Pests and Diseases: A Quick Look at Beneficial Insects

They’re the reason that I don’t spray pesticides at my house and strongly encourage others to do the same. The beneficial insects. There are so many of them that we need to preserve so that THEY can do the hard work for us. There will always be more bad bugs than good bugs. If we go in and remove the good bugs from the equation, the bad bug population can explode and then you end up on a never ending roller coaster of insecticides. Instead, we should accept that it’s OK to have some bad bugs and let Ma Nature do her thing. If she needs some help, we can step in and use mechanical means (hand picking), cultural controls (planting the right plant in the right place to begin with) and/or organic insecticides (like horticultural oil or horticultural soap). If all else fails, add another dose of compost!

Now that we’ve skimmed the surface as to why we should encourage beneficial insects, let’s look at a mile high view of them.

beneficial insects
Green Lacewing. They grow to about 1″ long but it’s not the adults that are the real predators. It’s their larvae that are known as aphid lions. Photo courtesy of www.fcps.edu

 

beneficial insects
Aphid lion. Look at the mandibles on the far right hand side of the picture. I’m glad that I’m not an aphid! Photo courtesy of www.uky.edu

 

beneficial insects
Do you know that this is a ladybug larva? Many people don’t as they don’t resemble their grown up counterparts at all. Photo courtesy of www.uky.edu

 

beneficial insects
Braconid wasp. Not the “normal” wasp that you think of, there are many parasitic wasps that lay their eggs in the bad bugs and result in killing the pest. Photo courtesy of www.forestryimages.com

 

 

beneficial insects
Braconid wasp pupae that have taken over a tomato hornworm. Nature can be gruesome! Photo courtesy of www.ces.ncsu.edu

 

beneficial insects
Praying Mantis. When I was younger, these would really freak me out…I’m not sure why. But now I see them as insect harvesting machines. Be on the lookout for their cocoons in the late summer and early fall. Photo courtesy of www.marchbiological.com

 

beneficial insects
Praying Mantis cocoons. If you see them in the garden, leave them intact so that you’ll have lots of babies next year. Photo courtesy of www.bugs.org 

 

We’ve just scratched the surface on all of the beneficial insects that we should strive to protect. Which ones are regular visitors to your garden? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Happy gardening!

 

 

June 20, 2012Permalink Leave a comment

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