One way to organically control insects is to promote beneficial insects in your garden. Most gardeners know, that not all insects are harmful to your garden plants. Some are good for your garden. We call them “beneficial insects”. They are helpful in some way to your flower and vegetable plants. Having beneficial insects around to reduce harmful insect populations, is a great way to practice organic insect control.
You don’t have beneficial insects in your area? There’s a market for beneficial insects. Garden stores sell the larva, so you can introduce them into your yard and garden.
Lady Bugs– Also called ladybird beetles, this helper bug’s favorite meal is aphids. Ladybugs consume lots of aphids each day. Ladybugs are considered lucky. If a Ladybug finds its way into your home, don’t kill it (that would be bad luck). Rather, gently capture it, and let it go. Both the larva and the adult ladybug are beneficial insects.
Praying Mantis– Masters of disguise! These six-legged, stick-like insects, are colored just right to blend into the surrounding foliage. Their diet includes a wide range of insects, including beetles and caterpillars. They grab and capture insects with their “modified” front legs, which are positioned in a “praying” position. Praying Mantis is the correct spelling. They are sometimes misspelled as “Preying Mantis”.
Lacewings– Chrysoperla rufilabris, as Lacewings are formally known, helps to control caterpillars and aphids. Lacewing larva, also known as Aphid Lions, is the predatory stage of this beneficial insect. The adult lacewing diet consists mainly of nectar and pollen.
Ambush Bugs– They get their name from their hunting method. Beneficial Ambush Bugs sit on top of flower heads and lie in wait for their prey. They grab their prey with their front legs, similar to Praying Mantis. Their diet consists of a variety of insects.
Ground Beetles– Not all beetles are bad. These beetles eat a lawn insects.
Nematodes – There are good nematodes, that eat other insects, and bad nematodes that eat your plants. When you buy Nematodes from a garden store, it’s the beneficial kind that eats insects, making them great at organic insect control.
Robber Fly – Their diet consists of grasshoppers, wasps, and other flies.
Wasps– Most people think of wasps as nothing more than a nasty, stinging insects. Some species are a gardener’s friends. They attack and kill cabbage loopers, aphids, and hornworms.
Ant Lions – Chances are, you don’t have Ant Eaters (the mammal) in your area. But, maybe you have “Ant Lions” Ant lions are beneficial insects that eat ants and other crawling insects.
Spiders – The world’s #1 insect predator. They can be found indoors or out. The more insects you have, the more spiders you will find. More on Spiders.
Honey Bee– Truly a gardener’s friend. They are the pollinators of the world. Currently, pesticide use, disease, and mites are depleting their numbers at an alarming rate.
Other Insect Killers: While not a beneficial insect, birds are a great resource for controlling insects. We suggest you grow plenty of flowers that will attract birds. They are fun to watch, and many birds eat insects. This includes Bats!
The diets of some beneficial insects include pollen and nectar. To attract and keep beneficial insects, maintain a variety of blooming trees, shrubs, and plants. Provide a continuous bloom all season long. This will also provide a home for them.
We all know the honey bee is a pollinator. Many otherwise insects, can be pollinators. So, some insects are both good and bad. A prime example is the cucumber beetle. It sucks on plant juices, eating holes in the leaves as it goes. However, during its journey from plant out plant, and flower to flower, it picks up pollen from male flowers, and deposits it on the stamen of female flowers. Without pollinators, many vegetable crops would not produce fruit…..errr vegetables!