How can you tell which creepy-crawly critters are going to help your garden or hurt it?
Most gardeners think about how to keep bugs away from their vegetables and flowers. But there are bugs that you want in your garden. These “good guy” bugs help control common pests to let your garden thrive.
Beneficial bugs are the first line of defense for organic pest control in your garden. An unsuccessful garden is sometimes due to pesticides, which destroy useful bugs in the process.
At Environmental Pest Management, knowing about beneficial bugs and helping our clients attract them to their gardens is part of our holistic services. Let’s learn about five of these garden good guys that you want to keep around.
Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly to My Home
Ladybugs, also known as ladybirds or lady beetles, are a well-known beneficial insect. Many people consider them good luck. Ladybugs are especially known for eating aphids, which every gardener detests.
One adult ladybug will eat an estimated 50 aphids per day and 5,000 aphids in its lifetime! If you have enough food supply, ladybugs will decide to stick around for a while and lay eggs, tiny yellow clusters found on the underside of leaves. These eggs will hatch within a week, and after another 3-5 weeks, become adults who will happily munch on your aphids, mealybugs, and mites all through the growing season.
Most people recognize the red ladybug with black spots, but there are other varieties. They can also be black with two red spots, white with brown spots, or pink with black spots.
You can purchase adult live ladybugs and put them in your garden. You can also intersperse plants with your flowers and crops to attract them naturally. Dill, fennel, yarrow, coreopsis, marigold, and Basket of Gold are all plants that ladybugs love.
Also Read: The Best Ways to Get Rid of Mice this Spring
It Only Comes Out at Night …it’s a Slug-eater!
If you’ve ever turned over a rotting log and seen shiny black bugs skitter away, you probably encountered a ground beetle. These unassuming insects are one of your garden’s best friends. They’re voracious predators and can help you get rid of some of the worst plant-destroying problems.
Ground beetles are nocturnal and prefer to hide. You may never see them unless you uncover one of their hideaways, but if they’re in your garden, your plants will appreciate it. They’re about ¾ inch or more and usually black or dark brown with long legs.
But don’t be alarmed. These guys are your garden buddies. They cannot fly or climb. Ground beetles root around in leaf litter, compost, and at the bases of plants to hunt insect eggs, larvae, cutworms, slugs, cabbage maggots, Colorado potato beetles, corn earworms, snails, and other pests that can live in your soil. These pests can cut down saplings and new growth, eat bulbs before they can grow, or eat flower buds.
Be sure not to use pesticides in your garden if you want to nurture an environment for ground beetles. They are very sensitive to them, and even residual amounts in the soil will harm them. Make sure you use natural lawn care and natural garden products.
If you have mulch, compost, or piles of pulled weeds, you very likely already have some ground beetles. They enjoy these moist environments. You can also put down some paver stones, flat rocks, or boards to give a place for them to hide during the day.
Ground beetles also are drawn to amaranthus, clover, and evening primrose.
Lacewings Grace Your Garden While Their Young Prey on Pests
Lacewings get their name because of their four, large, membranous, veined wings that have a pattern that resembles lace. Adult lacewings are graceful and ethereal, dancing from flower to flower. It may be hard to imagine that in their larval stage they are fierce predators who eat common garden pests.
Lacewings are most effective at organic pest control during their larval stage when they are predatory and hungry. If you look at a lacewing larva up close, you’ll see it looks like a tiny, ½” alligator. And they’re just as predatory as an alligator, but they go after your garden pests.
Lacewings help control aphids, mites, mealybugs, thrips, and whiteflies. Lacewing larvae have such a voracious appetite that they are sometimes known as “aphid lions,” but they will happily eat other bugs and insect larvae.
You can import lacewing eggs or larvae into your garden, or you can also encourage an environment for lacewings to live and breed.
Adult lacewings are attracted to a variety of herbs, such as coriander, and dill, and other plants such as angelica and sweet alyssum. Adult lacewings like flowering plants, which provide pollen and nectar for them to eat. Lacewings are better at preventing pest problems vs. attempting to control an infestation, but they are an important part of your organic pest control strategy.
Also Read: How to Get Rid of Moles and Voles
Arrrr … the Minute Pirate Bug Has Come to the Rescue
The Minute Pirate Bug is officially known as Orius, but who can resist imagining a pirate bug making your garden pests walk the plank?
Orius bugs have a long rostrum like a pirate sword they use to lance their prey and drain the fluids quickly and efficiently. Minute Pirate Bugs especially like thrips, pests that ruin your onions, flowers, and other vegetables. They also eat aphids, spider mites, and caterpillars.
By inter-planting perennials such as Shasta daisies and black-eyed Susans, or annuals such as cosmos and sunflowers, you’ll be on your way to attracting these beneficial bugs to your garden. They also like fennel, spearmint, and caraway.
Watch that Soldier Beetle Go
Soldier beetles are also known as leatherwings and take their nickname from the brightly colored patterns on their wings that some say resemble uniforms. They look very similar to fireflies or lightning bugs but do not produce light.
These good guy bugs are harmless to people and do not damage plants. Adult females lay egg clusters in the soil, and the bristly larvae are born hungry. They will eat aphids, caterpillars, insect eggs, and other soft-bodied insects.
You can make your garden hospitable to these garden friends by planting marigolds, zinnia, goldenrod, and linden trees.
Experts in Organic Pest Control and Natural Lawn Care
Environmental Pest Management is your friend when it comes to organic pest control. We’ll never recommend the use of pesticides inside your home that could harm beneficial bugs in your yard. Our experts in home pest removal and prevention are happy to keep these “good guys” in the garden, where they belong, and out of your home. Click here to chat with our team at Environmental Pest Management today.