A sacrificial christmas in extreme closeup

Here’s some Christmas baubles for you!

Actually, they’re Spider Mites filmed with my new digital microscope. As I learn more about microscopy, the videos and pics will improve, so bear with me! The new microscope has added so much more depth to my understanding of the dance of predator and prey in our garden ecosystem.

These mites were filmed living on one of my sacrificial Solanum nigrum plants. Sacrificial plants (no, they don’t have to be virgins) are a great way to monitor and control your pests. All you do is leave one or two of a batch of plants untreated when you apply your favourite pest control method.

They will quickly become infested with whatever’s around and as they become damaged and weak, will attract even more pests because, thinking ecologically, unless they’re in plague numbers and competing for very limited resources, pests are here to remove the sick and weak plants.

Observe your sacrificial plants too for signs of garden predators. I’m not talking about that guy in a raincoat who hangs out by the front fence, but rather the insect predators such as the Ladybird Beetles who were too fast for me to film! Predators are usually quick and aggressive so at this stage, getting one on film is proving tricky…

Once you see predators around, destroy your sacrificial plants (yes, you’ll take out a few predators but their presence indicates that they’re already in your garden) and the pests thereon.

It’s a challenging form of pest control. As you observe the buildup of pests, it’s tempting to pull out the plants immediately but persevere and observe. I’ve learned heaps about the balance of things by using this technique.

When you know that predators are present, you can ease off on your regular pest control routine for that kind of plant because it will kill off the predators too. Do this and you’ll see great results in the way of healthier plants, less poisons, less expense and best of all, less labour! Hooray!

Happy Christmas too!

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