Don’t Squash That Bug!

Many bugs aren’t pests at all: here’s a list of the good guys, and what makes them beneficial

Story by Beverly DeMers

Step 3 in our GUIDE to going organic is to “create a living eco-system,” which means welcoming certain insects into our gardens. We’re told to not judge a book by its cover, and this wisdom extends to insects. Many that appear nasty are actually quite beneficial, and some that don’t seem to have a purpose really do. They fall into three major categories: pollinators, predators and parasites.

Pollinators are the fertilizers in our gardens, going from blossom to blossom.

Honeybee, Bumblebee: Pollinates a wide range of plants, food crops, trees, and flowers. For those of you who are really into bees, check out THIS story, which reveals the reason for the mysterious disappearance of honeybees in the U.S. over the past few years.

Predators hunt for harmful (and sometimes not so harmful) insects

Ladybug: These munch on vast amounts of aphids. You can order them live from your garden center or by mail by clicking HERE.

Praying Mantis: Here’s one that can be helpful, though it won’t turn down a meal of helpful insect either.

Ground Beetle: It eats a variety of insects and caterpillars (one type is especially fond of tent worms).

Sweatbee: This one surprised me; I remember it from my childhood. It doesn’t bite or sting, but seem to like the taste of sweat (hence its name). Its young eats lots of aphid eggs.

Brown and Green Lacewing: These eat so many aphids that their nickname is “aphid wolves.”

Wolf Spider, Jumping Spider, and other spiders: These guys really aren’t my favorites, but if they can be discreet about it, I say live and let live. They will actually stalk their prey, which makes me very glad I’m bigger than they are.

Parasites lay eggs on other insects and use them as nurseries for their young.

Tachinid Fly and Tiphiid Wasp: Flies and wasps?!!! Sure enough, they lay eggs on Japanese beetles, June bugs, and Hornworms. The young hatch and consume their host.

Hornet and Wasp (including Yellowjackets): The adults catch caterpillars and feed them to their young.

If harboring a yellowjacket nest is just too much to handle, you can use it to make soup. This old recipe is credited to the Cherokees. Let me know if any of you try this one; I’m just not that daring.

Take one yellowjacket nest while it is full of grubs, place in a skillet and roast until the paper-like covering parches. Simmer roasted grubs (and any roasted adults) in 3 cups of stock, and season to taste.

If you plant it, they will come.

Speaking of good bugs, how can we bring them in to our gardens and have them help us? Farmscaping is the practice of giving 5 to 10% of your growing space to plants that will attract and nurture beneficial insects and organisms. The key is to have continuous blooms and plants on hand that nourish insects at various stages of their lives. It’s all about encouraging biodiversity.

Here’s a list of tried and true plants that will do just that.

Annuals

Arroyo Lupine

Baby’s Breath

Bachelor’s Buttons

Barley

Basils

Bee Phacelus

Bird’s Eye

Birdsfoot Trefoil

Blue Lace Flower

Borage

Calendula

California Poppy

Candytuft

Celery

Chervil

Chinese Lanterns

Common Vetch

Coriander

Corn

Corn Poppy

Cosmos

Crimson Clover

Dill

Goldfields

Gopher Stopper

Johnny Jump Up

Lobelia

Meadow Foam

Mexican Sunflower

Pincushion FLower

Rye

Signet Marigold

Subterranean Clover

Sunflowers

Sweet Allysum

Sweet Marjoram

Tidy Tips

Triticale

White Sweet Clover

Yarrow

Perrenials

Angelica

Anise Hyssop

Asters

Basket of Gold

Blanketflowers

Blue Cardinal Flowers

Blue Wild Rye

Bog Rosemary

Boneset

California Lilac

California Buckwheat

Canada Anemone

Carpet Bugleweed

Catmint

Cinquefoils

Coffeeberry

Comfrey

Coneflowers

Coral Vine

Coreopsis

Cow Parsnip

Coyote Brush

Creeping Boobialla

Crimson Thyme

Crocus

Culver’s Root

Cup PLant

Deer Grass

Elderberry

Evening Primrose

Fennel

Fernleaf Tansy

Feverfew

Garlic Chives

Golden Alexanders

Golden Marguerite

Goldenrod

Green Lace

Horsemint

Indian Hemp

Jerusalem Artichoke

Korean Mint

Late Figwort

Lavender Globe Lily

Lavenders

Lovage

Lupines

Meadowsweet

Meadow Barley

Milkweeds

Mints

Missouri Ironweed

Mountain Mints

Mountain Sandworrt

New England Aster

Pale Indian Plantain

Paleleaf Sunflower

Patrinia

Penstemon

Peonies

Pincushion Flower

Poppy Mallow

Purple Needles

Queen Anne’s Lace

Riddell’s Goldenrod

Rocky Mt. Penstemon

Sand Coreopsis

Sea Lavender

Sae Pink

Shrubby Cinquefoil

Smooth Aster

Soapbark Tree

Stonecrop

Swamp Milkweed

Teasel

Thrift

Toyon

White Lace Flower

Wild Bergamot

Wild Strawberry

Willow

Wood Betony

Yarrow

Yellow Coneflower

Yellow Giant Hyssop

Yolo Slender Wheatgrass

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