I don’t like bugs. I really don’t. Insects that are found in the house are not harmoniously ushered out, but are instead smashed. However…in the garden, insects have become my friends.
As an organic gardener, I have come to rely on the army of natural insect predators that exist only to rid my garden of vegetation destroying pests. Okay, I’m sure that’s not the only reason they exist, but it’s what’s important to me. Allow me to introduce you to my friends.
My oldest and best friend is the Ladybird (or ladybug). She is probably also well known to many. Her job is to munch the aphids, and she does this with relish (but no mustard). She’s a beneficial beauty and it helps that she’s also cute.
Next, almost as cute is the Green Lacewing.
She eats aphids and other mites both in the adult and the larva stage.
The Assassin Beetle. He’s not as cute or as well known, but he does the job and he does it right. Adult and nymphs of the assassin bugs feed on beetles, leafhoppers, aphids, caterpillars. Unfortunately, they will also eat bees, but the benefits outweigh the costs for the most part.
Moving on…the centipede/millipede
Millipedes chew up organic material into fluffy, rich compost. Centipedes patrol the garden for slugs, fly pupae, cockroaches, crickets and worms. Other bugs try to measure up, but they don’t have a leg to stand on.
Next in the beneficial bug lineup, ground beetles. These guys are ugly, u-g-l-y they ain’t got no alibi, they’re ugly…hey, hey, they’re ugly. They do their job, and that’s what matters.
They eat slugs and snails (yes!) plus a host of other ickies, like cutworms, and root maggots. Plus, they aid compost and clean up the garden by poking around fallen leaves looking for their next icky bug meal.
The Dragonfly/Damselfly these guys are among my favorite. In the first place they eat mosquitoes. I hate mosquitoes. They also eat a host of garden pests including but not limited to, aphids. Yay Dragonflies! Dragonflies Maximize! (That was for my son)
One beneficial bug I just met this last year is the Hover fly. These tiny little guys do a massive job.
They not only eat loads of aphids and lay their eggs right in the aphid colonies, but their voracious larvae eat masses of aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, thrips and scale. Besides cleaning up garden pests, hover flies help pollinate flowers. About the size of a baby pea, they are over achievers to say the least. I had a zillion of these guys in the garden last year, and once I realized they don’t sting, and did some research to find out what they were about, I was so happy to meet them.
Another benebug that I am in the process of learning more about is the Nematode.
These kill fleas, crane flies and caterpillars. Plus, you can buy them to add to your garden. That’s a little easier than trying to attract them to your yard.
By now you may have realized I have omitted some of the heavy hitters of beneficial insects, butterflies, bees, worms, mantis. These are getting their own post at a later date, that’s how beneficial they are.
I hope you have all of these beneficial bugs in your garden this year. There are ways to attract them, with companion plantings and pheromones. Some you can buy at an organic gardening supply store. Before reaching for the chemical pesticide, consider some biological warfare in the form of beneficial bugs. Have a paisley day!