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.
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.
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.
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.
Blue Lace Flower
Johnny Jump Up
White Sweet Clover
Basket of Gold
Blue Cardinal Flowers
Blue Wild Rye
Lavender Globe Lily
New England Aster
Pale Indian Plantain
Queen Anne’s Lace
Rocky Mt. Penstemon
White Lace Flower
Yellow Giant Hyssop
Yolo Slender Wheatgrass