When you think of bugs, you usually think “pest.” When your think of bugs in your garden, you usually think “unwelcome” or “destructive.” And you’re right … sometimes. Caterpillars, beetles, aphids, mites, slugs and insect eggs are all quite harmful to gardens, but there are several bugs that actually benefit your garden, working as little soldiers, constantly patrolling your plants and veggies, hunting those “bad bugs” and keeping the destructive insect population to a minimum. So before you rush to spray the insecticide, lets learn about which insects can actually prey on the pests that can destroy your prized flowers, plants and vegetables.
* “Green Lacewing” — Aphids are one of the most destructive pests to any garden. Fortunately, the Green Lacewing comes to the rescue. These hardworking creatures, affectionately nicknamed “aphid lions,” devour aphids after stabbing them with their curved, sharp mandibles. Creepy, but effective!
* “Praying Mantis” — Perfectly camouflaged to resemble leaves, this insect is ravenous when first born, and is known as a garden pest predator. Because of its large size, its kills and eats larger pests, and one of its favorites is the caterpillar.
* “Assassin Bugs” — This little killer lives up to its name, and is like the 007 of beneficial garden bugs. They will do anything to capture a meal, including tricks, disguises and sheer power. They feed on beetles, caterpillars and anything in between. Use caution, however, when picking one up — they will bite you too, and it will hurt!
* “Lady Bug” — These teensy insects with their familiar red shell and black dots just love aphids, and one adult will consume about 100 of them a day, and the ladybug larvae can eat 100 an HOUR. Now that’s efficient! This cute little critter, a member of the beetle family, also loves to eat mites and the eggs of leaf hoppers, mealybugs, thrips and boll worms.
To attract these garden defending bugs, be sure to include as many different kinds of plants as possible, as the diversity of the different pollens and nectars will be a magnet for a variety of beneficial bugs. Also, don’t be so quick to pull weeds. Weeds can often attract the “good bugs” to your garden. Plants with “umbrella’ shapes attract parasitoid wasps, which dine on aphids, caterpillars and the larvae of beetles. Plants such as alyssum and catmint placed directly under rose beds attract ladybugs and lacewings.
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