Only 3% of insects found in the garden are actually harmful to the garden. And the best news is that other bugs may actually kill those bad bugs for you. So why would anyone spend money on chemicals and go to the bother of spraying if they can have the job done by someone else for free and with no upset to the food chain? In fact, it strengthens the food chain and hence ups the wildlife fun in your garden.
The kingpin of IPM is to invite beneficial insects into your garden and the best way to do that is to do nothing! A frustrating approach when you are faced with a lemon tree full of soft brown scale and all you want to do is blast the blighters to kingdom come.
This honey dew is highly prized by ants and they "farm" the aphids and scale to get it. They protect the pest insects from their natural predators, so that even if you have ladybugs (ladybirds in Ireland - but they do look more like bugs than birds, so I'm siding with the Americans on this one!) they can't get at their prey because of the ants.
And very soon it became apparent who was winning the war as the ladybugs moved in for a feast.
* of the ladybug world. If it even was a ladybug. But I followed IPM protocol and did nothing.
mealybug but my picture looked slightly different. I was given great advice - check out the UC Davis IPM website. Now, why hadn't I thought of that?
With my curiosity now tweaked, I decided to find out what the Melanie Wilkes Ladybug really was. I was delighted to discover that it was a Mealybug Destroyer! Then I got another email from a Master Gardener to say, "Check out the mealybug destroyer's larva picture ." My photo of what I thought was a mealy bug, is actually a mealybug destroyer's larva, and these guys are even more voracious than the parents.
Good job I went with the IPM idea (do nothing), or I'd have been out there committing mealybug destroyer infanticide!
* Reference from Gone With the Wind - Melanie Wilkes was the drab wife of Ashley Wilkes, the man Scarlet O Hara was madly and somewhat secretly in love with.