There is a war happening on the farm. As the sun warms the earth and the creatures awaken, each organism begins their journey for reproductive superiority. The animals that we are most familiar with, the mammals, birds, and reptiles are working with relatively lengthy and protracted reproductive time lines. While this process it generally easy to witness, it is the less conspicuous insects that I share the farm with that I am particularly interested in observing. Along with the first moths of the season fluttering around the farm, I also noticed that the dung flies had returned to the manure patties on the pasture, and with the flies, so does my constant battle with pest management.
Integrated pest management (IPM) is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and non-target organisms, and the environment.
For the past few years I have been consulting with experts and developing techniques to keep the fly levels down on my property. The unique life cycle and the animal pressure that I am able to exert on my land makes a perfect breeding ground for face flies. Understanding the flies’ reproductive cycle, the predators that feed on them, and how the flies fit into the ecosystem as a whole, has led to some new non-toxic innovations. Non-discriminatory use of pesticides has been shown to have serious disadvantages when compared to IPM. This method of use can promote pesticide resistance, and since they do not target one type of insect, the chemicals may kill off the predatory fly populations and other beneficial insects that are already helping to control the fly population. So this year I am dealing with the problem proactively instead of reactively. In actuality I’ve been working on the program all winter by building over 30 blue bird houses and placing them around the pastures. The birds will raise multiple broods, and each blue bird or tree swallow that inhabits the house will eat many pounds of face flies throughout the season. I am also sure to promote and not disrupt the life cycle of beneficial insects on the pasture such as the golden dung fly or the dung beetles. The dung flies feed off the larva of face flies and the dung beetles limit the resources available for their reproductive mechanisms. This coming summer we are planning to build a couple of fly traps. One of the traps has been proven to catch all manner of flies and then one that is of my own design. Through these experiments I hope to gain a better understanding of the ways that I can use integrated pest management to increase productivity on all of our properties. In the meantime, I encourage you to think about the pest issues on your farm. Learn all that you can about that particular organism and think about ways that you can disrupt it’s unique lifestyle. Pay a visit the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program website which just so happens to be supported by Cornell University.