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Know your garden friends- Predators, assassins, and killer insects

Updated on July 6, 2015
rodrigo sebidos profile image

The author is a graduate of Agriculture at the University of the Philippines.A teacher at the Visayas State University, Baybay City, Leyte.

Keywords: Insects. Beneficial. Harmful. Pests Cultural Methods. Pesticides. Natural Control Agents.

Trees dance and sway in the dying sun of Madagascar.  Dance! Dance! Dance! for tomorrow is ANOTHER DAY. Source: National Geographic, 2015
Trees dance and sway in the dying sun of Madagascar. Dance! Dance! Dance! for tomorrow is ANOTHER DAY. Source: National Geographic, 2015

Act Wisely!

“Protect predators of pests, pollinators, our environment, ourselves from the misuse of pesticides. Identify the organism first and then if it is a pest of importance, choose the least toxic way to manage it.”

Quote from Wayne S. Johnson and Jessica Graham (June 2008)

Worldwide distribution of known organisms in each group

  • Insects-950,000
  • Plants-270,000
  • Fungi-72,000
  • Fishes-19,000
  • Birds-9,000
  • Mammals-4,000

      The six Classes under Phylum Arthropoda
The six Classes under Phylum Arthropoda


Don't be alarmed if you see loopers, flyers and crawlers in your beautiful garden. Those flying objects and crawlers are not all pests. In fact if you look closely, some of those flyers and crawlers are beneficial insects. They help you control the population of harmful insects in your garden by acting as predators, assassins and insect killers.

Insects are the most diverse group of an organism with around 950,000 species described in the animal kingdom. They assume a critical role in both ecology and human society as a vital link to food webs. Served as pollinators and in the recycling of nutrients for increasing productivity of agricultural crops, conversely, insects have devastating consequences as agricultural pests and bears diseases. Insects vary in size and forms but their ability to adapt to extreme temperatures and altitudes makes them superior over other organisms.

The animal kingdom is divided into phyla (sing. phylum), considered the most diverse is Phylum Arthropoda. Under this phylum are six distinct Classes, namely, Class Crustacea, Class Diplodea, Class Arachnida, Class Chilopoda, Class Insecta, and Class Merostomata. However, in terms of numbers and diversity, Class Arachnida and Class Insecta bears the bulk of 950,000 known invertebrates in the Animal Kingdom widely referred to as "insects ", but the arachnids (eg. spiders ) are not insects, they have four pairs of legs while true insects (eg. Honeybees) have three pairs of legs only. Nevertheless, the so-called "insects" are further grouped as beneficial or harmful insects and here's the rub, the harmful insects (pests) out numbers the beneficial insects. But, don't be alarmed, though outnumbered, they're the most effective nature's insecticide.

Bugzki -the Prehistoric Insect of Phylum ENGKANTODA
Bugzki -the Prehistoric Insect of Phylum ENGKANTODA
   Phylum Arthropoda and the five diverse class
Phylum Arthropoda and the five diverse class
                Edible insects of the world
Edible insects of the world

The common insects in your garden

The first reaction of most gardeners, if they see insects in their gardens, are pests and immediately apply insecticide to get rid of troublesome insects without knowing first the type of insects present. Spraying of insecticide also kills beneficial insects and this my led to resurgence of harmful insects as the population of natural control agents is lowered Furthermore, the use of chemical as control agents may threaten human health as residues are left on the food crops and could potentially contaminate our water resources if applied enlarged amount.

Knowing what are the insects present in your garden before any control measures done, is basic to the effective reduction of harmful insects in your garden. Some of these common insects found in your garden is shown below.

Common insects in your garden
Common insects in your garden

Do you Know ?

Can aphids have offspring without mating?

That Assassin bug inject toxic saliva that paralyzes and liquefies victim's tissue before feeding?

That ladybird beetle's larvae feed for three weeks, eating 10 to 50 aphids per day?

That honeybees communicate with each other using the " dance " language?

That ants have two stomachs, one to digest its own food, the other to feed other ants?

That the larvae of periodic cicada live about 13 to 17 years below ground, but as an adult two weeks to 40 days only?

One maggot of Syrphid fly can consume 400 to 500 aphids in its lifetime? They have 3 to 7 generations per year.

       Predator Praying Mantis-Enjoying a grasshopper  meal. CANNIBALS ?
Predator Praying Mantis-Enjoying a grasshopper meal. CANNIBALS ?
 I'm coming ! Two legged insect-A new species ?
I'm coming ! Two legged insect-A new species ?
Venomous Assassin bug- "Delicious millipede" It SUCKS!
Venomous Assassin bug- "Delicious millipede" It SUCKS!

