How are people tackling the bugs that find our systems?  I've been using a combination of beneficial insects (mainly ladybugs) and spraying with insecticidal soap when I have to...but I worry about the effect that using too much of that might have on the fish.  If a plant is pretty small (lettuces, greens, beans, peppers) and is pretty bug infested I'll take it out of the media and let it soak in the fish tank for about 15 minutes. the bugs drown, and the fish seem to love them.

I know some people use neem oil with success.  What are the downsides?  What else do you guys use?

Also, my most buggy plants are salad greens and peppers.  They've stayed totally off my herbs, broccoli, and tomatoes.  What have other's experience been with this?  Any hypothesis as to why?  Travis thinks it has something to do with nitrogen levels...

Tags: aphids, aquaponics, bugs, insecticidal_soap, insects, neem

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Aloha,
There are several organically approved pesticides that use natural occurring micro-organisms to kill bugs. This is what I use on my farm. The first is Dipel for caterpillars (Bacillus thuringiensis )and the second is BOTANIGARD®, for small insects (Beauveria bassiana). Both of these organic pesticides rely on micro-organisms to attack specific bugs and are inert to everything else. They are approved for use up to day of consumption as the active ingredients only harm bugs, not humans.Please research them!
These will NOT harm fish if there is enough over-spray to get into the water.
Chris Smith
Thanks, Chris. I'll check them out.

Chris Smith said:
Aloha,
There are several organically approved pesticides that use natural occurring micro-organisms to kill bugs. This is what I use on my farm. The first is Dipel for caterpillars (Bacillus thuringiensis )and the second is BOTANIGARD®, for small insects (Beauveria bassiana). Both of these organic pesticides rely on micro-organisms to attack specific bugs and are inert to everything else. They are approved for use up to day of consumption as the active ingredients only harm bugs, not humans.Please research them!
These will NOT harm fish if there is enough over-spray to get into the water.
Chris Smith
I'm doing similar things in my greenhouse. I get a shipment of beneficial insects every month. In my system, Tomatoes are my Nemesis, especially when they are smaller and close to the ground or media. I spray them off with Water periodically. When it gets out of control, I do a lot of pruning. Without the tomatoes, the other plants stay under control. Many varieties of lettuce (but not all) get aphids when the tomatoes are around. My Peppers had a problem, but the beneficial insects cured them. European cucumbers are bug free in my system, also I have two Zucchini plants and have had zero bug problems with them. When I tried Beans, they were pest prone. My carrots don't have bug problems, but I have to watch out for slugs., Beets and Rosemary have been pest free.

Fungus Gnats are always around, they don't do any real damage, they are just annoying. I use yellow sticky pads to catch them as well as a monthly treatment of beneficial nematodes into the potted plants and wetter areas of the grow beds.

One spot treatment method that has worked well for me is a 50/50 mix of water and rubbing alcohol, with a tablespoon of neem oil mixed in a spray bottle. I only use this for runaway bug populations as it will kill the beneficial as well.

There are pictures of pests and some other treatments I have tried on my personal aquaponic web site here: http://www.utahap.com/Utah_Aquaponic_System_Pest_Management.htm

What have others found? Are bugs less a problem outdoors where you have more natural predators, or harder because you have less control over what gets on your plants?
I have had a problem with cabbage worms lately. They eat my lettuce as I have no cabbage. I have been looking for worm droppings and then I look for the worm and kill it. If you have a lot of systems this is a problem. I have also started growing marigolds amongst the lettuce. The plants got huge and are starting to bloom.. I have had a lot less problems with the worms. I plan to build a cover like Chris has in Kona. I have already bought the mosquito netting to cover the troughs with. Mahalo Chris for your great pictures. I now know how to build the cover to the troughs.. Another bug I have encountered lately which brought back childhood memories. I don't know its scientific name but as a kid we called them tomato worms. They are as big as a cigar and have what looks like a tail. I realized I should have taken a picture. I have had a few aphids. I just rub them off. On my citrus trees in the ground I use water with soap and olive oil but I wasn't sure what effect the soap would have on the fish. If I find a badly affected plant I will move it to a hospital tank until I rid it of the aphids. Chris is right about the biological pesticides. I used Dipel for year for my dirt gardens. It shouldn't bother the fish at all. Chris where do you find these products in Hawaii. Since I moved back in 98 I have looked for them but It is difficult to find them.
I have used the liquid form of BT Thuricide (I don't know where to get dipel here) on plants in my system with no ill effects to Catfish or Tilapia. Granted, I was spraying the plants not dumping it into the system.

I would avoid or be very careful with any soaps or oils around plants in an AP system, both of those act as suffocants and if enough of them get into the water to coat a fish's gills, they will have difficulty getting the dissolved oxygen they need and death becomes likely. Soap and oil can be very effective against pest bugs that breath through their skin but would also be very effective at killing fish and bacteria too if much were allowed to drip or pour into an AP system.
Aloha Raychel,
I got Dipel from BEI Hawaii. They sell fertilizers and pesticides for ag and golf courses. You can also get it from www.hydro-gardens.com. They also have Botaniguard which woks similar to dipel but for small insects.
Chris

