Is it a Bug or a Feature?
As an organic grower, I make this joke all the time. Here's the answer: If you find a bug on a flower that likely means the flower isn't full of poison so it's both a bug AND a feature of organic growing. The idea that food and flowers are expected to be 100% unblemished is a relatively new notion. My grandparents didn't have any problem cutting the bruise out of an apple and eating the rest of it without complaint. My kids act like I've served dirt if I offer them fruit that isn't perfect! Since the advent of petrochemical intensive agriculture, people have gotten further and further removed from the fact that ecosystems are what grow things. In my garden there is a plethora of bugs. Many of them are pest bugs but there are untold numbers of predatory bugs (aka beneficials) bugs just waiting to snack of them. It's taken a few years to build up decent numbers of beneficials but it's what makes sense to me.
It's all about balance. As a farmer I'm also focused on raising flowers to sell so I don't just let bugs wreck havoc on my plants. I recall once seeking advice on social media about whether a caterpillar was a "squish or save" and a bunch of friends were incensed that I would propose squishing a bug. I expect that those same friends wouldn't be at all interested in purchasing flowers that were full of holes and frass (insect poop). What I was seeking was whether or not this caterpillar was the larva of a beneficial or a pest. As with most things, knowledge is power. A solid understanding of local entomology can go a long way in understanding if you are under siege from a pest and need to step in to take action or if predator prey cycles are working themselves out without needing your involvement.
Yesterday I was out fussing among the rose bushes that are full of buds at this time of year. Aphids are having a field day with all that tender new growth and I was wiping them off and squishing them. I noticed a small green caterpillar and removed and squished it (I find gloves help a lot with this). Today on social media a woman posted about little green caterpillars on her roses being the larva of hover flies that prey on aphids. She showed some photos and they looked EXACTLY like the ones I squished yesterday. In my anxiety about the bugs on my roses I had upset some of the predator prey cycles that were already working themselves out. What a great reminder to first OBSERVE and EDUCATE oneself before taking action!
Back to the original question - is it a bug or a feature? As someone who has taught environmental science for decades, I strongly believe (and I can provide a lot of references to support my position) that overuse of pesticides, along with other things, has lead to a dangerous decline in the biodiversity of local insects. I don't want to contribute to that. On the other hand, I have a flower farm and no one wants to buy bug riddled flowers. My compromise is to focus on building healthy soil so plants aren't stressed, to choose biology over technology when a pest population becomes problematic (use predatory bugs to combat the pests), and to use mechanical methods (squishing or using the hose to spray bugs off) when needed, and, only as a last resort, use the most gentle insecticide that I can (like Safer's soap spray). I believe that farming/gardening should be a life affirming activity. Part of what makes my flowers glow is that they are nourished by healthy soil as part of a healthy ecology. I won't risk that by using insecticides. Life is too precious for that!
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