Birds and Pest Control: The Organic Approach
Spraying with nicotine, quassia or soft soap early in the year will kill enough aphids to give the ladybirds and hoverfly larvae a chance to control the pests, but perhaps the most effective trick of all is to encourage birds in their role as extremely effective pest controllers.
Thrust a long bamboo cane slantways into theof your rose bed and hang fat from the end on lengths of string so that it dangles at least 30cm (1’) below the tip of the cane and 30 cm (1’) above the rose bushes. This will attract blue tits, great tits and coal tits in large numbers between late autumn and mid-winter, and those which are waiting their turn to feed on the fat will search the gnarly bark around the bases of the rose bushes and eat up all the greenfly eggs. This method works only when all the leaves are off the roses, but is no less effective for that.
It is most important to hang the fat far enough from both the cane and the bush to ensure that starlings cannot reach out or leap from these perches and devour all the food. Only the tits are agile enough to hang onto the string.
Also, hang fat the same distance beneath the branches of your cherry trees, both the ornamental and eating varieties, so that the tits will devour the aphids known as cherry black fly which infest ornamental cherries and spread to eating varieties. Most species of ladybird do not eat this aphid.
The bean aphis (bean blackfly) can be controlled by encouraging the birds in the same way. This serious broad bean pest, which also attacks runner beans, winters on euonymus and viburnum bushes, so if you grow these shrubs, hang fat above them, too. Even today, few butchers charge much for the fat, and if every gardener used this method, spraying against these pests would be a thing of the past.
You will find that many of the birds that visit your garden are far more efficient at controlling pests than a whole armoury of sprays, while most of the remainder are ‘neutral’ and only a few, such as the wood pigeon or bullfinch, will take your crops (and these can be prevented from doing so, by netting or the use of proprietary repellents). Wild animals, too, such as hedgehogs, toads and grass snakes, are mostly very beneficial to the gardener—the three mentioned eating vast quantities of harmful pests—and should therefore be encouraged and protected.