What are beneficial and harmful insects

Insects are important components to our world as they are sources of food to other animals including man, they aid in the pollination or reproduction of food crops and they have inspired humans with their beauty and ingenuity, and even worshiped in ancient religion. Therefore, don't be alarmed if yo see insects in your garden, not all insects are harmful, in fact, some of them help toned down pest population Shown below is some common insects usually observed in your garden, they are classified as beneficial or harmful insects, try to familiarize with them and understand how they affect your crops. If you can secure an illustrated guide to common insects in your area will be most advantageous. A list of examples is shown below.

Examples of Beneficial and Harmful insects in your garden

Beneficial Insects
Harmful Insects
green lace wings
lady bird beetles
bean leaf beetls
assassin bugs
praying mantis
cucumber beetles
minute pirate bugs
squash vine borers
ground beetles
squash bugs
syrphid flies
flea beetles
predatory stink bugs
european corn borers
big-eyed bugs
asparagus beetles
damsel bugs
tomato & tobacco hornworms
paraitic wasp
cabbage looper
tachinid flies
colorado beetles
      Most common insects and their numbers
Most common insects and their numbers
                        Edible insects ?
Edible insects ?

What are garden pests :

These are garden insects that destroy your plants. As insect pests, they destroy roots, bore tunnels in the stem, stunt growth, blemishes flowers and leaves, deformed fruits and above all make yours product unpalatable and unfit for market. The damage done by garden pests can be arbitrarily categorized as a) the fruit and flower destroyer, b) the leaf and root cutters, c) the stem borers and gall makers, d) the flower and flower buds destroyer, and e)seedling feeding pests. The list of insects in each category is not absolute, in fact, some of these garden pests are present all year round especially those having multiple plant hosts. therefore, eradicating them will be difficult. In this case, a robust control measure should be planned prior to planting.

a) The fruit blemishers and flower destroyer

The following insects are considered pests that damaged flowers and fruits such as:

Borers, Mealybugs, worms

petal cutters, Mites

Beetles, Japanese, Scales

Aphids, and Thrips

Bug, Squash and Whiteflies

b) The leaf and root cutters

The following insects are considered pests such as:

The foliage eaters, Sawfly

Armyworms, Tomato hornworm

Leafcutters, Weevils

Corn earworms, Grasshoppers

Midges.Aphids, and Cicadas

             Beneficial and Harmful insects
Beneficial and Harmful insects
          Fruit sucking insects on corn ear
Fruit sucking insects on corn ear
            Aphids marching on Rose stem
Aphids marching on Rose stem
             Hornworms-a leaf eating insect
Hornworms-a leaf eating insect
                    Root eating grub
Root eating grub

c) The stem suckers and gall makers

The following insects are considered pests in stems of such as:

Aphids, Bugs, Squash

Cicadas, Mealybugs

Mites, Scales, Beetles, Japanese

Thrips and Whiteflies

d) The flower and flower buds destroyer

The following insects are pests to flowers and flower buds such as:

Aphids, Bugs

Mealybugs, Scales

Thrips, Whiteflies

Weevils, Corn borers

Grasshoppers, Corn Earworms

and Tomato Hornworms

e)The root feeding pests

The following insects are considered pests to roots such as:

Root feeding insects,

Crickets, Cutworms

White grubs, and Cicadas

       Caterpillars festing on floral blooms
Caterpillars festing on floral blooms

Do you know ?


  • thin antennas ⁄ feathery
  • wings closed at rest ⁄ wings often at rest
  • pupa-chrysalis ⁄ cocoon
  • diurnal-active day ⁄ nocturnal-active night

                  Flower bud destroyer
Flower bud destroyer
                               Stem Borers
Stem Borers

Methods how to attract beneficial insects in your garden

(click column header to sort results)
Beneficial Insects  
Methods to Attract  
Lady bug
grow pollen bearing and nectar producing plants; provide water in shallow pans filled with gravel duringt dry months
Hover flies or Syrphid flies
grow pollen bearing and pollen producing plants in the Umbelliferae family. Allow some brocolli to flower.Plant tall plaqnts like sunflowers where fleis can hover.
Assassin Bugs
grow perennials to provide permanent shelter plantings
Tachinid Flies
Grow plants in Umbelliferae family and other small-flowered plants like Alyssum and spermint
Parasitic Wasps
grow pollen and nectar plants inthe Umbelliferae family, mints and herbs.Legumenous cover crops planted adjuscent to garden beds , ptovide shelter like sunflower, let some Brocoli and radishes flower
Ground beetles
grow pollen producing plants, grow dense cover cropsto provde sherter, incorporate stone walkways between garden beds
Big-eyed bugs/flower bugs
grow pollen and nectar plants like sweet alyssum, alfalfa, golden rod and cosmos
Source: Charles, Ray and Geoff Zehnder (December 2011)

