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Re: Insect control with spiders

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: Re: Insect control with spiders
  • From: James Brooks <hirundo@tricon.net>
  • Date: Fri, 28 Feb 1997 10:07:55 -0700 (MST)

At 01:30 PM 2/27/97 -0700, you wrote:
>I've spent the last 35 years or so studying spiders, and every other summer
>teach a course in the Biology of Spiders at the Highlands Biological
>Station in North Carolina (next offering: Summer 1998).  I thought the
>listers might be interested in some work done at the U. of Tennessee on
>insect control using spiders.

>In my own vegetable garden, I mulch heavily with autumn leaves collected
>the previous fall.  I now, after ten years of this, rarely use any
>pesticides at all and see very little damage.  It may be that spider
>populations and other beneficials build up over the years to higher
>levels--I do see a lot of spiders in my garden (and the house, too, but
>that's another story).  Or it may be that mulched plants in a highly
>organic soil are simply healthier and more pest-resistant.
>In any case, don't kill spiders!

>William A. Shear
>Department of Biology
>Hampden-Sydney College
>Hampden-Sydney VA 23943 USA
>phone (804) 223-6172
>FAX (804) 223-6374
Dear Bill -
Thanks for some scientific basis on the intuitive notion I expressed on
spiders and ecology.
I agree that they are just one part of the web of organic growing. Most
ethical sellers of organic vegetables would not consider something organic
unless the soil had not been treated with chemical pesticides, herbicides or
fertilizers for at least five years. When you make the switch to organic
techniques you take a pasting from weeds and insect pests the first two
years, and things begin to improve in the third and fourth years. Of course
compost and fertilizers such as bone meal are organic treatments.
Perhaps my favorite gardening tool is a lawn mower with a catch bag. I use
grass clippings as mulch in the garden beds to keep weeds down and retain
moisture. I leave a space around an iris rhizome. In the fall I let the
grass grow until the leaves are mostly down and then the mower chops up
leaves and remaining grass, and I spread this on beds which rhizomes or
other produce (I also raise hot peppers) has been pulled, picked or removed
from and let them lie fallow over the winter. In the spring I rototill it
all in. 
I do stay away from the walnut trees, but my predominant leaf is,
unfortunately Sycamore, so I'll have to soil test for the nasties that it
spreads this spring.
James Brooks, down in Malone Hollow
Jonesborough, TN
Where us good old boys are trying to develop the first iris in camo. (short
for camouflage, like my curtains)

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