HELPFUL Insects - Good Garden Bugs
While most gardeners dread the first signs of creeping, crawling or flying insects, there are some bugs that really can help out your garden. Knowing what insects to encourage into your garden and what benefits they can provide will help you streamline your organic gardening possibilities or minimize your insecticide use.
The following are all good bugs for your garden, although not all of these insects will be found in all types of climates. Remember that attracting the good insects may also bring a few challenging bugs along too, but there are organic ways to control the unwanted insects that may arrive.
The Hover Fly
The Hover Fly, also known as the Syrphid Fly, is a smaller black and yellow looking insect that is sometimes mistaken for a bee or a wasp. They only grow to be about ¼ to ½ inch in length and are distinct from bees or wasps in two critical ways. The first and most important way is that they don't sting or bite, at least not humans or animals. The second is that they are able to actually hover in the air, almost appearing to be staying in the same place.
A Hover Fly in the larva stage will feed on many different smaller, slowing moving insects. They are particularly fond of aphids and small grubs, worms or mealybugs. The mature Hover Fly does feed on nectar but they do not damage your flowers at all and actually may help with pollination. Brightly colored larger flowers such as roses are recommended to draw in the Hover Fly.
Ladybug/ Lady Bird/ Lady Beetle
Lady Bugs/ Ladybirds
Also known as Ladybirds or Lady Beetles, these red or orange with black dotted bugs are a favorite with many gardeners. They are colorful in the garden plus they also feed off aphids, which are destructive to most plants. In addition to just aphids Lady Bugs will eat insect eggs, mealybugs, whiteflies, plant and spider mites as well as small larvae from any other insect.
Attracting Lady Bugs to your garden is easy provided you plant flowers that the insects like. Any flowering plant that produces lots of pollen and nectar is sure to draw a Lady Bugs attention. They tend to prefer cup-shaped flowers such as tulips, lilies and even herbs such as fennel and dill. You can also spray a mixture of fresh water, yeast and whey around the plant's leaves to further attract this pretty insect.
Bees of all types are great for your garden. Bumblebees tend to the largest types of bees in most gardens, with honeybees significantly smaller. Although bees don't eat any insects they do provide outstanding pollination for your flowers, vegetables and fruit trees as they move from flower to flower.
The Dragonfly or Damselfly is one of the most unique looking insects with its long thin body, large eyes and two pairs of transparent, long lobed looking wings. They can come in an amazing number of almost metallic colors from emerald green to azure blue. Purple, black and matte colors are also possible and ever more exotic colorations are seen in different areas.
Dragonflies eat aphids plus they also will feed on mosquitoes and their larvae in the evening. If you have a pond or water beside your flower or vegetable garden you will attract a significant number of Dragonflies as they skim across the water feeding on the mosquito larvae. Ponds also help to attract frogs that are a great way to keep down mosquito and fly populations in your garden and yard.
With perhaps the most descriptive name in the insect world the Assassin bug is a great help to the organic gardener since they will eat almost any insect they come across. Their main diet consists of mosquitoes, caterpillars, aphids, flies and beetles. These bugs have a long horn-like protrusion that they use to stick into their prey and their saliva actually starts to liquefy the victim from the inside out. The Assassin bug is also covered with very fine sticky hairs that trap the other insect, preventing its escape until the poison in the saliva can do the trick.
Assassin bugs do pose a problem in that they will bite humans and it is a painful stinging bite. These bugs are typically found in warmer climates and some species, including the stinkbug, have a strong and very nasty odor they release when they are threatened.
Although centipedes are often seen as a damaging or harmful insect, in fact they are an asset in the garden. Centipedes are ferocious hunters and will kill caterpillars, grubs, slugs and fly larvae and pupae. Centipedes will also bite people and although it will be painful it is not harmful.
The best way to attract Centipedes and some of the other helpful insects that feed of sub-surface insect invaders is to use a low till method of gardening. Ground beetles, which feed off cutworms, prefer the harder slightly packed soil with lots of mulch cover, ideal for retaining moisture and providing organic fertilizer to your garden.
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