Tiny Spider on Chives Tiny Spider on Chives

7 Bugs You WANT in Your Garden and Why

September 19, 2012

Beneficial insects are a group of insects that organic gardeners adore.  These bugs feast on the likes of pests that seek to dine on our gardens!

I've never been a big fan of insects.  In fact, I get pretty squeamish around them.  But I've grown to love the ones that keep the pest population under control in my garden.

Here's a list of seven bugs that won't give you the creepy crawlies.

Lady Bugs

Lady bugs, or ladybird beetles, are probably the most widely known beneficial insect.  They eat aphids, thrips and other small pests.  It's the lady bug's larvae that are the real champs though.  They are shaped like little black and red alligators and are voracious feeders of aphids.

Aphids seem to be their favorite food, but I have watched ladybug larvae mow down thrips and clear off an entire leaf in minutes.

Green Lacewings

Aptly named for their delicate lace-like wings, lacewings have also been nicknamed aphid lions.  The larvae are predatory and eat all kinds of soft-bodied insects like aphids and thrips.

Praying Mantis

The praying mantis is a fierce hunter.  Unfortunately, it is not discriminatory in its prey so you may lose a few of your beneficial insects to a preying mantis.  It more than makes up for it with its appetite for insects eating anything small enough for it to capture and devour.  (This means the larger the praying mantis, the larger the prey it eats!)

They will also ferociously fight off any would be predatory.  I had one "box" with one of my cats from the opposite side of a sliding glass door.

Bees

Ah, the noble bee!  Bees are the pollinating queens of the garden.  Vegetable gardens rely on good pollinators to produce and bees fit the bill.  Attract them by planting flowers in the vegetable garden and your plants will be perfectly pollinated.

Spiders

Spiders are another one of the non-discriminatory hunters, but hunt they do.  I am not a fan of spiders personally, but I am a fan of what they do in the garden so I have learned to co-exist with them.  Just know what your area's dangerous venomous spiders, like the black widow and brown recluse for example, so you can avoid them.

Parasitic Wasps

Encompassing a wide range of insects, parasitic wasps are generally very small.  The wasps lay their eggs in or on a host insect.  When those eggs hatch, the young eat the host insect.  Depending on the particular wasp, the host insect ranges from aphids all the way to caterpillars.

They are wasps and do sting, but many of the ones commonly found in the garden are not aggressive and do not have stingers big enough to penetrate human skin.

Hover Flies

Also known as syrphid flies, these little guys are small and seen zipping around the garden then suddenly stopping midair to hover.  They look a bit like a bee with their banded abdomen, but are actually a kind of fly.  The adult hover flies are great pollinators and the larvae feed on scale, aphids and thrips.

In my mind, beneficial insects are the stars of my garden.  I avoid using pesticides and they keep the pest population down.  Invite a few more bugs into your life and you will be impressed by the results!

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