The Phuket News Premier League predictions The Phuket News Kata Rocks The Phuket News
The Phuket News Phuket Environment
The Phuket News Arts | Community | Culture | Dining | Education | Phuket Entertainment | Environment | Health | People | Technology | Travel | World Entertainment XML, RSS, Feed
The Phuket News The Phuket News
The Phuket News

Green Thoughts: Nature’s own pest controllers

My name is Patrick Campbell. I have lived happily on this island Eden since 2004 with my Thai partner Wan. All very different from my upbringing in rural, austerity England, where I first developed an abiding passion for the countryside – which I recently described in my memoir Plums to Persia.

Sunday 9 July 2017, 10:00AM

Tropical gardening presents a new and exciting challenge. We all make mistakes, but embracing nature is always rewarding and salubrious.

In time to come, and as green spaces disappear beneath the island’s remorseless concrete jungle, gardens will become the principal haven for all the fauna as well as the flora of Phuket.

Look after your flowers, shrubs and trees. In return, they will enrich your lives not only with vibrant colour, but with bees, birds, butterflies and rich, pure, fragrant air.

In this column for The Phuket News, I hope to provide advice, guidance and information about the endlessly fascinating world of tropical gardening.

If you have any questions about your own garden or would like to know more about a specific topic please email me and I will do my best to help.

For this, my first column, I want to look at controlling insect pests by encouraging nature’s own pest-killers to do what they do best.

Unfortunately, every Phuket garden is home to plant eating insects. Most people control these “critters” with insecticides, and indeed sometimes there is no alternative.

Just check the ingredients – carefully – when you buy pesticides. Though illegal in most countries, chlorinated hydrocarbons such as DDT and lindane still turn up like bad pennies.

Their long-term impact on the environment, on everything from birds of prey to bees, has been catastrophic.

Less dangerous alternatives include carbamates such as cardaryl, or parathion; better still, plant-derived compounds such as nicotine, rotenone or pyrethrum.

But wherever possible, you should let nature take its course, and provide its own bio-controls. This means that reptiles and amphibians that have taken up residence in my garden, namely the lizards, skinks, geckos, frogs and toads are welcome to stay.

I attribute the fact that there are few snails and even fewer slugs to the presence of these voracious insectivores.

Of these, one of the most useful is the banded bull-frog or chubby frog (Kalouka pulchra). It is distinctive looking, with a dark brown back, creamy belly, and a broad salmon-pink stripe along the body. Almost round, it can, if distressed, make itself even more rotund.

In the monsoon they surface from holes (often excavated in flower pots) where they spend most of the dry season, in order to feed and breed.

They are not large – no more than five centimetres in length – but they are big consumers, both of slugs, and of insects such as crickets, grasshoppers and termites.

Another amphibian that puts in a daily appearance at present is the river toad (Bufo asper). Unlike the chubby frog which dislikes chlorine intensely, this species squats by the pool and, on occasion, even plops in.

A larger creature, with a distinctive broad head and warty, knobbly skin, it is reliant on its dark yellow-green colour for camouflage. Only if prodded, will it hop into the adjacent undergrowth. But it is another gardener’s friend.

All these frogs and toads need water to breed. They favour my fish pond: hence the presence of tadpoles at this time of year.

Among the lizards, the sun skink or mabuya (Eutropis multifasciata) is an attractive and useful fellow, since he is terrestrial, lives in the leaf litter of flower beds, and emerges at dusk, to prey on slugs and other invertebrates.

The largest family of lizards, skinks typically have small legs, streamlined bodies, and attractive coppery scales.

Less obviously a gardener’s ally since they live in trees, arboreal agamid lizards are also good to have around, since they feed principally on insects.

They are easily identified by their excessively long, fragile-looking tails and dorsal crests. Safe in my domain, their habit of freezing when disturbed, makes them an easy prey for human predators who hunt them with a noose at the end of a long stick.

Geckos, the commonest reptile of all, have not yet been mentioned – for the obvious reason that they favour houses rather than gardens. And they are a bit of a mixed blessing since they leave their black droppings everywhere.

Nonetheless, they account for large quantities of pests, especially mosquitoes. The commonest variety in Phuket is the spiny-tailed house gecko. There can be scarcely a Thai home without its complement of “lucky” geckos patrolling the ceilings and walls.

On the other hand, the tokay (Gekko gecko) is less visible, partly because it is able, chameleon-like, to change the colour of its skin.

A family lives in my garden wall, where, every evening, the male gives vent to his loud, rasping cry. Naturally aggressive with a fierce bite, the tokay is the largest and most striking member of the gecko tribe, up to a foot long, with blue-grey skin and vivid, orange spots.

