Beneficial Insects for Your Garden!

It is unfortunate that some people think all insects are harmful to the garden. Many are, but just as many are beneficial to the garden. They eat other harmful insects or their eggs and save the garden from being eaten alive.

It is important to know which insects you want to attract and keep in the garden and those that can do harm. Using beneficial insects to control problems in the garden is an organic method and it extends to the flower garden, vegetable garden, fruit trees and lawns.

Benefits Of Using Beneficial Insects

Using insects to control garden problems means that pesticides and other chemicals are not used. It is a non-toxic method of control. This allows the gardener to not worry about the vegetables they eat because toxic chemicals where never applied.

Pesticides do kill harmful insects, but they also kill the beneficial ones. In reality, the gardener is “shooting themselves in their own foot” by using pesticides. Pesticides are costly.

Unfortunately, so are beneficial insects and creating the environment to enticing them to stay, but once the colony of insects is established, it is much less expensive than buying pesticides all the time.

Some harmful insects are showing resistance to chemical pesticides and soon, those chemicals may no longer work to control harmful garden insects. When using insects instead, this resistance does not happen. Lady bugs will ALWAYS like to eat aphids.

Things You Need To Know About These Little Guys!

It is important to know regulations and other factors before releasing beneficial insects into the garden.

Check local municipalities to see if there are restrictions on releasing species of insects. In most cases, there won’t be a problem, but some areas do restrict. There are areas in California where permits are required for certain insect releases.

If your neighbor gardens and if they might be afraid of some of the insects you desire, you might want to let them know. Educate them on how these insects can help their garden as well.

A praying mantis looks scary and some wasps may be a problem for some people. Educate them so they will not be wary of your choice to use insects.

Make sure the environment matches the needs of the insects being released. If you can’t keep the insects in the garden, they aren’t going to do you any good. Read up on your insects and provide shelter, water and food they need to live and flourish.

List Of Beneficial Insects For Your Garden!

Image credit: Judy Gallagher.

Green Lacewing – Green Lacewing larvae feed on soft-bodied insects like aphids, spider mites and other insect eggs. They never seem to not be hungry and can consume about 60 aphids in just 1 hour.

If it gets hungry and there are no harmful insects around, it will even eat its own kind. It eats aphids, whitefly, mealy bugs, moth caterpillars. Plant dill, coriander, angelica and have some dandelions around to attract them.

Lady Bugs or Lady Beetle – Lady bugs eat the same things as green lacewing and might be a little more welcome by neighbors who know they are harmless to humans.

They do a good job at controlling harmful insects and each larvae will consume thousands of aphids in a lifetime. Ladybugs eat aphids, mites, fleas, whitefly and Colorado potato beetle.

They need dill, dandelion, Tansey and yarrow nearby to keep them happy and lady bugs will fly far away to get to an environment conducive of their needs.

Praying Mantis – Praying mantis are large insects that look scary, but they are very gentle, at least toward humans. Get praying mantis egg cases to put in your garden, but be careful because birds like to eat them. Tie them to branches about 3 feet above the ground.

Some suppliers will give you cardboard protectors with holes in them to keep birds from eating them. About 200 little praying mantis insects come from 1 egg case and they are very tiny and hard to see. The babies are called nymphs.

The adults eat just about any insects and they do not care if they are bad or good. Favorites are caterpillars, moths, crickets and any kind of beetle. Praying mantis insects require tall grasses and shrubs to survive but they also like dill, marigolds and cosmos.

Image credit: Katja Schultz

Braconid Wasps – Braconid wasps are just like any other wasp and can sting but their benefits outweigh the harm to most tomato gardeners. This wasp protects the garden against tobacco and tomato hornworm, other caterpillars and aphids.

The female wasp lays her eggs under the skin of the hornworm and when they hatch they eat the host. The small larvae also spin cocoons on the spikes along the hornworm body and when they hatch they have immediate dinner.

Braconid wasps are attracted by different types of yarrow including common and fern-leaf yarrow. They also enjoy dill, lemon balm and they love parsley.

Image credit: gbohne

Mealybug Destroyer Beetles – Mealy bugs leave a froth on leaves of plants called honeydew and this bug, also known as Cryptolaemus Montrouzieri came from Australia a century ago. They eat mealybugs, aphids and other soft insects.

The beetle lays its own eggs near the eggs of mealybugs and when the larvae feed on eggs, young mealybugs and the honeydew. The adults look much like the mealybugs they destroy. They are attracted by dill, fennel, sunflower and goldenrod.

Image credit: Katja Schultz

Damsel Bugs – Damsel bugs love spider mites, aphids, leafhoppers, potato beetle, cabbage worm and other caterpillars. They will sometimes feed on plants in the garden, but do little harm. They usually are found in grain fields and like to hide in wheat or oats. They do well when provided with fennel, caraway, spearmint, goldenrod and alfalfa.

The beneficial insects above are the most common and easiest to maintain. Get them from nurseries and release them in your garden per the instructions so that you can battle pests with predators rather than toxic chemicals.