Raychel A Watkins said:
I have had a problem with cabbage worms lately. They eat my lettuce as I have no cabbage. I have been looking for worm droppings and then I look for the worm and kill it. If you have a lot of systems this is a problem. I have also started growing marigolds amongst the lettuce. The plants got huge and are starting to bloom.. I have had a lot less problems with the worms. I plan to build a cover like Chris has in Kona. I have already bought the mosquito netting to cover the troughs with. Mahalo Chris for your great pictures. I now know how to build the cover to the troughs.. Another bug I have encountered lately which brought back childhood memories. I don't know its scientific name but as a kid we called them tomato worms. They are as big as a cigar and have what looks like a tail. I realized I should have taken a picture. I have had a few aphids. I just rub them off. On my citrus trees in the ground I use water with soap and olive oil but I wasn't sure what effect the soap would have on the fish. If I find a badly affected plant I will move it to a hospital tank until I rid it of the aphids. Chris is right about the biological pesticides. I used Dipel for year for my dirt gardens. It shouldn't bother the fish at all. Chris where do you find these products in Hawaii. Since I moved back in 98 I have looked for them but It is difficult to find them.
On the up side, I wanted to let everyone know that for the most part (in Aquaponics but also in general around my gardens) I have taken the attitude to mostly ignore the bugs. First, I figure the good bugs won't move in and take care of the problem if I put too much effort into killing off the food source. Second, many of the pests I've encountered here don't really have a good solution anyway and most importantly, I'm kinda lazy and I want may garden to learn to take care of itself.

I have in the past occasionally used Thuricide against caterpillars in AP as well as the dirt garden. This past year, I have not. If I notice a caterpillar, I will throw it to the fish or chickens but I haven't gone on any major search and destroy missions. I I notice it, I'll hand pick it off but I haven't been going looking. I guess the wasps and hornets I've been largely ignoring are doing their jobs.

I have had problems with red spider mites on my tomato plants. I don't know what to do about them so have really done nothing except remove plants that are so terribly infested that they seem to stop producing. Otherwise, I've only been frowning as I try to ignore them.

And then there are the many types of stink bugs/leaf footed bugs/squash bugs. Sigh. These bugs don't seem to be affected even by many of the more harsh chemical sprays let alone the organic choices. Neem can cause the young to never fully develop and might help to reduce the adult breeding populations but then you just have giant size nymphs sucking juices from your plants and fruits. If really dedicated I guess one could go around with a pan of soapy water and knock the nymphs off into the water to die but that could be dangerous over AP grow beds. Now these bugs don't usually seem to kill the plants directly but they do suck juices from the plants and the fruits being marked would make them not so marketable on a commercial level though it is still edible. I think perhaps the squash bugs when a really heavy infestation is going on could do in squash plants or at least really hinder their production. The leaf footed bugs and stink bugs seem to really like Tomatoes and corn. I don't know what natural predator would really help with them, the vinegar smell of them may make them unpalatable to birds, at least I haven't seen birds attacking them. So again, another pest I'm generally ignoring since I don't really know what to do about them.

Aphids, most of the aphids I've seen seem to be farmed by ants. I've got no good way to get rid of ants here so there isn't much point in trying to remove the aphids since the ants would just bring them back. Even so, if a plant is really heavily infested and not growing well, it goes to the chickens. Otherwise most of my plants seem able to survive some aphids without much sign of distress. Most of my pepper plants are being aphid farmed by ants. I just have to be careful not to get bit by the ants, the plants still produce. Aphids seem to be more of a problem as we get out of the proper season for particular plants.

Even with the pest problems I have experienced and my lack of action about them. I still get plenty of produce.
My first two winters with my system, I had greenhouse plastic over it. Come the heating spring weather the spider mites seemed to be the worst.
Now my system is totally open to the elements. Only some of the tomato plants were heavily infested with spider mites, the rest seem really good. I think the integrated pest management is probably a bit more important in a greenhouse situation. Once the pests are in, you have to manage them since it is an artificial environment. Out in the open nature helps manage pests but the system is at the mercy of nature as well.

I hope this encourages people to stress less.
I agree TCLynx about stressing less, and that is definitely my attitude when I'm outside for the summer. When you are indoors or in a greenhouse, however, you unfortunately need to pay pretty close attention because bugs can get out of hand pretty quickly without good bugs and birds to keep them in check. I'm moving out of my greenhouse and on to our deck in a few weeks mainly because I can't keep the greenhouse cool enough. The best part, though, is that I can stop worrying about bugs for about 5 months!
Interesting topic!!!
I've been doing some research on BT and I realized that there are a few strains and each on them work different, I've been looking at the bt.a or aizawai strain for my watercress problem with some larvae, I used some neem with DE a couple of days ago for ants and aphids and it seems to be working, the ants are almost gone and the aphids are dying off in the mean time thinking about getting some XenTari
I'll say to be careful with neem oil (well most any oil actually) around an AP system since oils can cause difficulties in respiration for fish if the oil coats their gills.
Thanks!!!!
I don't use all the time or abuse it, I only spray once in a while in small dosages to a few plants and so far all my fish are doing pretty good

TCLynx said:
I'll say to be careful with neem oil (well most any oil actually) around an AP system since oils can cause difficulties in respiration for fish if the oil coats their gills.
Aloha
I just added a photo of my latest pest. I was planting taro in pots when this huge bird flew over and landed in the tree. I had brought my camera out to take some picture to add. I watched this guy for awhile but when I tried to get closer he flew away. Later he came back to sit on the grow beds and look into the water. I had removed the netting a couple of days ago. I guess I need to really make sure he cant get into my fish tanks. He appears to be sneaky.

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