Could it be the chickens that solved the weevil infestation?

by Barrie
(South Africa)

Makings of sweet potato and butternut soup; no sign of the weevils.

Makings of sweet potato and butternut soup; no sign of the weevils.

Could it be the chickens that solved the weevil infestation?

For two years we grew sweet potatoes with great success; then we got a weevil problem that became so bad that it was no longer worth growing them. I gathered the only solution is heavy poisoning which we refused to do in our organic garden.

Then we got seven hens that roamed freely in that part of the garden. They would damage some plants like green beans and kale, but not the sweet potatoes.

Imagine our surprise when the tubers that remained in the soil sprouted, and there was no sign of the weevil; could the hens have eradicated these nasty pests?

I like to think so; let's see what the academics think.

Our hens solved a similar problem with the Mexican bean beetle; the eat the larvae during the winter and when they emerge, and browse through the plants looking for the adults for food.

I wonder if hens could do the same for the Fall army worm?

B

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Apr 16, 2017
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Chickens for sweet potato weevils and fall armyworms
by: Anonymous

Hello Barrie:

Glad to hear that you have such helpful chickens. Yes, they very much like to feed on insects, as do ducks and geese. The Chinese use them all the time. A word of caution, though, chickens can snack on the crops, too.

My guess is that if you continue to plant sweet potatoes the insects will build up again; insect abundance often cycles up and down so it can be difficult to understand their dynamics by simple observation. On the other hand, you already have the chickens so why not continue to encourage them, and maybe the chickens will manage to keep down their numbers.

Concerning fall armyworms, generally they restrict their feeding to grasses and grains – in your case probably sweet corn. But what can happen is that when army worms build up to large numbers on grasses they exhaust their for supply and then disperse to find more food. Starving insects will try to eat most anything, and even if they decide they dislike it, their sheer numbers will cause problems for plants. Chickens will eat them too, if the vegetation is low enough for the birds to get them.

There are no simple solutions to armyworm problems, but recognizing that they develop on nearby grasses and weeds is important. So keep your eyes open for sources of insects, and be prepared to mow or burn vegetation that is in the early stages of insect infestation, as you may be able to keep your garden from being infested.

Finally, Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacterium that kills most caterpillars, and only caterpillars. Safe for ‘greenies’ to use by spraying on the plants. There are several products. It quickly paralyzes the digestive system of insects that eat it, and then the die is a few days. See attachment.

Good luck…..

John Capinera
Professor Emeritus & Co-Editor, Florida Entomologist

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