318: Jessica Walliser on Attracting Beneficial Bugs.

Recognizing the connections between insects and plant life.

Jessica earned her degree in Horticulture from Penn State University and co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners”, an award-winning program on KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of The American Horticultural Society. She is a regular contributor to Fine Gardening, Urban Farm, and Hobby Farms magazines, and her two weekly gardening columns for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review have been enjoyed by readers for over ten years. Jessica also blogs weekly for both SavvyGardening.com and HobbyFarms.com.

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She is also the author of several gardening books including the Amazon best-seller Good Bug, Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What They Do, and How to Manage Them Organically (St Lins Press), and Attracting Beneficial Bugs to the Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Timber Press), which was awarded the American Horticultural Society’s 2014 Book Award.

In This Podcast:

Several years into running a landscaping company, a few key employees opened Jessica Walliser’s eyes to the importance of avoiding pesticides. Taking the time to educate herself, she converted to a whole new mindset and is now an avid teacher about natural pest control. She tells us about the predator-prey cycle and why we need to stay out of the process as much as possible, and shares a few tips on how to help the population of beneficial bugs grow in your space. We hear descriptions of several types of insects and bugs that are part of healthy ecosystems in gardens and farms.

Listen in and learn about:

  • Getting her degree in horticulture, falling in love, and moving 7 hours away from home.
  • Working as a garden educator and maintain the gardens
  • Running a landscape company and becoming a certified pesticide applicator
  • Getting educated about organics and converting completely to viewing insects as part of the ecosystem
  • Growing to appreciate how they are not the enemy and recognizing the connections between insects and plant life
  • The predator and prey cycle and human’s tendency to get in the middle
  • Dealing with caterpillars, ash borer, Japanese beetles – when to step in to the cycle
  • Companion planting to help bring in the beneficial insects
  • Alternative plants for the pest insects, like the Virginia creeper
  • What makes a beneficial bug and the percentages of good versus bad
  • Parasitoid insects that use other bugs as hosts
  • Why she does not recommend bringing in other insects
  • Habitat creation and how NOT cleaning back plants at the end of the season helps
  • Eliminating pesticides, even the organic ones, as much as possible
  • Aphid mummy a bug that you should recognize
  • Why a blemished cabbage is better than an unblemished one
  • Fireflies and how as larvae they are great predators
  • Which spiders are the best ones for our gardens
  • The minute pirate bug and how this super tiny works for you

As well as:

  • Her failure – Being a teacher for kids about bugs
  • Her success – Her son, and then her own insectary garden and the landscape that hosts so many good bugs
  • Her drive – BUGS!
  • Her advice – Chill OUT, and realize that your gardens can be home to bugs

Books written by Jessica:

Good Bug Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What They Do, and How to Manage Them Organically (All you need to know about the insects in your garden)

Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control

Jessica’s Book recommendations:            

Xerces Society – Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide, Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies

(Producer’s Note: Check out our podcast #182 with Matthew Sheppard of the Xerces Society HERE)

How to reach Jessica:         

Websites:jessicawalliser.com and savvygardening.com

Facebook: @JessicaWalliser, and @SavyGardening



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