Strange title? We are venturing into a new area on this blog. This is all about beneficial insects, companion planting, garden insectaries, and many other terms. This post will introduce the subject.
We have been trying to figure out the best way to approach this large and new area. We considered setting up a separate website and even a separate blog. For now, I think the best place to start is here.
The reason for “Hover Island”? One term used when someone creates a habitat for beneficials is to call the area an island. Hover comes from Hoverflies. Our whole intention is to create a habitat that will increase hoverflies in our nursery area. For a long time we have search for information on this very important group of insect species. Hoverflies are also called syrphid flies.
Why syrphid flies? First, the adults are active when temperatures are around 55 degrees. Here in Delaware these temperatures are typical of April when strawberries are blooming. The adults are effective pollinators. We have started using and releasing mason bees in the nursery and are using them in pollination cages. We have found them to be very effective. But, you can never have too many pollinators, especially pollinators that are present and more importantly active very early in the spring.
Syrphids or hoverflies have a second HUGE benefit. The larval stages are voracious predators of aphids and other soft bodied pests. The adults tend to deposit eggs where aphids are present.
It is especially important to keep aphids in check in a strawberry nursery. Aphids can transmit viruses so their control is essential to the long term health of the species and selections we grow and sell.
Our intention is to create what we are calling “Hover Island”. We have already selected and purchased seeds and plants that will be grown for this area. We will get into the specifics soon.
We also want to point out that other beneficials will be welcome in Hover Island and in our nursery. The plants we have selected will attract a wide variety of beneficials including hoverflies. The plants selected are being selected to offer habit to hoverflies all season, not just early spring. We get some fruit production in the fall so having beneficials that will pollinate and protect the fall crop is welcome indeed.
And, last but not least, we are selecting plant species that are attractive to mason bees as well. We had success with using polliantion cages to isolate and pollinate several crops for seed production. The mason bees reproduced. We hope that even with expansion of our pollination cages the mason bees can reproduce enough to sustain themselves so we don’t have to continually buy mason bees. Mason bees is another subject for another post.
Look for more posts in the near future for the category Hover Island and other categories. We will take some pictures to share about this very important undertaking.