Almost every week, one of our Grow Great Fruit members gets in touch saying something along the lines of “help, there’s a bug on my fruit tree!”
Back before we were certified organic we took a different approach to insects, treating them mostly with fear and suspicion, and we aimed to eradicate them, mainly with terrible toxic sprays.
We didn’t understand just how much damage we were doing, and it was an important part of our journey to learn to appreciate them.
There are so many hundreds of thousands of different insects that identifying a specific bug can be difficult (particularly as we’re fruit growers, not entomologists).
This is a close-up of a macadamia flower from our macadamia tree, and if you look closely there are 3 different insects hiding in there (admittedly, the one in the middle is very hard to see!).
We use one key factor as our guide to how we respond to any insects in the orchard – do we have evidence that they’re damaging either the fruit or the trees?
We reckon it’s so important to learn how to really LOOK at your fruit trees (rather than have a knee-jerk reaction to seeing bugs on them) that we’ve written a short course called “Learn to Diagnose Your Fruit Trees“.
If your monitoring shows that yes, the insects are doing damage, then the next step is to get to know as much about the insect as possible, particularly its life cycle, looking for a weak point where you can interfere in such a way as to stop the damage occurring, and this is one of the strategies we explain in the next course that’s relevant to the topic, Protect Fruit Trees from Pesky Pests.
We take this approach because it would be a huge challenge to try to learn about every insect in the garden, their interactions and whether they’re pests or predators.
Insects, birds, plants and even the microbes in the soil have complex relationships that we’ll never begin to understand in our lifetime, but what we’ve observed over many years is that as long as there is lots of diversity in the garden, populations tend to keep each other in check and become more balanced over time.
Our experience on the farm has been that as long as we encourage LOTS of biodiversity, and take measures to protect our fruit without interfering with nature too much, we usually manage to live in harmony with all the critters in our orchard.
We prefer this to the “scorched earth” approach of killing everything that moves because, honestly, it’s very easy to do more harm than good once you start killing things in the garden.