards. Potatoes help when surveying for larvae.
- these little creatures will simply eat your plants. Spray them with BT variety kustaki, or handpick if there aren’t too many and feed them to your fish!
So there you have it, everything you need to know about those annoying little pests attacking your aquaponics system; just always remember to be organic when it comes to getting rid of them!
How do you get rid of pests that are destroying your plants?