Nematodes flourish everywhere, in salt water and fresh water, from polar ice caps to tropical rain forests. They can be found at the tops of the highest mountains and in the deepest of oceanic trenches. They can even be found as deep as 12,000 feet below the surface of the earth! You guessed it – there are nematodes in your yard! Some species of nematode are beneficial – they actually help control other pests in your yard. Send in a few reinforcements for your nematode pest control, and you’ll go a long way to reclaiming your yard.
Remarkable Results with Nematode Pest Control
A host of other insects can call your yard home. They are born, they grow to adults, and they reproduce – all in your yard. If you’re able to interrupt any part of insects’ life cycle with beneficial nematodes, you’ll be able to call your yard your own once again! Let’s take a closer look at the life cycle of a few insects, and how beneficial nematodes can stop them in their tracks.
Fleas begin life as eggs, typically laid in the fur of your pet where they’ll have easy access to their first meal. That would be your pet’s blood! Once they’ve feasted, they’ll fall off your pet. In only a few days, the eggs will hatch and become larvae – although the process will take longer in cold or dry conditions.
Flea larvae are blind and avoid light. They spend their time on the ground, and eat predigested blood that adult fleas leave to help them grow. The larvae are vulnerable to attack by beneficial nematodes, your newfound pest controls. The nematodes are able to invade the bodies of the larvae, using it as their own food source. Any surviving larvae will spin cocoons and enter the next stage of their growth as pupa.
The pupa generally remain in the protection of their cocoon for a period of a few days, although if conditions aren’t right, the pupa can remain in the cocoon for months or even years! Ultimately, the pupa will emerge as an adult flea, and the cycle will repeat.
There are hundreds of species of ticks, but they can all fall into two categories: soft ticks and hard ticks. Pets are generally attacked by hard ticks, although soft ticks have been known to attack pets’ ears, where the skin is relatively thin.
Ticks also begin life as eggs, which the adult female tick lays on the ground. The eggs hatch into six legged larvae (or seed ticks), and climb nearby vegetation so they can latch onto passing birds or small animals. They feed on the host’s blood for a few days, then drop the the ground again, where they will shed their outer skin and transform into eight legged nymphs. The nymph will repeat the process, feeding on larger hosts and dropping to the ground once again. The tick is vulnerable to attack by beneficial nematodes while it is on the ground, either as a larvae or as a nymph.
If they survive, nymphs molt one last time, emerging as adult ticks – and the circle of life continues.
Termites thrive in warmer climates, but they have adapted to life in cooler climates – even in the northern United States and Canada. Unlike fleas and ticks, they live in colonies, and each member of the colony has its own duties. The reproductive duties fall to the king and queen of the colony, who will lay hundreds (or even thousands) of fertilized eggs every day. These eggs develop into larvae, then nymphs, and ultimately into adult termites, whether worker, soldier, drone, king, or queen.
Termites spend nearly all their time underground, where they are vulnerable to nematode pest control measures. Adding beneficial nematodes to water, then soaking the colony’s tubes and tunnels allows the nematodes to begin to infect the termites en masse. The nematodes feed off the dead termites, then move on to infect others in the colony. Complete treatment will likely take several applications of nematodes, and may take some time before the threat is eliminated. Termite nests can be tough as nails!
… Other insects
Fleas, ticks, and termites are just a few of the insects which beneficial nematodes can be used to control. Nematode pest controls are effective at controlling over two hundred different varieties of insect. I’ve listed below just a few bugs beneficial nematodes have been used to control:
- Backyard mosquito control
- Household cockroaches
- Various types of weevils
- Various kinds of beetles
- Various borers
- Several species of flies
- A variety of moth species
Are Beneficial Nematodes Safe?
In a word, yes. They are safe to use around children, pets, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians of all kinds. In addition, they will not attack your landscaping or your lawn – just the bugs that live in them!
Beneficial nematodes alive and well in your yard at this very moment. As long as the population of nematodes remains at a normal level, the number of bugs and the number of nematodes remains in balance. If you spray additional nematodes in buggy areas of your yard, you’ll tip the balance – and your new nematode pest control system will win the day. Once the bugs have been eliminated, the excess nematode population will die off and biodegrade, and your yard will be yours once again.
Beneficial nematodes are an excellent alternative to other pest controls, such as smoking, spraying, or seeding your yard with insecticides.
If It Sounds Too Good to be True…
Beneficial nematodes are that good. The paragraphs above outline a number of bothersome pests beneficial nematodes work against, and indicate they do no harm to anything you hold dear in your yard. Here’s how they work against the insects they target.
Nematodes are microscopic round worms that are able to move short distances in search of their prey. They are guided by the carbon dioxide emitted by the insect, in much the same way mosquitoes use carbon dioxide to target you when you’re outside. The nematodes are able to penetrate insects or their larvae while they are on the ground. Once they’ve entered their prey, they release the true weapon – a payload of specialized bacteria. That bacteria infects and kills the host insect, and leaves its body as food for the nematodes to grow and breed. Once the insect has been consumed, as many as a thousand new nematodes are released into the surrounding soil, each in search of a new host.
Tiny, silent, deadly – beneficial nematodes!
Nematodes in red (top photo): By Matthieu Deuté [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Wood riddled with termite tunnels: Voxphoto Termite Damage via photopin (license)
Girl squirting brother with hose: evilpeacock Sibling Spray via photopin (license)