The weather’s warm and the sun’s shining, which also means there’s an increase in creepy crawly bugs in the garden and winged creatures buzzing around the yard. Naturally, it’s instinctive to want to squash spiders and swat at bees, but before you try to eradicate every insect in the garden, you should know there are some you want to spare.
These bugs are known as beneficial insects and play critical roles in the garden. Therefore, they should be encouraged to hang around. Some gardeners specifically purchase certain species, releasing them in the yard as a biological method of eradicating or controlling an infestation of nuisance pests. Sometimes having a healthy population of insects is advantageous.
- 4 Types of Beneficial Insects
- Additional Benefits
- Some of the Most-helpful Bugs
- Attracting & Keeping Them in Your Garden
There are four different categories of good bugs, classified by the distinctive, beneficial acts they carry out in the garden. Each insect has a unique job to do and helps the garden ecosystem in a specific way. The four types are pollinators, predators, parasites, and decomposers. Some bugs perform more than one role, making them even more useful.
- Pollinators move around from one flower to another on a quest for nectar. During their hunt, they transfer pollen grains and aid in pollination, resulting in plants’ development of fruits and seeds.
- Predators feast upon other bugs or pests in the garden. They typically scrounge for tiny pests like aphids or whiteflies.
- Parasites kill nasty bugs by using them as a host. These parasitic insects lay their eggs in or on a host. Once the larvae hatch, they feed upon the victim.
- Decomposers work by breaking down garden debris like leaves and decomposing plant material to release nutrients into the soil and increase the organic material content.
It’s easy to see the direct benefits of these good creatures — improving pollination, reducing the number of vermin, and improving the soil — but their presence also has many indirect benefits. For example, with fewer nasty bugs in the garden, we spend less money on pesticides and reduce the potentially harmful effects of their application.
Some of the Most-helpful Bugs
1. Aphid Midges
Aphid midges eat more than 60 different aphid types. These tiny, delicate flies are white to light orange and lay hundreds of shiny, orange eggs. Once the larvae hatch, they eat up to 65 aphids daily.
2. Assassin bugs
Assassin bugs hunt aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers, thrips, and spider mites, actively patrolling the garden for prey. Unfortunately, they are often mistaken for squash bugs, so take a minute to identify the adults.
Bees are critically important pollinators. They aren’t usually aggressive, but they will sting when trying to defend their hive.
4. Big-Eyed Bugs
Big-eyed bugs look rather funny, but they feed upon unsuspecting aphids, caterpillars, mites, thrips, and whiteflies. These tiny little guys are found in most gardens, yards, and field crops.
5. Braconid Wasps
Braconid wasps inject their eggs into aphids, beetle larvae, caterpillars, and moths. As a result, they are the most important predator species.
Butterflies are essential pollinators, and some species may act as predators too. Consider making a garden that will attract them!
Dragonflies consume mosquitos and other flying pests. Therefore, they make a significant contribution to your garden if you have a water feature or spots of standing water that attract pesky mosquitoes. Their beautifully colored bodies and wings are also captivating to watch as they flit about your yard.
8. Green Lacewings
Green lacewings and their larvae commonly feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Adults also help with pollination as they feed on nectar.
9. Ground Beetles
Ground beetles consume cutworms, slugs, snails, and different types of maggots. Japanese beetles and Colorado potato beetles are not valuable ones, though. These bugs are also some of the best decomposers, helping to break down woody material.
Hoverflies eat hundreds of aphids and thrips during their lifecycle, as both larvae and adults. The adults look like yellowjackets without stingers and are important pollinators as well.
Ladybugs (also known as ladybird beetles) feed on aphids, whiteflies, and scale insects, as well as their unhatched eggs. Larvae are voracious eaters, consuming up to 40 aphids in an hour.
12. Minute Pirate
Minute pirate bugs assault any insect they encounter and are one of the most aggressive predators of thrips. They migrate from fields and woodlands into the garden in late summer or early fall.
13. Praying Mantis
Praying mantises are fantastic predators, eating grasshoppers, beetles, moths, and flies. As a warning, though, they will also eat some beneficial bugs, so they may not be the best type to encourage into your yard.
14. Robber Flies
Robber flies eat many garden pests, but unlike horseflies, they don’t bother humans at all. The larvae also feed on organic matter on the ground, helping to break it down and release nutrients.
15. Soldier Beetles
Soldier beetles consume aphids and caterpillars; larvae eat the eggs of many garden pests. They also help to eradicate nuisance beetles. At first glance, they look like fireflies but can’t glow. Soldier beetles are unable to sting and also aid in pollination.
Spiders help control beetles, flies, mosquitoes, moths, and wasps. Though technically classified as arachnids and not insects, we’ll include them on this list. While you should be cautious of anything venomous, you’ll benefit from letting the run-of-the-mill yard spiders live.
Attracting & Keeping Them in Your Garden
Whether you already have the good bugs in your yard, or you’re trying to entice some in to keep other pests away, there are specific things you can do to make your garden an insect haven. The following tips and tricks will draw them into your space and encourage them to stick around.
- Choose native flowering plants for your yard and garden. The nectar and pollen from natives naturally draw in helpful insects.
- Plant flowers that have umbels or composite flowers. Umbels have tiny, clustered flowers that are easy for smaller pollinators to access.
- Create natural shelter areas for crawling insects by growing ground covers, low-lying shrubs, and other plants that shade the ground.
- Alternate rows of veggies with companion plants that draw in the good bugs to keep them right where they are needed.