Cory Hershberger
September 5, 2014

The Book for Becoming Besties with Bugs (HobbyFarms.com)

At A Glance

Title: Farming with Native Beneficial Insects
Authors: The Xerces Society
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Release Date: 2014
Cover Price: $24.95
Target Audience: Growers interested in natural pest control; farmers looking to promote native plants and animals

As a farmer, you’re familiar with bugs—you see them flying all over your livestock and their living quarters, you notice them climbing on your crops as you harvest, and you’ve probably had one or two close encounters with some larger-than-life tomato hornworms or predatory spiders (shudder). Bugs and agriculture are inseparable, and the Xerces Society, a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of invertebrates of all types, encourages farmers to take advantage of this relationship instead of attempting to exist outside of it with their new book, Farming with Native Beneficial Insects.

Focusing on identifying and promoting beneficial insects—insects that suppress the population of crop pests—and their habitats, the Xerces Society makes an extremely convincing case for taking the time out of your busy schedule to encourage these critters on your farm. The book focuses on a pest-management style called conservation biocontrol, which the authors define as a “practice that focuses on providing food and shelter for beneficial insects while at the same time reducing nonnative weeds and the pests those weeds support.”

Adjusting your pest-management strategy is no small undertaking, but the book equips you with a variety of tools to help you leave the pesticides behind, including a wealth of photos, charts, diagrams, cost analyses and DIY projects. Maybe the most valuable section, however, is the full-color identification chapter, complete with high-quality photos to help you figure out if those beetles on your sunflowers are good or bad—the chapter covers more than 20 insect families, including information on their food sources, their development cycles and individual conservation strategies. An encyclopedic companion chapter on plants for conservation biocontrol is also a useful one-stop shop.

My favorite aspect of the book, though, is its comprehensiveness: This book is chock-full of tried and true methods from a large number of farmers and agricultural organizations across the country. Every tip and trick smacks of research and experience; reading just one chapter makes it clear that this book was written by people who actually practice what they preach, people who brushed the dirt off their hands and picked a ladybug off their shoulder (and gently replaced it in the garden) before settling in at the computer to work.

Even if you don’t adhere firmly to everything outlined within, Farming with Native Beneficial Insects asks you to open your eyes to the farm around you and analyze your land, your crops and the tiny wildlife they attract with a fresh perspective, which is basically a victory in itself. You’re not farming in a vacuum, and whether you’re aware of it or not, these insects—both good and bad—play a tremendous role in the life of your crops and the health of your farm. Doesn’t it make more sense to embrace the good ones?

The Final Word: If you’re a farmer looking to go all-natural with your pest-management strategy, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not picking up Farming with Native Beneficial Insects.

For more on promoting native insects and pollinators on your farm, check out these articles:

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