10 Beneficial Insects You Can Use to Control Unwanted Pests
When we first think of insects, most picture an annoying mosquito or frightening stinging wasp or yellow jacket. The typical gardener may frown at the sight or a bug, but homeowners who are into sustainable landscape gardening love them – the beneficial ones, that is.
Much like certain native plant species, there are plenty of valuable insect species that eat the ones that damage your garden and serve as a natural pest control. This post will look at ten insect species you can rely on for biological pest control, leading to a green garden that can flourish without fear.
Colorful and graceful, ladybugs make great pest control agents. They feed on troublesome pests such as mites, fleas and whiteflies.
However, their real specialty is consuming aphids, a highly destructive species to various plants. To attract Ladybug protectors, you’ll need to plant some of their favorite crops, such as dill, dandelion or fern leaf yellows.
2. Ground Beetles as Natural Pest Control
They may give you the “jeepers creepers,” but ground beetles are quite beneficial in keeping pests out of your garden. They feast on troublesome critters such as cutworms, slugs and caterpillars. One interesting point about ground beetles is that you won’t see them during the day since they are a nocturnal species. However, they pack a powerful punch as pest control agents at night. If you want to attract ground beetles, consider planting: evening primrose, clover or boltonia.
3. Minute Pirate Bugs
Putting the words “pirate” and “bug” together might give you the impression they are an aggressive insect species. As small as they are, minute pirate bugs are indeed formidable. They feed on a host of pests, including aphids, thrips and caterpillars, but they also eat the eggs of potentially problematic insects.
Minute pirate bugs are unique because they pray on these insects both in their infant and adult stages. You can attract them with caraway and fennel seeds as well as spearmint and alfalfa plants.
4. Green Lacewings
Don’t underestimate them because of their euphonious name. Green lacewings are soldiers when it comes to keeping other pests out of your garden. They eat aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, and mealybugs. The interesting thing about green lacewings is that their larvae eat pests, not the adults (after all, larvae must eat to grow).
To attract green lacewings consider, planting dill, coriander and dandelion.
5. Aphid Midges
Aphid midges are not to be confused with aphids themselves. Aphid midges are an aphid’s worst nightmare. They’re like the Special Forces of your natural pest control Army for insects because they specialize in eating up to 60 types of aphid species. You can attract them using a simple source of water or with pollen or nectar-rich plants.
Dill also works in attracting aphid midges.
6. Damsel Bugs
Damsel bugs can protect your garden from future distress against the most relentless pests, such as caterpillars, aphids, cabbage worms, mites and a whole lot more.
Damsel bugs do well in places where they can hide, so be sure to consider this if you want to attract them. They’re also attracted to particular plants and plant matter such as caraway seeds, fennel and Peter Pan Goldenrod.
We’re technically cheating here because spiders aren’t insects – they are arachnids.
Nevertheless, we included them here because they might be the most effective natural pesticide nature has to offer. Among all the bugs listed here, spiders eat the broadest range of problematic insects ranging from roaches to grasshoppers and aphids to mosquitoes.
We marvel at spiders for their beautiful and intricate web designs and because their silk can trap any unwanted critter. They don’t need much to thrive in your garden either. You can use tall plants to attract weaving spiders and mulch for predatory ones. Provide them with these basics, and they’ll take care of the rest.
8. Soldier Beetles
As their name suggests, soldier beetles are warriors that belong in your garden because of their pest-killing instincts and powers. They feed on grasshopper eggs, aphids and just about any soft-bodied insect. The beauty of soldier bugs (yep, they’re beautiful in ways that have little to do with appearance) is that they do not damage plants or harm people at all.
You can attract soldier beetles with plant species such as Marigold, Goldenrod and zinnia.
9. Braconid Wasps
The idea of harboring wasps in your garden may sound like a recipe for aggravation (and painful stings). But braconid wasps are quite handy when it comes to keeping pests under control. They feed on various pesty bugs, including tomato hornworms, aphids and caterpillars.
Braconid wasps can even kill caterpillars, making them effective at keeping pests out of your garden. However, as the term “caterpillar” refers to so many insects, do some research to make sure you’re not eliminating any beneficial varieties in the process.
You can attract them with different species of yarrow plants as well as parsley and lemon balm.
10. Praying Mantis
They probably don’t need much of an introduction, but a praying mantis is a welcome guest in your garden. They are known for eating a diverse menu of insects, including caterpillars, beetles, crickets and gnats. Praying mantises possess serrated claws and an ability to swivel their heads 180 degrees, making them adept predators.
You can attract praying mantises by growing tall grasses and shrubs as well as herbs such as dill.
Sustainable Gardening and Natural Pest Control
Not all insects and bugs need to creep you out or annoy you. Many species such as those listed above can do wonders for your garden regarding Pest Control.
The beauty of using insects as natural pesticides is that they cost you next to nothing to attract them. They typically pose no threat to your health and safety – except a few that may sting or bite – and these mainly do this as a defense mechanism.
They are also a sustainable form of pest control because their offspring will continue the process once they breed. With that said, if you are interested in learning more about beneficial insects for pest control, feel free to contact your county extension agent or me.