As a way to “preserve and conserve biodiversity”, INIA promotes the use of hotels for insects and birds that nest in the surrounding environment, whether in vineyards, greenhouses, fields, etc.; and that contribute to the biological and sustainable control of pests that can damage crops.
"Respecting the environment and sustainability is one of the pillars of agronomy developed by INIA and the use of these facilities in a way to maintain the balance of insects in the area, control pests in a natural way and serve as a refuge for different species¨, affirms the transference researcher Patricio Abarca Reyes.
The continuous occupation of wild places for urbanization, the production of intensive crops and, above all, the excessive use of generalist pesticides in agriculture, is strongly interfering with the biological diversity of natural systems. Therefore, the sources of food (native flora), the shelter of many beneficial insects and, also, the elimination of natural enemies, be it predators or parasitoids, have been disappearing.
The agronomist Patricio Abarca Reyes from INIA Rayentué, has not only dedicated himself to making these little houses, as part of his free time activities, but has also become aware of the value of this type of shelters at a critical moment of the systems natural conditions and the loss of food sources by insects.
Next, the INIA professional describes how an insect hotel is made, where it should be located and how to favor floral bands with prolonged flowering, since these will attract beneficial insects and maintain a better balance in the garden.
To improve the reproduction and permanence of beneficial insects, insect hotels are manufactured and permanently implemented crops with attractive flowers that deliver pollen and / or nectar. Both conditions help to enrich the diversity of species and the biological balance in our cultivation or garden.
What is an insect hotel?
The insect hotel is an artificial habitat that simulates a natural refuge for shelter and hibernation of the beneficial insects that we have in fields or gardens. It can go from a simple box, to structures of different sizes and shapes. Inside they contain divisions with various materials (mostly natural), which grant different conditions depending on the species. In addition, insect hotels are an ornamental part of the landscape and fulfill an illustrative pedagogical role, especially for children, who learn the biology of insects and some systems for protecting nature.
How to make an insect hotel?
In general, the boxes or structures that shape the hotel are usually made of wood. The external part must protect from weather conditions such as wind and rain, the internal part must divide the hotel into different rooms to create different conditions according to the requirements of the species, creating dark spaces, holes, tunnels, slits, etc. For this, you can use a variety of materials (if possible natural), such as pine cones (“pineapples”), reeds, open seeds without seeds, wood with holes, pieces of wood, bark, shavings, bricks, stones , among others.
Where should an insect hotel be located?
Hotels should be located in orchards or gardens, protected from the wind, rain and direct afternoon sun in summer. Normally in height, about 60 to 100 cm from the ground, although they can also be located at ground level for species that live on the ground surface, such as some beetles and crickets. The insect hotel by itself will not attract beneficial insects, it must be located near flora, whether wild or cultivated, this should be permanent during the year as much as possible. In addition, the hotel should be located near water sources and away from pesticide applications.
The Bug Hotel and the Floral Band
For beneficial insects to occupy the hotel, it is important to maintain a constant flowering in the garden or orchard. In agricultural crops, floral bands are planted with different species of alternating flowering during the year. These bands can have several objectives depending on the species, among them; attraction and food to beneficial organisms that help control pests; as a trap crop, where pest insects attack the floral band and not the crop; as a repellent, where the color or smell of the flowers serves to ward off unwanted insects.
We should favor floral bands with prolonged flowering, since these will attract beneficial insects and maintain a better balance in the garden. The most used short flowering species are; Chinese carnations, chamomiles, daisies, nasturtiums, pansies, yarrow, mugwort, dahlias, calendula, alyssum, tagetes, cosmos, among others. If we want a multi-year band (more extensive during the season), aromatic plants such as; rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, thyme, mints, pennyroyal, rue, oregano, among others.
Remember that, according to the crop we have, we must associate the species or species of flora bands that we wish to use, since some will serve as a "trap crop", others as repellency and, also, as attractants for beneficial insects to improve biological control. of predators and parasitoids.
The Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA) is the main institution for agri-food research, development and innovation in Chile. Linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, it has a national presence and a work team of more than 1,000 highly qualified people. It executes an average of 400 projects per year around 5 strategic areas: Climate Change, Sustainability, Food of the Future, Emerging Technologies, and Extension and Training of Capacities. These initiatives contribute to the sustainable agri-food development of the country, creating value and proposing innovative solutions to farmers, strategic partners and society, generating a social profitability that varies between 15% and 25%, for each peso invested in each of their projects.
INIA, more than 55 years leading the sustainable agri-food development of Chile.
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