Natural pest management recommends alternatives to herbicides and insecticides that should be considered friendly fire; they destroy not only the bug but also its innate enemies.
The first thought for those committed to permaculture is planting a diverse group of plants. There's nothing more a bug will like than a monoculture garden or farm; it can move straight from one plant to its nearest neighbour creating mayhem; that's why Fall armyworm, for example, is so destructive.
We found for example that instead of planting a row of pole legumes that last season were under attack from the Mexican bean beetle, setting seeds along a fence covered with granadilla plants gave a measure of protection; it's known as interplanting.
Pesticides that certainly would kill the bean beetle would also destroy our honeybees that were collecting nectar and spreading pollen between the flowers. There's little sense in using chemicals that would decimate the very pollinators that we were trying to encourage.
Likewise, herbicides would kill many of the indigenous weeds that those natural pollinators would rely on once your crop of beans is over.
Having a wide variety of plants in the garden, and in farmlands commits to the pollinators that we as a human race are so dependent on; every third mouthful we eat is dependent on honeybees carry pollen between flowers.
For example, the yield from a field of sunflowers increases by 35 percent if honeybees are introduced to fully pollinate the plants. The use of insecticides would totally destroy that symbiotic relationship.
Natural pest management recognises that these chemicals kill friend and foe alike.
Wandering around the summer garden we noticed that pollinators like honeybees and butterflies particularly love the broccoli family, sweet basil and citrus; and avocados too. Planting these around the garden supports the friendly insects that a healthy environment is so dependent on.
Just as our bodies are dependent on a wide variety of coloured foods for optimal health, so our pollinators would benefit from butternut, peas and beans and a wide variety of fruit and vegetable plants in our gardens.
Add to these the indigenous plants like aloes and the much loved halleria lucida that provides an abundance of flowers loved by many insects and birds, and the health of our pollinators is undergirded.
Even the blackjack weed provides a lot of nectar for insects when all else may be drying up.
Chickens in the garden will control many of the insect pests that bother us. For example, as mentioned above, the Mexican Bean beetle was devastating our crop for several seasons to the extent that we almost stopped growing them; then we introduced half a dozen hens and, imagine our surprise, that thereafter we had almost no trouble from the bug.
I could go on about the sweet potato weevil that covered the root with a myriad of ugly black spots; now, since the chickens arrived, we have no trouble. Likewise with the army worm that has devastated local crops of corn; I could mention many others.
Therein lies a tension however; the hens also root up the weeds even more effectively than any herbicide, helping the gardener enormously, but destroying some of the useful plants that provide nectar and pollen for our pollinators.
Our solution has been to create large runs of a thousand square feet and more for the hens; whilst they are scratching out the weeds and larvae of our pests in one, we can plant our vegetables in the others; then we rotate.
Since the introduction of chickens, there has been absolutely no need for insecticides and herbicides. It's a wonder to behold the hens chasing pesky grasshoppers around the garden, and scratching for the larvae of pests, and pecking out the cutworms. They make for a far more natural pest management environment.
White fly on the citrus and aphids throughout the garden have been a real problem, sucking the life of young shoots. This product from white oil manufacturers has been a great success; make your own. The bugs have been asphyxiated, not poisoned. Direct the spray as accurately as possible, doing your best not to kill any ladybirds that are their natural predators.
Pulling out weak plants that are the natural targets of these bugs is also helpful; they don't produce much of a crop anyway.
Vervet monkeys are a huge problem in the South African garden; they can devastate your vegetables in a very short time. Infuriatingly they take one or two bits out of immature fruit, and throw it down in disgust, moving on the next gem squash, or corn cob. The paintball gun is my best solution for natural pest management; it stings but doesn't kill or maim.
Keeping bees has been the hobby of my lifetime; last weekend I harvested 270 pound jars from nine hives. Natural pest management is a problem there too; the drongo is a bee eater than can decimate your hives, eating up to 300 bees each per day.
They are basically good birds, cleaning up a lot of other pesky insects in the garden, so we don't like to kill them; a paintball fired at the branch they are sitting on keeps them at bay for a couple days. Read more at this reader's question: Bird pressure on hive productivity.