As the weather warms and you’re able to get out into your garden more, you may be noticing that insects are getting out into the garden more too. Every garden has insects, and every garden needs insects. Most people like to categorize insects as either good or bad. When asked, most people will say that bees and ladybugs and praying mantises are good, and everything else is bad. That is not the case. If bugs are considered “good” if they pollinate flowers or eat other insects, then the list is much longer than that. When I take a closer look at the flowering plum trees right now I see a whole host of insects crawling around on the flowers, feeding on nectar, and most of them are not bees, but they are still moving pollen around and pollinating the flowers. Granted, they may not be as efficient as bees, but they are helping. One insect I see most of all is a type of fly called a syrphid fly. Those are the ones that look like bees, but tend to hover in place above the flowers a lot. As adults they do a pretty good job pollinating, but as larvae they are voracious predators of such insects as aphids and spittle bugs. The larvae look like green maggots on the back of leaves and are often mistaken for something that is eating the leaf.
When it comes to predatory insects the list is huge! Lacewing flies (not to be confused with lace bugs), ground beetles, centipedes, soldier beetles, syrphid flies, red predatory mites, assassin bugs, minute pirate bugs, wasps, hornets, some types of stink bugs and all the spiders! The list goes on, but I think you get the point. Ladybugs aren’t the only game in town when it comes to aphid control. The problem is, most people don’t always recognize which bugs are predatory. Recognizing which bugs are “good” is the first step to developing a healthy ecosystem in your yard.
Below are some pictures of some of the less recognized predatory insects:
While you can’t always rely on predatory insects to clean up all the “bad” bugs in the yard and you may have to deal with a few problem insects yourself, you can help encourage more “good” bugs by adding plants to your landscape that beneficial insects like such as plants with umbel flowers or ferny foliage like dill, bronze fennel, parsley and yarrow. For a more extensive list, stop by Garland Nursery and ask for one.
There are some insects that come into your yard, however, that are considered “bad” that don’t really have predatory insects that will eat them. These insects evolved somewhere else and were brought here accidentally. Where they came from there were predatory insects that evolved alongside them and controlled them, but here, in the absence of their predators, they flourish and have become invasive. The 3 main ones in this area are Spotted Wing Drosophila, Azalea Lace Bugs, and Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs. If you would like to learn more about these 3 pests, be discussing them at a free class at Garland Nursery on Saturday, March 28th at 1:00 p.m.