Some folks think life would be more pleasant if bugs were wiped off the face of the earth, but gardeners know better. Even though bugs can be real pests, they are important members of the environment, serving humanity by spreading pollen that ensures we can put food on the table and turning millions of tons of organic material into rich soil that supports plant growth. Most importantly for gardeners, many beneficial bugs work hard to keep bad bugs away. Read on for a list of the top five beneficial bugs for gardens.
1. Bees – Bees, especially honeybees, are the world’s most important pollinator and hundreds of fruits, vegetables and flowers depend on this hard working beneficial insect for their very existence. Additionally, bees support forage plants that sustain livestock, beef and dairy cattle. Of course, don’t forget the product of their labor: delicious, highly nutritious honey.
2. Ladybugs – Lady beetles, also known as ladybugs, feed on a variety of harmful pests, primarily soft-bodied pests like leafhoppers, spider mites, mealybugs and scale. Lady beetles are especially fond of aphids, and one lady beetle can chomp 50 to 60 insect pests per day.
3. Braconid wasps – Not all wasps are bad. Braconid wasps are significant garden allies. The adult female lays its eggs in unlucky host insects via a tiny tube called the ovipositor. The eggs hatch and feed inside the host until the host insect dies. Braconid wasps are an extremely beneficial means of biological control of pests such as caterpillars, hornworms, squash bugs, moths and aphids, but they don’t sting humans unless they are seriously threatened.
4. Beetles – Ground beetles are voracious bugs that dine on pests that live in the soil, including cabbage maggots, cutworms, corn earworms, Colorado potato beetles, slugs and snails. This large family includes over 40,000 species around the world, with more than 2,000 species found (so far) in the United States.
5. Lacewings – Lacewings may look like delicate little moths, but the adults and larvae have an appetite for aphids, as well as mealybugs, thrips, mites, whiteflies, small caterpillars and scale. In fact, these fierce little predators are often known as “aphid lions.”