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How to Use Beneficial Nematodes

Nematodes are a type of roundworms, which are applied to the soil in order to get rid of pests that may harm the plant. There is a specific time period within which this needs to be done so that maximum advantage can be gained.
Narayani Karthik
Last Updated: Nov 20, 2018
There are many pest control techniques in use today which help in protecting gardens and plants from more than 200 species of insects that eat away a healthy growth. But there are some natural alternatives, too. We are talking about beneficial nematodes.
These nematodes are organic microscopic worms that live in the soil, and effectively kill most of the mettlesome insects even before they mature into adults.
There are more than 20,000 kinds of nematodes that reside in soil, of which, beneficial nematodes are the friendly parasites that help in eradicating pests like grubs, fleas, mole crickets, weevils, and Japanese beetles.
They usually have an unsegmented body and are white in color. So, let's understand how flea control is managed by these worms. When and how to apply them for organic insect control will also be explained here.
Beneficial Nematodes and Fleas
These microscopic nematodes are natural predators and come in two different species - Steinernema and Heterorhabditis. They attack the insect larvae by infesting into the body of the host, pertaining to its parasitic properties. These strains contain a bacterium which is lethal to the host.
This biological pest control technique is efficient in controlling flea infestation. In case of fleas too, they release a bacterium into the flea larvae, kill it, and digest it. The entire process takes about 48 hours, within which, the insect dies a slow painful death, or is altered physically or is unable to reproduce.
The best time for flea control is to attack during their cocooning stage. This way, much of the flea population can get ambushed quickly, preventing any more flea infestation in your yards or lawns. Besides, one must also remember that nematodes don't thrive much in hot and dry conditions.
So one has to water the lawns regularly and in the meantime, one also needs to keep an eye on pets (like dogs and cats), which are the most probable flea carriers. In case of pets, check out the places where they straddle a lot (like in yards, under the trees, or near fences).
Apply these nematodes under the trees and in the yards, by spraying them with water through a water sprayer. The nematodes are most helpful twice in a year, in late spring and early fall, when the atmosphere is humid and conditions are most favorable for fleas to thrive.
At such times, applying the nematodes in flea infested sections of your home, will not only bring down the flea population but also disrupt their life cycle. This is one of the best ways of getting rid of fleas naturally.
Beneficial Nematodes and Ticks
Besides fleas, ticks are another major trouble, when it comes to pets. However, this problem can be resolved easily, with a combined application of Heterorhabditis indica, an insect parasitoid and entomopathogenic nematode.
It has been proven that the entomopathogenic nematode (Steinernema glaseri CCA strain), has been quite effective in penetrating female ticks within 2 hours of exposure. Once these parasitic nematodes have infested, they start eating away the tick from inside and keep multiplying within, until the tick bursts and dies.
These friendly worms have shown to cause a 90% mortality rate in ticks. Many vets suggest that the ticks on pets can be controlled and killed by applying nematodes in yards and lawns, where pets tend to stroll more and spend most of their time.
Many organic gardens, too, make use of these organisms to target ticks. The most common and effective nematode, available today is S.Feltiae, which can infect about 100% of ticks at a time.
Applying Beneficial Nematodes
What You Need
  • Bucket of beneficial nematodes
  • Stirrer
  • A clean pump sprayer
  • Sprinklers
How to Use
• Buy the roundworms from an authentic dealer or you can get it from some good nursery. Since they are refrigerated, they are dehydrated, but alive. After buying, one can refrigerate them for about 4 weeks and the temperature setting should be about 40 degrees. Any temperature variation is bound to kill them.
• Now, when the temperature outside is at least 55 degrees, release these tiny creatures into a bucket. Make sure you don't expose them to sunlight. So, the best time to do this activity is in the late hours of evening or in the wee hours of the morning. Also, water your lawn and make sure that the soil is moist.
• The next step is to rehydrate the nematodes, for which you will require at least 1-2 gallons of water. Empty the bucket of nematodes into the water sprayer and allow them to soak well for an hour. Keep stirring the water every 10 minutes to help every nematode get hydrated properly.
• In the evening, when the garden is well-saturated, water the garden with the water full of nematodes and make sure you spray more water on the soil, so that these friendly worms swim their way into finding their food, the insect larvae.

Hope you have a fair idea about the many benefits offered by them.
The best features offered by them are:
  • They have a wide range of hosts.
  • They can be cultured very easily, either on artificial media or on hosts.
  • They can be stored and refrigerated for several weeks.
  • They are also quite resistant to various environmental conditions and can cause a 100% mortality in pests in a short span of time.
If you are not sure about the quantity of nematodes that you will require, then you may take help from a nursery or an experienced gardener. Usually, if your yard is small (about 2000-4000 sq feet), then 1-2 million nematodes will be needed. If the yard is as big as 12000 sq feet to 1 acre, then 6-24 million would suffice.
Many greenhouses also make use of these friendly and organic pest control techniques to safeguard many indoor plants from gnats, grubs, and fungus, which can affect the soil. Besides, their use on the botanical front, nematodes have a great hand in wiping out flea infestation in the home, be it dog fleas or cat fleas, or ticks.
All you have to do is spray the mixture of these nematodes with water over carpets, yards, and the garden and you will see the difference for yourself.
As nematodes belong to a diversified species, some have pest-like behavior and are harmful to plants. So, the next time, when you go about buying them, mention specifically that you are looking for 'beneficial nematodes'.