Sabados Greenhouse primarily uses three beneficial insects to combat pests.
Photo courtesy of Karen Sabados

Since they opened in the late 1990s, the Sabados family has expanded their greenhouse operation on their 40-acre property in Lundar, Manitoba, Canada. Sabados Greenhouse grows primarily annual bedding plants, as well as vegetable plants and some starter perennials, and grows mainly for its own retail greenhouse.

Currently, the greenhouse is 16,000 square feet, complete with a main bay and smaller tunnels, says Karen Sabados, who owns the business with her husband, Allan. Their daughter, Emily, also works there. “It was more of a hobby, and we just kept adding and adding, until suddenly it’s a little bit bigger,” Sabados says.

For much of the time they have operated their greenhouse, the Sabados have also expanded their knowledge and use of beneficial insects. Starting in the early 2000s with ladybugs, whose names ring out in households and are said to bring good luck, the Sabados’ beneficial insect program now consists of more obscure pest killers. The three primary means of control are the parasitizing wasp Aphidius colemani, the rove beetle Atheta and the beneficial nematode Steinernema.

Critters with control

To kill aphids, Aphidius colemani parasitize them by laying their eggs inside them; Atheta “rove” the ground and borders of the greenhouse, feeding on shore flies; and Steinernema, which Sabados says are “very, very small,” Steinernema attack fungus gnat larvae.

“We add things in as we need them,” Sabados says. “If we feel there’s a need for other beneficials, then we add them in. But we always start the season with those, and get good populations up and get those going in early spring, as soon as we can.”

Sabados Greenhouse in Lundar, Manitoba, Canada, grows primarily for its own retail greenhouse.
Photo courtesy of Karen Sabados

As for the ladybugs, the Sabados haven’t used them for a few years because they are mobile and tend to fly out of the greenhouse. The other creatures stay.

Another beneficial insect that the Sabados have used is Amblyseius, which they used to control thrips in the middle of summer 2017. Sabados estimates it was about August when the pests made a surprise visit.

A lot of luck

“We’ve had really good luck with the biologicals,” Sabados says. “It takes a bit of preplanning. You have to get [biologicals] populations up. It’s not something you want to do at the last second. It’s not that you can go and just spray, [that] there’s that last-minute thing you can spray. With biologicals, you have to preplan.”

Recently, Sabados has seen more nearby greenhouses in Manitoba adopt biological control methods. “It’s a fantastic thing to see it happening in the big greenhouses,” she says.