Consequently it is much in demand in China and in the pet trade. A shame… it is much more valuable running free and devouring large insects such as beetles, grasshoppers and ants.

Snakes of course are the natural predators of all these reptiles. Friends are always regaling me with stories of large cobras in or around their properties, but my walled garden only attracts vibrantly coloured tree snakes. Nonetheless, they have a hearty appetite for lizards and frogs. 

And what of dragons? Alas none. The nearest I came to a dragon in Phuket was a huge carrion-eating water monitor which used to inhabit a nearby marsh, and which once ambled across my lawn. It was all of six feet long and they are second in size only to the Komodo Dragon. Little wonder Thais are in awe of them.


Patrick Campbell has been writing for ten years about gardening in Phuket and allied topics. If you have horticultural or environmental concerns, please contact him at Many of his earlier creative and academic publications can be found on his blog Green Galoshes at:



The Phuket News
The Phuket News
Comment on this story
* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.
Comments Here:

Comments Left: Characters
E-mail: (No Hotmail, Live, MSN and Outlook accepted at this time)
   => Forget password?

Be the first to comment.

The Phuket News
The Phuket News The Phuket News The Phuket News
The Phuket News
Share this
The Phuket News
Have a news tip-off? Click here
The Phuket News
Related stories
The Phuket News
Phuket community

Recent Comments

Phuket grandmother’s head crushed under 10-wheeler juggernaut

I also watched the video. The woman cut in very close to the front of the truck, I think she may have got the bike caught in the trucks bumper and th...(Read More)

Phuket’s Soi Dog speaks out on rabies: Genuine outbreak or misinformed panic?

One person wrote yesterday:"Phuket offers now many serious and dangerous health problems to inhabitants and tourists....Rabies around!The same pe...(Read More)

Phuket’s Soi Dog speaks out on rabies: Genuine outbreak or misinformed panic?

Very interesting article. All the works and efforts of Soi dog foundation are great. But how to recognize a vaccinated stray dog? Phuket has dog-bea...(Read More)

Phuket grandmother’s head crushed under 10-wheeler juggernaut

Why would he flee the scene then? Not to mention he dragged her some distance... Hmm must be the only GOOD truck driver in Phuket, still doesn't c...(Read More)

Alcohol ban in Phuket this weekend for local election day

Please note - We asked for a map of the area but were told they did not have one - hence the best description they could give us is: "Moo 1 Chal...(Read More)

Alcohol ban in Phuket this weekend for local election day

A map to show to all readers where is Moo 1 in Chalong, Muang Phuket District, would have been very helpful....(Read More)

Driver, Chinese tourist dead, three tourists seriously injured in Phang Nga minivan crash

"But was too close.." Yes, tailgating is standard practice here. Absolutely the most dangerous drivers in the world. Oblivious to basic phys...(Read More)

Phuket residents call for end to black wastewater on Surin Beach

I remember at least 2 posters here saying a while ago they would leave this terrible place.May i assume they still feel good to live among people with...(Read More)

Phuket grandmother’s head crushed under 10-wheeler juggernaut

The whole article is BS and so it leads to those comments accusing the truck driver wrongfully.I saw the video on PG,clearly the deceased woman was at...(Read More)

The Phuket News
Weird World
The Phuket News PHUKET LIFE
Phuket Arts
Phuket Community
Phuket Culture
Phuket Dining
Phuket Education
Phuket Entertainment
Phuket Environment
Phuket Health
Phuket People
Phuket Technology
Phuket Travel
World Entertainment
Photo Galleries
The Phuket News PHUKET SPORT
Phuket Buy and Sell
Phuket Jobs
Phuket Property
Phuket Cars and Boats
Phuket Community
Phuket Services
The Phuket News The Phuket News PHUKET EVENTS
Phuket Event listings
Phuket Event calendar
Buy Tickets
Phuket Bars, pubs and clubs
Phuket Hotels and villas
Phuket Restaurants
Phuket Yellow Pages
The Phuket News BARGAINS
The Phuket News ABOUT US
The Company
Distribution points
Advertise with us
Pay for advert
Contact us
Content Google Map
Site map
Australian Visa Services
Currency - The Phuket News   Weather Report - The Phuket News   Surf Report - The Phuket News
LinkedIn - The Phuket News   Twitter - The Phuket News   YouTube - The Phuket News   Facebook - The Phuket News
Copyright © 2018 Class Act Media. All rights reserved. | Website usage terms and conditions | Privacy and Confidentiality Statement.