Believe it or not, there are some beneficial bugs that we should be happy to have around our homes and in our gardens! With over 100,000 different species of insects in the U.S., a surprisingly low number are harmful to humans. In fact, most insects are helpful in some way – although some more than others. Without these helpful insects, we would have no pollination. Even more impressive, many species of insects are natural predators for unwanted bugs and other pests. Here are just a few of the beneficial bugs you want to see in your yard or garden.
Ladybugs, Beetles and Damsel Bugs
Ladybugs, a species of the lady beetle, love to munch on aphids. Damsel bugs, although not as pretty as the Ladies, help by eating the eggs of unwanted insects like caterpillars, aphids and mites. Similar to ladybugs, many other beetles (Ground-, Rove-, Tiger-, and Tortoise beetles, for example) control damage that can be caused by more harmful insects and weeds. You can purchase containers of ladybugs at local garden centers. Simply set them free in your garden and let them do their thing.
This may surprise you because many nematodes are detrimental to plant health. The good kind of nematode is predatory against pests such as cutworms, fungus gnats, scarab grubs and corn earworm moths. In many facets of commercial agriculture, beneficial nematodes are applied just like a pesticide. In fact, the good strains of nematodes help create an environment that discourages the bad strains! You can purchase nematodes at many local garden centers and online.
Lacewings and Antlions
Lacewings are not only pretty but they’re also highly beneficial to your garden. Lacewing larvae are voracious consumers of aphids, moth eggs, scales, thrips, mites and caterpillars. Adult brown lacewings and antlions (similar to damselflies) also feast on unwanted insects. Lacewings often lay their eggs on plants infested with aphids to ensure that the offspring have plenty to eat. Attract lacewings and antlions by incorporating long-flowering plants into your garden and planting beds. You may also be able to purchase green lacewings commercially.
While you can purchase many beneficial insects online or through local garden centers, sometimes the best method is to attract them to your garden naturally. Some plants that attract beneficial insects include fennel, coriander, dill, calendula and cosmos. If your efforts to control pests aren’t working, don’t just start randomly spraying chemicals. Consult your local pest control service first. They will have the knowledge and experience to use the least damaging products necessary to control your problem and allow the beneficial bugs to do their part as well.