Beneficial Bugs

When the seasons change and spring arrives we can’t wait to get out of the house and start planting our gardens again. But we aren’t the only creature that enjoys the better weather; insects start to show themselves again and while the first sight of a butterfly is a joy to see, not all insects are welcome. The list of destructive pests that can plague a gardener’s hard work can be frightening! Aphids, mealybugs, thrips, and white flies are just some of the many insects that can do some damage. But are all bugs bad?

All Pests Have Enemies

We know that almost all pests have natural enemies. In the gardening world we refer to this group of insects as beneficial bugs. These beneficial insects prey upon the destructive pests in our gardens and turn them into a meal. Beneficial insects can be found naturally in our gardens or added. Releasing beneficial bugs in your garden can help prevent or treat an infestation of the bad bugs. Different beneficial bugs can be used for different problems or methods of garden care. Some beneficial bugs play a more defensive role to prevent an infestation while others go on the offensive and attack the pest directly.

Beneficial Bugs to the Rescue!

Pest prevention starts with good defense. Praying mantids are best for early season prevention as they tend to stay in the same area and wait until food arrives. The mantids hatch out of their egg case (called an ootheca) when temperatures begin to warm and consistently exceed 50 degrees. It doesn’t take many as each egg case can produce between 100-200 baby mantids! Mantids immediately emerge as tiny adults and start their search for food; young mantids eat aphids, thrips, flies, small caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects.

While mantids are best for early season pest control, options like lady bugs or green lacewings are more ideal once the pest insects arrive. Ladybugs prefer to eat aphids and will devour up to 50 a day but will also dine on mealy bugs, leafhoppers and scale insects.

Green Lacewings Like ladybugs, green lacewings have a strong appetite for aphids but will also consume mites, white flies, mealybugs, leafhoppers and thrip. Although adult lacewings consume these pests, their young offspring are the heavy hitters. Lacewing larvae live up to their nickname as “Aphid Lions” and can eat as many as 1,000 aphids each day!

Nematodes There are also beneficial bugs that work where we can’t see them – below the surface. Beneficial nematodes are a microscopic organism that consume up to 230 different types of soil dwelling and wood boring pests like flea larvae, white grubs, and fungus gnat larvae before they have a chance to emerge from the soil. A packaged serving of these nearly invisible soil heroes can contain up to 7 million nematodes and cover up to 2,000 square feet with an effective survival rate of up to 2 years! You can even apply them to the soil of your houseplants. Like other beneficial bugs they do not consume or affect other beneficial bugs including earthworms

Earthworms Some benefits of introducing earthworms into your soil include increasing soil fertility, improving soil drainage, breaking the thatch, improving soil structure, getting deep root growth, and repairing damaged soil.

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