Bugs, to many gardeners, are considered to be a nuisance. We are instantly reminded of the hole-ridden broccoli leaves, the caterpillar-eaten tomatoes, and the unmistakable aphid infestation that leaves us searching for a solution. Funnily enough, bugs are the solution. Mother Nature knows what she is doing because there are many insects that actually help your garden grow strong and beautiful. The next time you see bugs moving friends and family into their new home (amidst your kale crop), check this list to find out if they will help your garden or destroy it.
At the top of our list is an insect that is not actually not an insect. However, nematodes are crucial biological controllers of many soil-borne pests. The microscopic parasites live in the soil and help your garden grow by hunting, then penetrating and destroying, over 230 different pest insects. While they are successful at killing borers and fleas, they do not harm beneficial insects like earthworms and ladybugs.
Ladybugs (Lady Beetle)
These are one of the easiest beneficial insects and certainly very popular among the gardening community. Essential at preventing pest outbreaks, ladybugs are a fierce predator to soft-bodied insects such as mites and insect eggs. Astonishingly, adult ladybugs will destroy and eat more than 5,000 aphids in their lifetime.
Assassin is a decidedly suitable name for these insects. Like something out of a sci-fi thriller, these bugs use tricks, and even disguises, to trap and kill their victims. While gardeners will escape the Assassin Bug with just a painful bite, pests like beetles and caterpillars generally are not so lucky.
One of the more common garden inhabitants, beetles are capable of managing most pest populations. Both larvae and adult beetles feed on garden annoyances like mealybugs, aphids, thrips, and mites. You are likely to spot beetles climbing up plant stems in search of insect eggs to devour.
The bumblebee is an absolutely essential (and cute) pollinating insect. Pollination is directly responsible for anything from cherries and strawberries, to peppers and tomatoes. That said, bumblebees play their part in feeding the world and are one of the most fascinating and necessary creatures in your garden.
Praying Mantids are successful predators because of their ability to use camouflage and blend in with the plants of your garden. When hiding, the bugs are able to catch and destroy many large insects. Although Praying Mantids are helpful in controlling caterpillar populations, they limit their own by sometimes eating their relatives.
Originally from Australia and brought to the United States as a biological control, this insect is, not surprisingly, equipped to controlling the citrus mealybug pest. Technically a small beetle, both the larvae and adults are predators of aphids and soft scale insects.
Hunting and Parasitic Wasps
So tiny that many are unseen by the naked eye, some of these wasps are critical in protecting your garden. The microscopic wasps generally go after the eggs of the pests and are beneficial in controlling future pest outbreaks. Like bumblebees, they are attracted to pollen and nectar plants, and can be very helpful components of your lush garden.
These minute insects are most likely already thriving in your garden, but as they are less than 1/16th of an inch long, you probably would not be able to spot them. Small but mighty, both the nymphs and adults attack their enemies by piercing them with a beak before sucking out all of the vital fluid. Consuming large amounts of soft-bodied pests like thrips, spider mites, caterpillars, and aphids — it is good to have these guys around.
As their name suggests, these insects are pretty easy to identify. Their massive and bulging eyes allow for them to stand out in your garden as not only unique creatures, but also beneficial predators. With a stomach figuratively as big as their eyes, these bugs consume many garden pests including caterpillars, chinch bugs, flea beetles, mites, whiteflies, thrips, loopers, leafhoppers, earworms, and aphids.
While many humans do not like to see spiders anywhere close to their home, finding them in your garden can actually be a good thing. Beneficial as a predator, spiders are able to eat all types of insects and can help prevent pest outbreaks. As they dwell underneath straw mulch nearby your perennial plants, you can rest assured that most will not try to relocate into your home.
These dainty green bugs may look and sound sweet, but this green insect is in fact a voracious predator. Deadly to many pests, the larval lacewing is deadly to most soft-bodied insect pests and their eggs. Known as the ‘aphid wolf’ or ‘aphid lion,’ green lacewings help your garden out by eating over 200 problem pests weekly.
Definitely a pest when they get into your house, stink bugs are actually pretty good predators when it comes to controllingpest populations in your garden. Some varieties, like the Spined Soldier Bug, are successful at managing infestations of grubs or caterpillars. Like praying mantids, these beneficial insects are also unfortunately good at killing members of their own family.
Hoverflies, also known as Flower Flies or Syrphid Flies, look nearly identical to bees. These garden pollinators do more than just pollinate. Their yellow-orange and black stripes and the pollen on their hind legs means that they are commonly confused with bees — the difference being that Hoverflies have only two wings. They are also ferocious predators, forcibly removing aphids and eating them in the hundreds.
Lynton specialises in pest control and bought into the Jim’s Pest Control franchise. He works on providing premium pest control services for clients and is a well trusted member of the community. Outside of work he walks the family dogs, goes for bike rides with the family, and enjoys life.