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Don’t Be a Bug Bully! How to Embrace Beneficial Insects in Your Garden (They’re Actually Cute, I Promise!)

Don’t Be a Bug Bully! How to Embrace Beneficial Insects in Your Garden (They’re Actually Cute, I Promise!)

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If you have a garden, you’re bound to come across various bugs roaming around your plants.

While some may be harmful or even devastating to your greens, many are beneficial insects that can help your garden flourish.

In this article, I’m sharing examples of beneficial garden bugs, what they can do for your precious garden, and how to get them to move in!

What Are Beneficial Garden Insects?

It’s easy to deem all bugs in your garden evil, but there’s a group of tiny crawlies that gardeners actually invite to their gardens.

They’re called beneficial insects or “beneficials”, and they help gardeners enjoy a healthier and more productive garden by keeping pests at bay and pollinating plants. They’re also prey for other animals like birds.

These ecological advantages play a key role in supporting a healthy garden and a balanced ecosystem.

How Do Beneficial Insects Help Your Garden?

Beneficial bugs can boost your garden in two main ways; feeding on pests and fertilizing plants.

Eliminating Pests

By eating pests that harm your plants, beneficial insects naturally control their population and protect your crops from the pests’s destruction and the damage of chemical pesticides.

Beneficial bugs aren’t just predators of pests, some of them are also parasitizers. That’s where the beneficial insect lays its eggs inside or on the pest’s body, and then when the eggs hatch, the larvae consume the pest’s body.

Here are a few examples of pest-eliminating beneficial insects:

  • Ladybugs: These are predators of aphids, feeding on up to 40 per hour as larvae and at least 50 a day as adults.
  • Praying Mantids: These majestic-looking insects prey on a range of dangerous pests that destroy gardens, including moths, flies, and beetles. They can also easily rid you of grasshoppers invading your garden.
  • Green Lacewings: These bugs will help you control soft-bodied pests in your garden such as aphids and caterpillars.
  • Soldier Beetles: These garden-friendly bugs feed on aphids, caterpillars, mites, Colorado potato beetles, and Mexican bean beetles.
  • Ground Beetles: This is a group of pest-eating beetles that control a wide variety of pests in both their larvae and adult forms. They feed on weevils, silverfish, caterpillars, nematodes, thrips, slugs, and more!
  • Robber Flies: These professional hunters can prey on pretty much any pest terrorizing your garden, including wasps, grasshoppers, moths, and beetles.
  • Spiders: Yes, they’re arachnids, but most gardeners group them with beneficial insects. They’re effective pest killers, munching on unwanted bugs that get trapped in their webs such as aphids, flies, ants, caterpillars, leafhoppers, gnats, beetles, and wasps.
  • Parasitic Wasps: These include Trichogramma wasps, braconid wasps, and tachinid flies. They target pests like hornworms, caterpillars, corn borers, grasshoppers, green stinkbugs, Mexican bean beetles, and Japanese beetles.

Pollinate Flowers

Pollinator insects help fertilize plants and support the growth and productivity of crops. Examples include:

  • Hoverflies: They’re important pollinators as adults, feeding on nectar and pollen.
  • Bumblebees: These are chief pollinators with a critical role in boosting your garden’s flowering plants.
  • Soldier Beetles: Besides their role as pest predators, they’re also pollinators. They’re especially attracted to compound flowers such as yarrow and Queen Anne’s Lace.

How To Invite Beneficial Insects to Your Garden

Here are a few tips to help you boost the presence of beneficial insects in your garden:

  • Grow a variety of native and insect-attracting plants that provide nectar and pollen as a food source. These include:
    • Perennials such as goldenrod, asters, marigold, honeysuckle, and lavender.
    • Wildflowers such as Queen Anne’s Lace, daisies, columbine, black-eyed Susan, clover, and blanket flowers.
    • Trees such as willows and birches.
    • Shrubs such as viburnums and butterfly bushes.
    • Herbs such as fennel, dill, sage, parsley, lemon balm, mint, and basil.
  • Minimize the application of pesticides as they don’t typically differentiate between beneficial and harmful insects. If there’s no way around pesticide use, choose the least harsh ones like oils and soaps.
  • Set up a water source for the insects; a shallow plate of water will do. This will help them survive a longer time in your garden. Be sure to change the water every few days to prevent mosquitoes from treating it as a breeding spot.
  • Allow a certain population of pests in your garden. While this may mean sacrificing a few plants, it’ll provide a food source for beneficial insects that’ll support the rest of the garden.

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