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Beneficial Garden Insects

Beneficial insects will help to keep your garden free of harmful pests and reduce the need for much of the use of insecticides in the home garden.

Encourage beneficial insects to visit your garden by growing plants and flowers which provide food and a home for them. You an also purchase many good bugs at most larger nurseries and garden centers.

How to lure beneficial insects to your garden

  • Do not use pesticide. Pesticides will kill both beneficial and nonbeneficial insects
  • Plant nectar-producing flowers to further increase the food supply. Plants in the cabbage, carrot and sunflower family are especially attractive to beneficial insects.
  • Control ants which may prevent predators from controlling aphids.
  • Do not use insecticides. Insecticides provide only temporary pest control and are likely to kill more of the natural enemies than the pests.
  • Cover bare dirt in your garden with mulch of dead leaves or grass clippings, thick enough to shade the soil surface. This provides shelter for spiders, which are the number one predator on insects.
  • Place plants that attract beneficial insects in your garden. Some common plants that attract beneficial insects include angelica, bee balm, buckwheat, calendula, candytuft, ceanothus, chervil, cilantro, clover, daisy, dill, erigeron, evening primrose, fennel, and goldenrod.
  • Provide a place for birds
    Birds can also be very helpful with controlling pests in your garden.

Types of Beneficial Garden Insects

  • Cryptolaemus Beetles seek out mealy bugs and consume them. The eggs are usually laid on an infested plant so that the larvae can feed on the mealys as well. Cryptolaemus Beetles resembles the Ladybug but is darker in color.
  • Green lacewings larvae will eat spider mites, thrips, leafhoppers, whiteflies and caterpillar eggs. Green lacewings are most effective when a large number of the larvae are introduced into a limited area.
  • Ladybugs feed on aphids, chinch bugs, whiteflies, and mites, as well as many other soft-bodied insects and their eggs. Each adult ladybug may consume as many as 5,000 aphids during their adult life.
  • Syrphid Flies larvae eat aphids. Syrphid Flies are also called flower flies and hover flies.
  • Parasitic nematodes are microscopic worms that kill many soil dwelling pests including grubs, weevils and webworms. Nematodes must be replaced each spring.
  • Praying mantis feed on a wide range of pests, including aphids, flies, and beetles.
  • Predator mites are very useful in controlling spider mites and two spotted mites, both indoors and in the garden.
  • Spined Soldier Bug prey on many types of beetles, webworms, armyworms and other garden pests.
  • Trichogramma wasps are tiny wasps which prey on the eggs of more than 200 worm type pests, including borers, webworms, and many types of moth caterpillars.

The economic value of insects

Insect job description
Value to economy
Pollination by wild insects

$3 billion

Pest control by predators and parasitoids $4.5 billion
Processing of animal waste by dung beetles $350 million
Recreation (birdwaching, fishing) $50 billion

Source: "The Economic value of Ecological Services by insects" by John Losey and Mace Vaughan, Bioscience, April 2006, pp. 311-323.

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