Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fight Orchard Pests with Flower Power!

A parasitoid wasp. Most of these wasps are under a quarter-
of-an-inch and none are able to sting humans.

I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago and he told me that he never sprays his apple trees, but he regularly has 25% of his apples worm free. He didn't know why, but I have a pretty good idea what is preventing his apples from being damaged.

My friend lives on his old family farm in Lehi, Ut and it is full of "weeds" that are left unsprayed and usually un-mowed. These feral plants feed all comers including small parasitoidal wasps. These wasps lay eggs on a number of pests, including apple codling moths. When the eggs hatch they start eating the pests.

This is not a perfect system, but it is a sensible way to have better fruit with no added chemicals. And you don't need to live on a farm to make it work! All you need is to plant more flowers.  Not all flowers are created the same and some flowers will do more to attract predators.

Below is a list of some of the more useful plants for attracting parasitiod wasps. They are all readily available in seed or plant form at your local nursery or on line.

Scientific Name Common Name Growth Type
Achillea spp. Yarrow Perennial
Agastache foeniculum Anise hyssop Perennial
Artemisia spp. Wormwood, sagebrush Perennial
Aster spp. Aster Perennial
Astragalus spp. Vetch Perennial
Baptisia spp. False indigo Perennial
Bellis perennis English daisy Perennial
Borago officinalis Borage Annual, reseeding
Caragana spp. Peashrub  Shrub
Chamaemelum nobile Roman, English chamomile Perennial
Chrysogonum virginianum Green and gold Perennial
Coreopsis spp. Tickseed Perennial
Echinacea purpurea Purple cone flower Perennial
Foeniculum vulgare Fennel Perennial
Helianthus spp. Sunflower, Sunchoke Annual, perennial
Lupinus spp. Lupine Annual, perennial
Medicago satvia Alfalfa Perennial
Robinia hispida Rosa acacia Shrub
Robinia pseudoacacia Black locust Tree
Solidago spp. Goldenrod Perennial
Trifolium spp. Sweet clover Biennial

The best places to plant these plants is as need your orchard area as possible. In the case of the annuals and perennials, planting them under and around the fruit trees is best. If that is not possible, a flower bed near the trees would be the next best thing.

It will take a few years to start attracting wasps, so be patient and take the time to work with nature. Any other flowers, especially perennials, are likely to help, so feel free to add more flowers and flowerbeds to your property. All the good critters will love you for it.



  1. Interesting!
    I remember when I was young we had some cherry trees in our backyard that began to always have tons of worms in them. I think the first few years there weren't many because the previous owner probably sprayed them. But each year the worms seemed to get worse so after awhile I never even bothered trying to eat any (even though I believe the kind of worms they were are harmless to humans). Now I'm wondering what a permaculture perspective could have done for us and the trees and fruit.

  2. Hi, I just stumbled across your blog, looking for permaculture and water-sensible gardening in Utah county. Do you still do garden consultations? I'm a little nervous to call the number up there without knowing your name and seeing that your last post was in February (potentially awkward phone call if you are no longer at that number!). If you respond to this post, then I will give you a call! Thanks - hoping to hear from you.

  3. Yes, I still do consultations. The number is still 801-228-7571

  4. Yes, I still do consultations. The number is still 801-228-7571