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Garden Allies:How Some Insects, Birds and Animals are Garden Friends

Updated on October 4, 2010

Gazing at a rose ruined by green fly, or finding potatoes riddled, the gardener may fall into temptation to spray with the strongest poison he can buy for garden use. But one must remember that among smaller inhabitants of gardens are some very useful members of the animal kingdom. They range from parasitical insects to birds and include such small animals such as toads; and their usefulness can be remarked by a study of their feeding habits.


Dragon Fly

The dragonfly is an insect well known to nature lovers. It spends first part of its life under water, and there must be few garden ponds that do not at some time cradle the nymphs of this interesting insect.

These are rarely seen until they begin to emerge as adults with brilliant wings. Both underwater and in the air, dragonflies are voracious feeders on a large variety of other insects.



The packets of ‘worm killer’ in gardening shops probably give quite a wrong impression of worms in the garden. This worm killer is intended for use only on lawns, where worms in any undesirable in any quantity because if wormcasts thrown up. Elsewhere in garden earthworms should be recognized as allies. They are infact so valuable in breaking down and enriching the soil that they are today specially bred to supply to gardeners who must work on soil of a sterile nature. Here are of course other kinds of worms (such as eelworms) which are rightly classified as pests, but an abundance of ordinary earthworms in soil of a new garden should be welcomed by its owner as a natural asset.

Violet Ground Beetle
Violet Ground Beetle

Violet Ground Beetle

The violet ground beetle is another predator of insect world, feeding on other insects, among them many of our common pests. Unfortunately the larva of ground beetle is often mistaken as wireworm which is a most troublesome soil pest. The ground beetle larva has conspicuous biting jaws and is of darker brown color beneath. It is also, as are most predators, very active in seeking out its prey.


What? Welcome birds to the garden? Cries the gardening novice who finds his peas ravaged by blue tits, his cherries decimated by blackbirds and his ripest raspberries take by sparrows before he is up in the morning. But birds can dispose of large quantities of pests, particularly when they have nestlings to feed. A better way than most of dealing with this problem is to use a fruit cage, which can be left open to birds before fruits are ripening. The provision of water and food for birds, particularly in droughts, will help to keep this problem in perspective.



Far from advising the ladybird to ‘fly away home’ the gardener should encourage this attractive beetle to stay. He should learn to recognize grubs which are black and dark blue-grey, with orange spots, and are shaped to a roundish point at each end. These grubs are voracious feeders on green flies and other pests, including the scale insect.



Every gardener should learn the difference between a centipede and a millipede. Millipedes feed on plant tissues and should be destroyed; centipedes feed on soil pests and should be preserved. There are many kinds of millipede, but they can be identified by their two pair of legs to each segment and their habit of curling up when disturbed. Whereas the useful centipede, which is of bright brown color, has only one pair of legs per segment and is very active.


Spiders are a sort that make webs that sway in the breeze in summer, and spread silvery drapery over the shrubs in autumn, are definitely among the gardener’s allies. They prey on flies and do no serious damage to plants. There is ofcourse a well known, ‘red spider’ aka red spider mite which is rightly regarded as a pest, but this is so small that a few amateur gardeners realize it is a member of the spider family.



The lacewing can often be seen flying over rose bushes and other plants that are subject to attack of aphides; its two pairs of iridescent wings show up well as it flies in sunshine. There are two kinds: a green lacewing which haunts flower beds, and a brown one that feeds on pests of conifers. Both deserve gardener’s respect because of feeding habits of the grubs, which suck the juices from aphides and other small insects.

Honey Bee
Honey Bee

Honey Bee

Most garden owners have no difficulty in identifying the honey bee and appreciate its value to them. But they may fail to remember that poison sprays can destroy valuable hives of bees. Where fruits are grown the honey bee should be given every protection. Winter spraying done at right time in one way to make summer spraying less necessary so that bee colonies can be left to do their vital work of carrying the pollen.



Hoverflies are easily recognized by their habit of hovering over flowers when the sun shines, and are good allies of the gardener. They lay their eggs on shoots of the plants that are often infected by aphis, and the looper-type maggots feed on the aphides. During the winter some of the maggots remain in heaps of old leaves or other rubbish, while some pupate and can be found as a small pear shaped object attached to plants, fences etc. Adult hover flies feed on pollen and nectar and in doing so, assist in pollination.


The Toad of Toad Hall might well be puffed up with pride if he knew the respect with which experienced gardeners treat him. Toads destroy large quantities of pests and since, they also make interesting pets, should always be welcome in the garden.


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    • erthfrend profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      Great article! I know many people that just want to kill all the bugs in their gardens or yards but I am one that realizes their importance and I welcome them. I think if more people would know these facts and not kill off all the useful bugs, we wouldnt have such an imbalance like we do. Thank you for sharing these important facts!

    • FuzzyCookie profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hey Saleheen, I am glad that this information has proved to be useful ..cheers!


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