Beneficial Insects To Introduce To Your Garden
August 8, 2019
For the past few days, we have been talking about beneficial insects how you can benefit from having them around your garden. Insects will be as much a part of every garden as much as plants are. It is a matter of knowing how much of these insects your garden can tolerate.
Not all insects are pests; even the ones considered pests are useful the ecosystem because they are food for other insects as well as for animals.
There is a whole other world right there in your garden. Just like ours, this other universe is buzzing with activities: birds chirping, the bees buzzing, butterflies drinking nectar from the lovely flowers, and wasps pollinating seeds for the next generation of plants in your garden. But within this seemingly peaceful environment lie stories of predators stalking their prey; yes, those images you see on National Geographic wherein predators like lions and tigers run after their victims, that also happens in your garden, though in a much smaller scale. This is normal and should be encouraged, in fact, to maintain balance in the ecosystem.
What Are Insect Pests?
Insect pests are agents of destruction. They damage plants by having a negative impact on their quality, or worse, they kill the plants. Some insects are beneficial at one stage of their lives, or in one setting while being beneficial in another. They become pests when they are injurious to plants and plant products. Aphids, spider mites, cutworms, locusts, caterpillars, and crickets are some examples of insect pests. These insects are most likely to feed on plant roots, fruits, vegetables, leaves, stems, and flowers. They can also spread diseases. Fortunately, of all the insects in your garden, there are only about ten varieties of insects that are harmful to plants, and only about five can do some serious damage.
The Beneficial Insects
Beneficial insects can be described as a type of insects that help you in your garden by transferring pollen from a male part of a plant to a female part of a plant to enable fertilization and production of seeds. They also help in pest control. Encouraging these insects is a strategy being applied by farmers and gardeners for controlling pests. There are even some companies that sell beneficial insects for use in areas like greenhouses.
If you do not want to buy commercially available beneficial insects, you can attract the free-ranging ones into your place. To do this, you should have an environment that would interest them. Putting in plants that they prefer is a good way to do this. Like what that immortal line in the movie “Field of Dreams” said, build it and they will come.
The best strategy for you, then, is to mix in the good insects along with the bad. The good ones look for their prey for food. Some of them are hunters, while some are parasites. Some lie in wait, pouncing on their prey at the right time.
Here are some of the beneficial insects you should try to attract into your garden:
Ladybugs are probably the most aesthetically pleasing bugs there is. There are 5,000 species of ladybugs. Ladybugs eat a lot of insects, and both gardeners and farmers love them for it. They are always hungry, and their favorite food is aphids. In fact, an adult ladybug can consume 50 aphids a day. They also eat caterpillars, mealybugs, scale, and thrips. They eat a lot of aphids whether as adults or as larvae. Ladybugs lay hundreds of eggs in the colonies of aphids, those plant-eating pests. Once their eggs hatch, the larvae will feed on these aphids, helping the environment along the way.
They really earn their keep and will work hard for you in exchange for a small amount of food, water, and a nice shelter.
Syrphid flies always stay in areas where there are lots of aphids. They also hover around their favorite flowers. They measure about 1 mm, have black and yellow bands around their abdomen, and are at times confused with bees. The adults feed on nectar and pollen, while the larvae feed on insects. They eat aphids and other soft-bodied insects like caterpillars, mealybugs, and thrips. A single syrphid can consume hundreds of aphids in a month. They will definitely play a very important role in controlling populations of pests in your garden.
Big Eyed Bugs
These bugs feed on different insects that do damage to plants. They are 1/16 to ¼ inches long with wide heads and large eyes. Their huge eyes turn slightly backward. It is important that you identify them properly so as not to confuse them with other pests.
Big-eyed bugs feed on aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers, whiteflies, and mites. They use their mouthparts, called proboscis, to extract the body fluids of their prey.
Rough Stink Bugs
As their name suggests, rough stink bugs are foul-smelling insects, and that bad odor comes from their abdominal glands. They are harmless to humans, yet beneficial to gardens because they prey on caterpillars, beetles, and their plant-eating larvae, and aphids using their piercing and sucking mouthparts. Their bodies are flat and can be described as looking like army tanks. The adults can reach to an inch long. They are well camouflaged and can blend well with the bark of trees. You would not notice them at first glance, probably. When you do get to notice them, do not worry, they are your friends.
The female adults lay eggs on the leaf surfaces of twigs in the spring. There is only one generation of rough stink bugs each year.
Lacewings are nocturnal insects that got their name from their delicate, see-through wings. They have ears at the base of their wings. Some of them feed only on pollen and nectar, while others feed on aphids, mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, and thrips. Their larvae can eat as much as a hundred aphids a day. They inject digesting juices into their prey, and this dissolves their insides in just a couple of minutes. As you can see, they are very good at controlling pests.
Braconid wasps are parasitoids, which means they live as parasites that eventually kill their hosts. Tomato gardeners love them, as they parasitize tomato hornworms which is very destructive. They also feed on aphids, beetles, squash bugs, and caterpillars.
The female braconid wasps deposit their eggs inside the hornworm's body. The eggs hatch inside the body and the larvae would eventually feed on the insides of the caterpillar. When they pupate, the larvae would then chew their way out of the caterpillar and spin silk cocoons on the host’s exoskeleton. Tiny adult wasps emerge from the cocoons later on. So next time you see hornworms covered in pupae, just let it be. Soon a group of beneficial wasps would emerge to help you out.
Dragonflies are not just pretty, they are also beneficial to your garden. They like to lay eggs near water. They are among the most primitive insects there is, with evidence showing that they have been around for 300 million years now.
Adult dragonflies are excellent fliers. They chase their prey around while flying. They catch their prey by using their feet. During their larval stage, they stay in the water and eat almost anything, from tadpoles to mosquitoes, and even each other.
Their diet includes flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and small fishes. If you have problems with mosquitoes, dragonflies are the insects you can rely on.
It is time to meet the beetles! They are commonly mistaken for other pests, that is why it is important to learn how to identify them. They can be yellow or tan in color, with large, black spots on their wings. They feed on pollen and nectar and are harmless to humans.
They do ambush pests like aphids. They also eat caterpillars, moths, and grasshoppers. Experienced gardeners encourage these beetles to stay in their gardens because of their pest controlling ways.
These hard-working little creatures save for the rainy days; among those that they feed on are aphids caterpillars, fleas, flies, mealybugs, cockroaches, and pretty much all insects. Too many of them, however, becomes a problem. They sting humans and contribute a little to pollination.
These are some of the many insects that can really help you control the bad insects. They may look scary, but these scary-looking creatures are your friends because they get rid of both garden and household pests. Imagine the help you can get from them in eliminating mosquitoes, flies, and cockroaches.
If they are not able to eliminate all of the pests, don’t worry. The best pest control management in the Carolinas is here to help.
Go-Forth Pest Control
Go-Forth Pest Control helps you get rid of pests that invade your home. They use family-friendly and pet-friendly methods of extermination, so you do not have to worry about a thing. Go-Forth Pest Control has earned the trust of residents and businesses in North Carolina for more than 50 years. For more information, or to set an appointment, just dial 336-841-6111. Our friendly operators are standing by.