This is my only reward????


After 16 years of biodynamic pest control in the greenhouses and this is what I have to show for my efforts?


Meet Phiddippus audax.  He is a tiny member of the arachnid family  known generically as  Jumping Spiders. He is a fast-moving little fellow about 1/4  of an inch in length, who can  actually jump 3-4 times his body length when he needs to get somewhere in a hurry. As he is a timid little guy, we more often see him in escape mode. I wouldn’t say he is cuddly, and certainly if you were  a potential meal for him, you   might feel different about how he looks. But to me he is in the “Good Guy” category,  and he doesnt seem as creepy as the over- sized barn spiders that move into the garage in late summer, or as sinister as the  beautiful black and yellow orb spiders that  move into the  field tomatoes in the summer and weave those  incredible webs. My  Dad  actually went so far as to  bestow the name  ‘Mr. Witloof’ on the little jumping spider, as to almost humanize him.

So what has this got to do with anything?

Well, for most of my life as a greenhouseman, Mr,  Witloof  made his appearance in the greenhouse furnaces in the fall, when he moved into the greenhouses looking for warmer winter quarters. In early winter, while I would be cleaning burners and  doing annual checks of my furnaces,  I would find him beating a hasty retreat.  But Jake Guest (of Killdeer Farm in Norwich) and I  have been  noticing  that for the last two years there seems to have been a population spike. These funny little fellows are now  in the pot trays and plant canopies. I can find an occasional  Witloof wandering around up in the brugmansia and fuchsia standards. Or meandering around the  shelf behind the  seed boxes  and radio.  They seem to be everywhere now.

Beyond their comical movements and the enjoyment that seeing them brings to me , I think that  there are some real reasons why they are now omnipresent. That reason could be that we  have actually gotten to the point after 16 years that we can control our pests in the greenhouse biologically, without the aid of conventional or certified  organic  pesticides.  It hasn’t been an inexpensive learning curve to do this, but  for the last three years we have been dialed in enough to  achieve control with biological insect releases alone.

I am by no means an entomologist  or out on the edge of this , but we certainly have learned a lot about biological pest control in the last 16 years.   This is due in no small part to the  efforts put forth by  some determined individuals in the University  Cooperative Extension Systems of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.  Annual meetings, studies, internet access, on-farm education and scouting  have additionally contributed. Even vendors have gone from  just selling “good bugs in a can” to being  proactive in making sure the product they sell to us  has good quality control (the good bugs get delivered in the best possible  condition) as well as talking with us at length about the possibilities of choice of one predatory or parasitic control  over another. Lots of info.

I don’t think I’ll be problem-free  in the future. Problems and  hurdles always crop up in  natural systems. But to go three years without dragging my sprayer out and dumping a bottle of some goo in the tank to go spray for white fly or aphids is huge for me, and something for the farm to feel good  about.

So maybe Mr. Witloof is out and about because of this. Even though the arachnids are generally  insensitive to most pesticides in the greenhouse, the total absence of any  materials makes his household more inviting. In any event, he is a funny little guy who is now part of our defense arsenal  for greenhouse pest management for  aphids and other soft-bodied plant pests.  Welcome home,   Mr. Witloof.

Now go get ‘em..