First, it helps to know which garden insects help or hurt the health of your plants. While there are a number of insects that can harm your plants by feeding on them, other insects can help control the populations of harmful bugs. Pollinators, or insects that pollinate plants, also are great additions to your garden’s ecosystem. Here are just a few of the beneficial garden guardians and caretakers.
- Ladybugs – Adult lady beetles and their larvae feed on aphids, tree lice and other insects that feed on your garden plants. Part of the reason ladybugs are considered “good luck” is based on their history of being good garden bugs that protect your plants.
- Ground Beetles – Ground beetles patrol the ground in and around your garden, feeding on slugs, snails, grubs, small worms and other insect larvae that feed on plants. They can grow up to 1” long, and usually have black or brown shells. Beetles like to lie in wait under bark, mulch and debris.
- Wasps – There are numerous species of wasps that are beneficial to gardens. Some are predatory, while others are parasitic, but both types can control common garden pests. They also pollinate, but not to the extent of honeybees. Parasitic wasps use harmful insects as incubators for their offspring, which means that more of these wasps may continue to live in your garden.
- Bees – Bees are highly beneficial pollinators, pollinating 80 percent of flowering crops — 1/3 of everything we eat. The most common types of bees in the U.S. are the honeybee and the bumblebee.
- Spiders – Though technically not insects, spiders do feed on many different kinds of insects, and if they are living in or near your garden, they will keep harmful insect populations in check.
- Assassin Bugs – These bugs get their name from the way they sneak up on their prey. They prey on flies, mosquitoes, caterpillars, thrips, spider mites, beetles, among others.
- Soldier Beetles – These beetles are about 1/2” long and resemble lightning bugs. They eat aphids, small caterpillars, and feed on many types of insect larvae.
- Tachinid Flies – These look similar to house flies but tend to stick around gardens and other areas full of plants. They prey on cutworms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, moths, sawflies and Japanese beetles.
- Lacewings – These are pale green flying insects about 3/8” long. Their larvae feed on aphids, caterpillars, mites and thrips.