Predators, assassins, killers and prey

These are your garden allies that will help you in controlling harmful insects the natural way. Considered as nature's own pesticide is more economical and environmentally friendly. Though their numbers are limited but they helped toned down pest population in a mutualistic way. Plants and insects have co-evolved over 300 million years ago when flowering plants(The Angiosperms) start to dominate the plant world. They are the first inhabitants of this world. Under the mutualistic condition, plants and insects co-exist, whatever damage imposed by insects to plants, plants was able to outgrow the damage. For instance, insects are not destructive to plants at all times only a certain part of their life cycle they do damage to plants example their larval stage. In the adult stage many insects help plants by serving as pollinators or promoting sexual reproduction, the plants get pollinated as requisite for species survival for generations to come, in return the insects gets its food(honey, nectar, etc,), a place to live among others.This mutualistic understanding have persisted for millions of years and has been encoded in their genome to be expressed in their behavioral response to each other.Indeed, plants, predators, assassin's. killer insects and prey are one in the insect food web. Man does not take this relationship seriously in his desire to produce more food for his own kind. Methods used by man altered this relationship (eg. use of pesticides) which created more problems rather than solving it. Some suggestion to keep beneficial insects in your garden ( selected techniques) is presented here(Table).

Pollen bearing and Nectar producing plants

Pollen Bearing







Grape Hyacinth


Squash family


Nectar Producing





Grape Hyacinth


Squash Family




Queen's Ann Lace

Source: Heidi Minga

The Red Ants are coming- YOU, are just MANDIBLES AWAY !
The Red Ants are coming- YOU, are just MANDIBLES AWAY !
                                    Stem cutter
Stem cutter
                                         Root Suckers/ feeders
Root Suckers/ feeders

Do you know ?

  • that red ants are not true ants but a kind of wasp?It is also known as "cow killer" it can sting humans and animals
  • that damselfly fly at the speed of 30 kph?
  • Have that cockroaches their skeleton outside their bodies?
  • that butterfly taste using their feet?
  • that grasshoppers have five eyes but no ears?instead, they have a special organ called tympana

“QUIZ Bee”

Matching type. Match column A with B. Letters ONLY.

column A column B

  1. ---Have 3 pairs of legs a.Metamorphosis
  2. ---Have 4 pairs of legs b.Honeybees
  3. ---Scutellum c.Bugs
  4. ---Change in forms d.Insects
  5. ---“Dance” language e.Spiders

Mimicry-leaf insect. Do i look an INSECT ?
Mimicry-leaf insect. Do i look an INSECT ?
Daring Damselfly.  Ahhhh-ha-ha, it tickles ! Closer my dinner,  don't be afraid, aaahhhH!
Daring Damselfly. Ahhhh-ha-ha, it tickles ! Closer my dinner, don't be afraid, aaahhhH!
                 Fruits unfit for market and human consumption
Fruits unfit for market and human consumption
                        Insect's  gall
Insect's gall

Methods used in increasing population of beneficial insects in your garden

Crop rotation
Parasitic wasp
Companion crops
Parasitic flies
Trap crops
Diversified farming
Healthy soil
Plant resistant varierties of crops

How to increase the population of beneficial insects in your gardin

Don't kill insects unless you know them first, chemical control will be the last resort. There are natural methods that are inexpensive and less dangerous to human health. Some of these methods employed by wise gardeners may include cultural. biological or physical. Of course, the technique(s) to use is site or situation specific and depends on the knowledge and experience of the grower. Nevertheless, some these methods are presented, the table below enumerates some of these methods.

Cultural methods and management practices

Cultural methods and management practices are very vital to the life of insects whether beneficial or harmful may vary from location to location.Nevertheless, the main reason for doing this is to increase the presence of beneficial insects in your garden.To a wise grower means fewer costs and less harmful to humans. In the last few years, interest on organic farming has increased due to the ecological impact of pesticides to human health. Some cultural methods are discussed here to minimized dependence to a pesticide to control insect pests in your garden. Crop rotation, this means you don't plant same crop every cropping season to prevent build up of insect pest population in your garden, mono-cropping tend to attract more specialist insect pests to your crop and low population of beneficial insects due less varied food sources.Companion crops. these are crops design to attract the insect to stay in your garden though they are not the main crop, but they provide varied food sources to beneficial insects. Planting them few rows with main crop especially if they are pollen bearing or nectar producing plants will encourage beneficial insects to take up residence in your garden. Some plant gives off compound that repel harmful insects, for example, planting garlic among vegetables help repel Japanese beetles, Aphids, vegetable weevils and spider mites.Trap plants. Some insects prefer one plant over the other.For example, pickle worms prefer squash to cucumber, some tomato worms prefer dill over tomatoes, planting them near your plant will lure away insect pests from the plants you wish to protect. Healthy soil. With healthy soil, you're giving the plants better-growing condition, thus, making them tolerant to pest damages. Humic acid in the soil repel some soil insect pest, increase humic acid can be enhanced by incorporating organic matter in the soil. The more organic matter increase water-holding capacity of the soil increase aggregation for better root penetration, increase nutrient availability among others. Use plant materials only animal materials may attract rodents and other animals aside from the unhealthy odor it emits.

