Order your bugs here: Garden alternatives to chemicals

Natural Insect Control is a company that is dedicated to organic alternatives to chemicals. I received my catalogue from them about three weeks ago, and after browsing through it again, I feel sure you would be interested in putting your name on their mailing list (see snail mail, e-mail and website address, below).

NIC, operated by Dave and Sandy Mitchell, offers a host of environmentally friendly home cleaning and related products, also.

Who is NIC and what is its history? Their website explains:

“Natural Insect Control (NIC), a limited company, enters its 12th year of operation and the 21st Century in an extremely positive position within the biological control market. NIC’s team includes “on staff” entomological graduates capable of dealing with not only crop pest problems, but also pest problems in greenhouses, lawn care, poultry, dairy, hog and the entire livestock arena including bison. One of our newest team members — a fully bilingual entomology graduate from Quebec — will be crucial in opening new doors in the French-speaking and heavily populated adjoining province of Quebec. We anticipate making some strategic moves through and with certain recommends and guidance from our existing clientele within that province.

“We continue to maintain agreements with certain U.S. insectaries and the recent expansion of our alliance with Canada’s largest biological control producer located in western Canada, along with their eastern Canada territory of Ontario, Quebec and the three maritime provinces, again puts us in an excellent position for ongoing growth. This alliance also gives us extra leverage to market certain products in western Canadian markets without inherent staff and facility costs.

“Natural Insect Control (NIC), originally a mail order business, has since its inception operated from a wholly owned 50-acre facility/nature preserve which has been augmented recently by an additional purchase and alliances with neighbours to increase this protected environment to over 150 acres. This location will continue to house NIC’s executive offices and research department for the next few years.”

What does the catalogue contain?

First off, it contains a helpful “Problems and Answers “ section, where readers are encouraged to “look here for your pest problem” and then look on the next page for the answer, plus the page in the catalog that will assist you.

For example, if your problem is mosquitoes, the letters BT and PMH appear after the insect’s name. Looking across to the next page, you find that BT is Bacillus thuringiensis (page 12) and P. Martin and Bat Houses (pp. 46-51).

Page 12 identifies a product called Vectobac bacillus thuringiensis as “A natural occurring organism that results in mosquito larva mortality within 24 hours. Does not harm fish, mammals or people. Comes in a corn cob carrier that is broadcast on the water surface being treated. The amount used is calculated according to the water surface being treated, not the depth. Apply at the beginning of the season and again mid summer to control August mosquito populations. Only for use on enclosed bodies of water. Can be applied to fields, woods, ditches, water barrels, bird baths, etc. Is activated by water, so when it rains and the mosquitoes begin breeding in puddles, Vetobac will be there to eliminate mosquitoes at the larval stage before they are at the biting stage. Registered for Agricultural Use.”

Along with this information comes the application rate. The cost for a 5 kg bag (11.25 lb) is $120.00.

Pages 46-51 present a wide array of products that support bats and bluebirds, tree swallows and purple martins, all of whom are the mosquitoes’ natural predators. Included are plans for as well as pre-built purple martin houses, plus perching arms and other items that not only encourage but also protect these birds from their own predators, such as owls.

But perhaps more unusual is NIC’s wide “product line” in beneficial predators that destroy unwanted insect parasites.

For instance, if you want to control aphids, mites, thrips, whiteflies and the eggs and larvae of “most soft bodied insects” you can order orius insidiosus, a 2.5 mm (1/10 inch) bug that lives for 21-30 days and which is said to eat 5-20 thrip larvae/day.

How on earth are bugs shipped, you ask? Well, orius insidiosus is shipped as adults, in a bottle, with buckwheat. Other bugs are shipped “as mummies on a card”… and I don’t pretend to know what “mummies” are.

What is critical, says NIC, is to properly identify your pest problem. There’s no sense in ordering a predator for bug “X” when you actually have an infestation of bug “Y.” To assist in identification, you can order a hand lens, which magnifies the pest. Otherwise, NIC offers to identify your bugs for a consultation fee of $10.00:

“Place insect in small sealed container, such as pill bottle with enough rubbing alcohol to cover the insect, and mail it to NIC. Our technician will identify the insect and make recommendation for natural control. Please send whole insects and situation the insect was found in; e.g. inside, outside, what plant etc.”

No company can guarantee to solve all pest problems, but it’s good to see that a chemical-free company has prospered for 12 years. Why not order a catalogue and see if there’s anything that you want to order? Insodoing, you’ll be educating yourself on alternative products, supporting a Canadian company, and encouraging a more natural, herbicide and pesticide-free habitat.

Contact NIC at:

Natural Insect Control
R.R.#2, Stevensville, Ontario, Canada, L0S 1S0
Phone: (905) 382-2904 Fax: (905) 382-4418
Email: nic@niagara.com


Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer who telecommutes to her editors from Quyon, Quebec. She encourages you to send in your opinions: write your letters to the editor, for this is your Environment Forum.