Insects and AgricultureAug 07, 2023 01:09PM ● By Allison Eliason
Bugs. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them. If there was one thing that could make life a little more enjoyable, it would be to have a few less bugs out there. Like all of them. No more buzzing or biting or stinging or messes. And for farmers, no more bugs stripping down their fields, crops and yields. True, in the grand scheme of things, insects have an important role, but when it comes to farming bugs tend to do more harm than good.
It’s hard to see from a distance, but out in those farm fields are hundreds of thousands of bugs. Big ones, small ones, and even teensy tiny ones that we can hardly see. Like any living thing, certain bugs thrive in particular environments while others can’t survive- dry vs wet, hot vs cold, and such. Fortunately, while there are insects that are true pests in a hay field as they eat away the nutritious leaves, there are also predatory bugs that work to rid the fields of such bugs.
Looking at a list of good bugs and bad bugs, there are plenty that we know and have plenty of experience with. But there are a few on there that might be new and might change how you look at your field full of bugs. Let's take a quick dive to look at a few of the bugs you might find in your farm fields.
At this time of year, probably every field is teeming with grasshoppers, probably the number one have reeking bugs around. Year after year we have seen the detrimental effects of grasshoppers as they will feed on any above ground foliage. In drought years when there is less range grasses and plants, there is an uptick of grasshoppers moving into farm crops. Grasshoppers can seem near impossible to control but there are a few other bugs on your side. Wasps, ground beetles and robber flies prey on grasshoppers, trying to do their part to keep numbers down.
Not nearly so harmful but still a pest in its own right are aphids. Aphids, a small green soft bodied bug that largely sucks the nutrients from plants. There are some varieties that can be much more damaging as they not only deplete nutrients but also inject a toxin that can kill the plants. A number of plants prey on aphids but the most commonly known predator bug to help control aphid populations are lady bugs.
Lady bugs also prey on alfalfa weevil, an important component in keeping weevil numbers at bay. Adult alfalfa weevil aren’t so much of a problem themselves, but the larvae can be especially damaging to crop fields. As the larvae grow, they hide and live within the plant's leaves and munch away at the developing leaves, stripping the plant of its nutritional bits.
It's not just bugs eating at the leaves that are causing havoc in crops. There are also pests that cause plant damage at the root level like the clover root curculio. Feeding on roots damages the plants in various ways as it prevents a strong root establishment in young seedlings and can prevent sufficient water uptake in more mature plants. Ground beetles and wolf spiders are some of the predatory insects that limit clover root curculio impact as they prey on both mature bugs and their eggs.
There are far more pest and predatory bugs that can be mentioned here but it gives a glimpse of what is happening at the insect level of a farm field. There may be grasshoppers, aphids, and weevil in there attempting to wreck the bumper crop that’s coming in, but there is also an army of ladybugs, ground beetles, spiders and the like that are there to defend it.