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Wildlife in the garden — especially insects — can offer a natural alternative to pesticides.

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From mantids to beetles to wasps, spiders, and everything in between, Dr. Gardiner tells how to identify the beneficial bugs, how to attract them, and how to work with them. I utilized the resource bugguide. I was also able to work with a great illustrator, Michael Cooley, who provided 20 drawings for the book.


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Michael was able to illustrate natural enemy morphology and life cycles that added significantly to the chapters. He also provided some excellent depictions of habitat management strategies using flowering plants to enhance the resources available to natural enemies within vegetable gardens as part of a chapter focused on biological control.

In addition to learning how to identify the beneficial insects, readers will also learn how to attract them. Gardiner said. You just need to know how to attract the beneficial ones to your garden. Beneficial insects pollinate flowers to make fruit and others eat the pests that want to eat your garden plants or suck the life out of them. One of the best ways to attract beneficials is to create a welcoming environment for them both by adding plants they like either to eat or as places to rest.

Kids Guide to Beneficial Bugs for the Garden

For example morning glory vines attract ladybugs and hoverflies, goldenrod beckons ladybugs, assassin bugs and parasitic wasps. Such a garden can be as simple as planting some grasses, perennial alfalfa, goldenrod, or hairy vetch in front of a row of fruit-bearing shrubs. Blanket flower, garlic chives, coreopsis, flowering dill, rudbeckia, milkweed, butterfly weed, purple cone flower, coral honeysuckle, Thai basil, rosemary, cilantro, and thyme can serve both as beneficial bug attracters and bad bug repellants. Be sure to add some standing watering spots for them, like a small pond with floating plants for them to stand on to drink.

Assassin Bug. These ambush predators have tubular mouthparts, called a proboscis, which they use to inject a lethal saliva that liquefies the insides of the prey, which are then sucked out. Green Lacewing larva. Green Lacewing. Hoverfly — These master flyers are able to zip around, hover, and even fly backwards.

Hoverflies are important pollinators of flowering plants second only to bees. Adults feed on nectar and deposit eggs on the leaves of plants that attract various pests.

Why Use Beneficial Insects

The eggs hatch into ugly little maggot like larvae that feed on aphids and other small, succulent bugs. Hoverfly larva.

★ 10 Beneficial Insects You Want in the Garden (Insect Guide)

Ladybug Adult. Ladybug — Also known as lady beetles or ladybirds in Britain, these insects are not classified as true bugs. The majority of their species are generally considered useful insects, because many prey on herbivorous insects such as aphids or scale insects, agricultural pests. Many lay their eggs directly in aphid and scale insect colonies to ensure their larvae have an immediate food source. Each adult ladybug can consume about 5, aphids in its lifetime. Even the larvae eat 50 to 60 aphids a day. Beware of root bound plants and those with wilting, discolored, or misshapen leaves.

Companion planting; interspersing vegetables, herbs, and flowers; and insectary plant mixtures are effective ways to foil bad bugs, attract good bugs, and promote pollination. Insectary plants are simply varieties that are very attractive to insects. Some have many flowers, like phlox, and others have composite heads of many tiny blooms, like daisies or sunflowers.

Gardeners have different thoughts on managing weeds , but there is a consensus of opinion on the disposal of pulled weeds. That being said, I have some family members who are partial to two edible weeds in particular, purslane and chickweed, so I pull all of my weeds except for these types. Some folks like to leave a patch or two for spiders to make webs in and for pollinators like butterflies to enjoy.

But wait! Whatever you choose to do with your weeds is fine with me, as long as you promise to do one simple thing:. Did you know that decaying plant material can become a host for destructive insects, as well as harmful bacteria? Plant material that is not diseased or insect-infested, and weeds that have not gone to seed, may be placed on the compost heap.

All others must go directly into the trash.

5 Good Bugs for Your Garden

Some bugs get their liquid from nectar, others from the plants they eat. Bugs that prey on other insects need a water source, like dew or raindrops, to sustain them.

By providing water, particularly in dry spells, you can ensure the well-being of the insects in your yard. Inchworms are greedy gluttons when it comes to delicious plant foliage. A pest is likely to chew or suck plant roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, or vegetables, causing damage or destruction, or spreading disease. Typical pests include mites, scale, thrips, earwigs, aphids, beetles, snails , and caterpillars. Ball says that while there are many pests in every yard, only five to ten varieties are likely to harm a home vegetable garden.

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Beneficial Insects: A Few Good Bugs

And of those, only three to five might do serious damage. According to the Permaculture Research Institute , you can begin by adding plants that attract good bugs to your gardens. With their favorite foods, water, and a place to live, these guys will earn their keep by preying on nuisance insects, pollinating, and generally helping to keep your garden healthy. Did you know that insects and spiders are fascinating members of the arthropod family of invertebrate animals?

Good bugs can be predators. This means they seek out their prey and use it for food for themselves and their young. They can also be parasites, like several varieties of wasps. In this case, pests become the host for good insects to lay their eggs on, so they can mature, feed, and consume the remainder of the host bug. Predators and parasites can also be pollinators. Usually when we think of them, we think of bees. But any critter that brushes up against pollen and carries it from blossom to blossom is helping to fertilize plants.

Did you know that without these hard workers, most plants would be unable to produce seeds and would eventually die out? Ants, bees, beetles, butterflies, flies, moths, and wasps are the insects that share in this responsibility. Bats, birds, other types of animals, wind, and water do the rest. The following photos and descriptions introduce a number of common beneficial insects, some of their favorite foods, and how to encourage them to make your yard their home. The predatory soldier beetle may be found atop a brightly colored blossom, lying in wait for soft-bodied prey.

Also called syrphid flies, these little guys can often be spotted hovering like small helicopters above their favorite flowers. Not a true bug, it must secrete saliva to digest its food, and if prey is unavailable, will feed on pollen. In the larval stage, and as an adult, a ladybug consumes vast quantities of aphids. When aphids attack a plant, they can literally suck the life out of it, so inviting the ladies into your yard is a good idea. They are somewhat flat and look a bit like army tanks.

In my area, all you have to do is mention them, and people roll their eyes. There are many types of wasps.

Bugs With Benefits Are a Green Thumb's Best Friend

However, there are several miniature varieties that are quite beneficial. One is the braconid wasp, friend to the tomato gardener.


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This mini-wasp is a beneficial that parasitizes the tomato hornworm, a destructive pest.