YUM! … Praying mantis eating a grasshopper (wipe yo mouth when yer done)
When you see bugs in the garden, 90% of them are Beneficial bugs, or at least not harmful to the plants or humans – there are only a few “bad” bugs. But I’ll put up the top “good” guys in here that I’ve seen in the garden over the years.
Later, I’ll put in the best habitat – flowers, nesting places, etc. for the buggers to live and … you know … comingle with each other.
In alphabetical order:
Damsel Bug – so named because they have their front legs up, as if they were a “damsel (lady) hiking up her long skirt. Just like the Praying Mantis, the Damsel bug has the front legs up ready to pounce and grab their prey. They are hard to see – have an opaque (clearish) body and hide under the plants.
Dragonflies – lots of them around with our pond and creek – they have to have / be near water. Even with the water on our property, I still plan on adding several birdbaths in the garden – if you do the same, make sure you have pebbles or rocks for them to land on – some insects ain’t too smart and they’ll end up drowning.
Hover Fly – also known as the Syrphid fly – they look similar to a bee (that’s to ward off predators who would eat a fly, but they don’t eat bees). Easy to recognize after they leave a flower, they actually “hover” before taking off. The adult isn’t the predator – it’s the eggs they lay in and around the bad insects – the larva literally eat up their host.
Parasitic Wasp – there are dozens of wasps that are predatory – this is a picture of some of the very small (like 1/4″) wasps – I always thought they were sweat bees and would swat them … guess I’ll stop that.
Praying Mantis – we have quite a few – but hard to find unless they are on the move – they can sit motionless for a long time waiting to catch their prey – and as you can see in the picture at the top of this page – quite verocious (eats aLOT)!
Tachinid flies – these are those big hairy/bristle flies that you see once in a while – didn’t realize they were the good guys (in the garden, anyway – I’m still swatting if they get in the house). This poster is of a variety of them – some are not even in the U.S. – but again – you’ll know a Tachinid from a regular fly – they have those hairy, bristle J-LO butts (not that I looked : )
Natural Pest Control by Species
|Pest Insect||Predator Insect|
|Thrips, spidermites, fungus gnats||Beneficial mites|
|Eggs of many pest insects||Damsel bugs (Nabidae)|
|Whiteflies, aphids, thrip, spider mites||Dicyphus|
|Slugs, small caterpillars and grubs||Ground beetles|
|Grubs||Spring Tiphia wasp|
|Aphids, mealybugs and others||Hoverflies|
|Scale, aphids, mites, soft-bodied insects||Lacewings|
|Thrips, aphids, mites, scales, whiteflies||Pirate bugs|
|Caterpillars; beetle and fly larvae||Tachinid flies|
|Whiteflies; moth, beetle and fly larvae||Parasitic wasps|
And I put these down here so as not to scare ya 😀
Technically these aren’t “insects” (spiders have 8 legs and no wings) but they are beneficial to the garden – try not to kill them (I know – it’s hard not to : )
Most spiders have their legs evenly spaced around their body – the ones below are the “crab” type spiders – so named because they walk like a crab – forward, backward and sideways. They are a riot to watch – poke a stick at them and watch them dance. LOL
Fascinating to most boys – we had a HUGE one live under the corner lip of the raised bed – that critter was easily 2 inches across. Was there for years. Ok, so it may not have been the SAME one, but he (or his kids) were there, year after year in the same spot.
Really, the only two spiders you need to be wary of are the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. And rarely does their bite actually kill humans – it’s just painful.
To identify the Black Widow, look for the red “hourglass” on the underside. Which I always found hilarious – What? I have to ask the spider to roll over on it’s back so I can see if it’s a Black Widow?! 😀 – nah – I’m thinking I’m squishing first, and asking questions later. To complicate matters, the Black Widow is not always black – the male is a dark brown and they rarely bite, or if they do, they are not nearly as potent as the female. They also have a whiteish hourglass, not red.
Black Widow (as seen from the underside of the web – you can see the hourglass)
The Brown Recluse is a bit harder to identify. It has 3 eyes instead of the normal 4 – but again – how I ‘sposed to get close enuff to see THAT? oy. Also – and this is an easier way to identify them (look at the closeup, below) – there is a “violin” shaped mark just behind the eyes, on their back. In general – they are usually light brown (but they can be a greenish color, too) and they are rather small – 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. Most Brown Recluse like to live in the house, near humans. So to be safe, kill every dang spider in the house! Thankfully (for me, anyway) it is primarily in the southern states, not in Michigan (Tina in Texas, watch them babies!