Most aquaponics gardeners face plant-munching pests in their aquaponics vegetables from time to time, and usually, these are not that big of a deal. However, sometimes pest numbers rise to an unacceptable level that can cause damage to the plants. As many aquaponics gardeners become more and more aware of the potential harm or exposure of the synthetic chemical pesticides, many wants to skip this method and instead turn to other pest control methods.
So far, the most useful and effective technique in controlling pests in aquaponics is by preventing them from nibbling on your plants. Preventing and controlling pests in your aquaponics garden is easier. But if you failed to prevent pests from entering your garden, you can control them by identifying the pests and employ strategies in managing them without the use of chemicals.
You can prevent insects or pests from eating your plants by using physical barriers. You can keep crawling pests off by putting a weed mat on the ground around your grow bed. Weed mat keeps the weeds away from the side of your grow bed, and if you have at least three to four feet of open space around your grow bed, it will be difficult for pests to move from the weeds to your plants.
Common Aquaponics Pests and How to Control Them
Aquaponics pests can cause some severe damage to your plants, flowers, and fruits. But to solve this problem, we must identify these pests first. Some common pests found in aquaponics gardens are:
Sometimes called plant lice, aphids are small insects that suck the sap from plant leaves, twigs, and stems. While aphids don't cause significant damage, they spread quickly, damaging crops and spreading diseases.
Aphids feed on plant fluids, damaging leaves, and carrying plant diseases with them, and because they reproduce rapidly, they are difficult to expect and control. So it is important that as soon as you notice them in your aquaponics garden, you need to control them immediately.
Aphids Control Option
1. Remove Physically
This is applicable for minor aphid infestations, where it is possible to remove the aphids from the plants physically. Wear a pair of gardening gloves and brush or pinch the pests from the stems and leaves. You can also prune the affected stalks or branches if the infestation is only contained to a few stalks or branches. Then drop the pruned stalks or branches into soapy water to kill the aphids.
2. Beneficial Insects
Sometimes, using beneficial insects can prevent or control the growth of aphids. Ladybug beetles, hover fly larvae, and green lacewings are well-known beneficial insects. Planting herbs such as garlic, clover, mint, dill, catnip, and oregano in your aquaponics garden can help attract these beneficial insects into your garden naturally. Still, you can also purchase them from gardening and farming suppliers.
Caterpillars are the larvae of moths and butterflies. If left unchecked, caterpillars can damage crops, including vegetables and ornamental plants during the late spring through fall depending on your location. Most caterpillars can cause damage to plants by eating plant leaves and sometimes flowers.
Caterpillar Control Option
Regular inspections to your aquaponics garden can keep caterpillar invasion at bay. Always check the underside of your plant leaves and look for the tiny yellow eggs and wipe them before they hatch.
2. Exclusion Nets
You can pot all your caterpillar prone plants in a pod together and cover it with a fine net. The net will also protect your plants from possums. This method works well for leafy greens.
3. Organic Spray
You can use an organic spray to control caterpillars in your garden. Ask your local nursery or farming supplier for safety to use organic spray that won't affect the other beneficial insects in your aquaponics garden.
The tomato hornworm is one of the most destructive pests of tomato, pepper, potato, and eggplants in any garden. They can consume entire leaves, small stems, and chew pieces from fruits, and despite their large size, hornworms are often tricky to spot because of their protective coloring. Gardeners often find large areas where the feeding happened before they see these pests.
Tomato Hornworm Control Option
Because hornworms are large, most gardeners control them by handpicking. Hornworms are more easily seen during near dusk and dawn when they tend to feed on the exterior parts of the plants. Once picked from the plants, they are destroyed by dropping them in a bucket of soapy water.
2. Beneficial Insects
Lady beetles and green lacewings prey on tomato hornworms eggs, and Japanese paper wasps attack and feed on all sizes of hornworm larvae. Encourage wasps colonies near your aquaponic garden to protect your tomatoes from hornworms.
Usually found in warmer climates, mealybugs are soft-bodied, wingless insects that often appear as white cottony masses on leaves, stems, and fruits on plants. They feed by inserting their long sucking mouthparts into plants and drawing sap out of the tissue. When uncontrolled, mealybugs can cause leaf yellowing and curling.
Mealybugs Control Option
1. Light mealybugs infestations can be controlled by dabbing the insects with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Other Garden Pests and their effect on plants
- Grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and slugs chew on plant leaves, stem, and fruits.
- Aphids, mites, whiteflies, and leafhoppers suck plants into sap.
- Leafminers make tunnels on plant tissue.
- Fruit Flies lay eggs on plants tissue
- Ants carry Aphids, eat fruit and plant tissue, and transmit plant disease.
Beneficial Insects Control
Using beneficial insects that prey on plant-damaging pests in your aquaponic garden is the best method of organic pest control. Several insect varieties can be used in aquaponics, and you can naturally attract these beneficial insects by creating a habitat for them in your aquaponic garden. These beneficial insects can also be bought on garden or farming suppliers near you. These are some beneficial insects excellent in naturally controlling pests in your aquaponics garden.
Ladybugs are one of the most common beneficial insects in any garden and farms. They are a natural predator of pests and eat aphids, smaller beetles, caterpillars, and most insect eggs. Both adults and larvae of ladybugs work wonders in destroying garden pests.
Lacewing larvae eat aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, thrips, leafhoppers, whitefly larvae, a wide variety of moth eggs, and just about any other soft-bodied pest.
The larvae of tachinid fly eat caterpillars, cutworms, squash bugs, beetles, earwigs, and grasshoppers. These insects are also known as excellent pollinators because they generally prefer nectar and pollen.
In aquaponics, you can prevent and control pests from destroying your aquaponics plants without harming your fish. You can do this by avoiding pesticides and choosing on the natural pest control methods, but first and foremost, it is essential to prevent pests by regularly checking, planting pest-repelling plants, and using nets or traps.
The simplest way to keep pests from damaging your plants is by handpicking these pests or eliminating the infected parts of the plants. Using some beneficial insects will also help keep pests under control. Natural pesticides can also be another way to control pests. However, caution must be practiced in using any pesticides in your aquaponics garden because it might harm the fish.
Organic pest control in aquaponics may be time consuming, but it is the best way to produce healthy organic food for yourself, your family, and your community. Thank you for reading this article. For a more organic aquaponics system read our article "Alternative Fish Food In Aquaponics."