Beneficial insects are one of the best tools in organic gardening. The premise is that instead of just killing every living thing in the garden-good or bad - you introduce the predator of the pest insect and let him take care of the problem. Here's how it works:
Who are these beneficial insects?
Beneficial insects include many that eat the pests that do damage in the garden. These include ladybugs, praying mantises, assassin bugs, and spiders. They eat a variety of small, harmful insects such as mites, aphids, and eggs of other species. One of the most helpful insects is the predatory wasp, who feeds on insect eggs and helps control caterpillar populations.
How to Attract Beneficial Insects?
First and foremost, do not use any chemical poisons. These kill both the good bugs and the bad bugs. Also important is to create a friendly environment for beneficial insects. A garden with a variety of flowers, trees, shrubs, and herbs provides shelter and breeding areas for beneficial insects. A moist habitat, achieved by mulching around plants and watering consistently also encourages bugs to stay.
Should I release beneficial Insects?
Garden centers and mail order garden supply houses offer a variety of beneficial bugs, mostly in larvae form, for release into your garden. Most are less expensive than a pesticide would be. First, identify the pest you are trying to eliminate and pick an appropriate predator. Your garden center can assist you with this.
For reference, however, here is a short list of common pests and their predators:
- Ladybugs - prey on aphids, mealybugs, and small insects.
- Predatory Wasps - eat caterpillars
- Lacewings - feed on thrips, aphids, spider mites, caterpillar eggs, and leafhoppers.
- Praying Mantises - prey on aphids, beetles, and flies
Once released, provide a "free" meal for the bugs by squirting a mixture of one part sugar combined with four parts water on the lower leaves of nearby plants.
Continue monitoring for pests and release additional beneficial insects if needed. Keep the garden neat and well watered, so that insects will have a favorable environment.