Flower Power at Hildene
Growers at Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home, located in Manchester Village, have teamed up with University of Vermont researchers Margaret Skinner and Cheryl Frank Sullivan to create a garden paradise for pollinators.
As development encroaches on our wild spaces, beneficial insects like bees, parasitic wasps, beetles and flies with predatory larvae are getting squeezed out. Hildene has established habitat strips that contain a rainbow of flowering annuals that include alyssum, coreopsis, cosmos, sunflowers and zinnias to attract these pest-fighting pollinators, who are searching for pollen and nectar, key components of their diet. These beautiful flowering habitats are attracting people too, including Brian Spencer, owner of Applied Bio-nomics, a Canadian company that produces biological control agents for growers throughout North America. He is visiting the University of Vermont to assist the researchers and train two Lebanese students from the American University of Beirut how to produce and sustain biological control agents such as predatory mites and beneficial insects. The students will then return to Lebanon to help farmers there reduce their use of chemical pesticides by adopting more sustainable agricultural practices. Hildene is hosting these specialists to show them how they can create habitat strips and effectively use biological controls in their countries.
Vegetable growers all across the northeast struggle to manage their pests – in particular aphids, which suck the sap out of plants, deforming flowers and leaves and excreting a sugary substance allowing a black sooty mold to develop. The Vermont ecosystem abounds with natural enemies to help keep these pests in check. For example, syrphid flies look like bees but are actually flies. As adults they are pollinators while the larvae of many species are voracious aphid predators. As more farmers throughout the region plant habitat strips like Hildene, the populations of native natural enemies will be encouraged to visit and provide free, non-toxic pest management for all.
This is the second year of this research project on habitat plants. This work is supported with funds from the USDA Crop Protection and Pest Management Program, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture; the University of Vermont Extension; GreenWorks, the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association, and the Conservation, Food and Health Foundation. You can get more information on the UVM Entomology Research Laboratory’s research by going to the website at uvm.edu.