Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
February / March 1998


The De-bugging of Tropical Discovery
by Jan Oen, Chapter Lifestyle/Education Chair

As many avid gardeners know, when you have plants, you are likely to experience a pest population attracted by your luscious vegetation. Stop! Don't reach for the chemicals. There is a better way.

It is called integrated pest management (IPM), a holistic approach consisting of (1) monitoring, (2) assessing damage and (3) using strategy, such as starting with healthy soil, growing resistant varieties, cultural control, sanitation and, as a last resort, using the least toxic pesticides.

On a cold and snowy November day, a few of Sierra Club members met at the Denver Zoo and for a tour of the Tropical Discovery exhibit by Chad Stewart, a horticulturist, who explained the natural pest control method used within the 20,000 square foot "Biome." A rain forest created in the midst of an arid Front Range city, Tropical Discovery opened about four years ago, using IPM from the beginning. With the close integration of plants and animals, IPM presented a non-toxic and environmentally conscious way of controlling aphids, mites, various types of scale, fungus gnats, mealy bugs, white flies and thrips. The building started with 16 known pest species and is now down to a controllable four.

In weekly monitoring of the plants in Tropical Discovery, an increase in the pest population is noted. The appropriate measure can be taken, such as pruning of infested foliage, hosing off problem species or introducing a natural predator. You can try this at home, using the same approach in your own garden or on your indoor plants: monitor, assess damage and apply strategy for controlling pests.

What You Can Do:
Contact your local extension office, such as the CSU Extension Service in Denver, (303) 640-5270), for further details on IPM. Your local library will have many publications on the topic, and watch for the next issue of Peak & Prairie for an upcoming tour of Tropical Discovery.