Rotate crops in different families

(click column header to sort results)
peas and beans
cabbge, collards, brocoli, brussels sprout,
kale, caulifower, turnips and radish
carrots, parsley, celery,parsnip
tomato, potato, peper and egg plant
lettuce, endive, ariichoke
onion, garlic, shalot, asparagus
Source: LSU AgCenter Researce Extension,Pub. 3303, November, 2013

Diversified planting. a common practice among home growers to plant a single crop in a straight row wich provide easy movement of pests in and around the rows of plants, therefore, pests damage is increased.Diversified planting means planting different crops in alternate rows that tend to disorient harmful insects where the food is. Transferring from one plant to another exposes them to predators.Compost. Fertile soil is the foundation of a healthy garden. One of the most effective ways to enhance soil fertility is to add compost. Compost is made by mixing organic materials especially plant sources and allowing to decay the natural process. Mulch. Mulching is the spreading of organic matter in the garden and around the plants, It is an effective method to control weeds and also serves as a refuge for predatory insects like the ground beetles. It conserves moisture and lower soil temperature. Some gardeners used cover crops as green mulch. Resistant varieties. Planting resistant varieties gives you an insurance against pest attack. Of course, it does not mean that your plant will not attack by insect pests but, if ever, plants outgrow the damage. Biological. The use of parasitic insects as biological control agents in recent years has gained interest in pest control. There are two distinct groups based on the manner how they obtained food. Parasites, invade the body of their host (endoparasites), or attach themselves to the host (ectoparasites) and feed on it while it is still living. An example of endoparasite, Tachinid flies (Tachinidae) while some wasp's larvae are ectoparasites. Barriers, traps, and stakes. These physical methods are quite limited in application since it can be applied only to few plants especially the exotic ones.


Predator- are animals that survive by hunting and eating other animals

Assassin- killer

Prey- animals that are hunted and eaten by predators

Behavior- the way animals act in a situation

Disguise- changes one's appearance to hide or what one really is.

Metamorphosis- a change in form from birth to maturity.

Venomous- able to inject venom, a poisonous liquid by stinging, striking, or biting

Recommendations and conclusion

To keep your garden healthy and free of harmful insects the following are recommended: don't kill insects unless you know them. If it can't be avoided, the use of pesticides will be the last resort, obtain an illustrated guide to common insects in your locality for quick reference, consult extension agents assigned to your area for appropriate control measures, provide adequate habitat and food supply for beneficial insects to stay in your garden , plant variety of plants that will provide nectar and pollen for beneficial insects throughout the growing season , provide fresh water in shallow pans for them to drink, using hay or straw as mulch around your vegetables for habitat of ground dwelling beneficial insects. Other cultural management practices appropriate for your garden can be employed in combination with other methods to control pest the natural way.

Lastly, the use of pesticides must be avoided beneficial insects are also harmed and pose a greater threat to human health and the environment.

George-"Sometimes you have to shut up, swallow your pride and accept that your'e wrong. Its not giving up, its called GROWING UP !"
George-"Sometimes you have to shut up, swallow your pride and accept that your'e wrong. Its not giving up, its called GROWING UP !"


Scholarly Articles:

Charles, Ray and Geoff Zehnder. 2011.Garden bugs-Insect pest management in the vegetable. home garden. Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. Alabama A&M and Auburn University.ANR-1045.

Charlet, et al.Biological control of insect pest and weed pests in North Dakota agriculture.

Fontenot, Kathryn et al.A guide to controlling insects in the school garden. The LSU AgCenter. Louisiana State University.Pub.3303. November 2013.

Grantham, Richard. and Don C. Arnold. Beneficial Insects. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. EPP-7307.

Ghidiu, Gerard. Beneficial insects of home gardens. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. August 2008.

Mack, Sarah.Beneficial insects in the yard and garden.University of Nebraska Extension, Lincon, Lancaster County. Nebline, July 2007.

Minga, Heidi. Beneficial Insects. Department of Natural Resources Science. Washington State University. Cooperative Extension.

Richman, D. B. One hundred common insects of New Mexico. Extension Service Circular 570. College of Agriculture and Home Economics. NM State University.

Internet Sources:


             Loss Weight ?- try this !
Loss Weight ?- try this !
         Healthy Foods- Fresh fruits and veggies everyday- keeps the DOCTOR AWAY !
Healthy Foods- Fresh fruits and veggies everyday- keeps the DOCTOR AWAY !


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