Organic Gardening - Beneficial Insects
Most gardeners know, 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
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.
Specific Beneficial Insects:
Lady Bugs- Also called ladybird beetles, this helper bug's favorite
meal is aphids. Ladybugs consume lots of aphids each day. Lady bugs 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 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 mis-spelled 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
diets 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
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
Robber Fly - Their diet consists of grasshoppers, wasps, other flies.
Wasps- Most people think of wasps as nothing more than a nasty, stinging
insect. Some species are a gardener's friend. 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- Truely 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
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!
Attracting Beneficial Insects:
The diets of some beneficial insects includes pollen and nectar. To attract
and keep beneficial insects, maintain a variety of blooming tress, shrubs
and plants. Provide a continuous bloom all season long. This will also provide
a home for them.
Insects as Pollinators:
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
Related Gardening Topics:
About the USDA