8 Beneficial Bugs for the Garden

My Garden Life
June 26, 2019
Table of Contents

Not all the insects, worms, spiders and flies that frequent our gardens should be considered pests. Many of them actually benefit the plants we’re trying to grow by pollinating flowers, aerating the soil and preying on other, not so beneficial insects. Arbitrary pesticide usage will kill off these helpful critters; fortunately, the services they provide for us could eliminate the need for pesticides altogether.

Predatory insects are nature’s way of controlling other insect populations. For this reason, indiscriminately killing off bugs can unbalance a garden’s ecosystem and cause other types of unwanted pests to proliferate. It’s therefore important to recognize and welcome those insects that are most beneficial to the garden. What follows is a list of eight of the most common:

1. Damselflies

Closely related to dragonflies, damselflies are usually more slender and bright blue. Their range is much more limited than that of dragonflies, preferring to stay near ponds and streams. They will eat nearly any other insect – particularly aphids (notorious garden pests).

2. Dragonflies

These insects are most commonly found near a source of water, but they are quite capable of flying long distances to other areas. Dragonflies are very proficient hunters of both mosquitoes and flies. They come in an array of colors and can be identified by their two sets of finely netted and permanently extended wings.

3. Assassin Bugs

So named because of the paralyzing venom that they inject into their victims, assassin bugs prey on flies, Japanese beetles, tomato hornworms and other caterpillars. Their bodies are oval (usually a dull brown color, though some may be brighter) and they have long legs, long narrow heads, and curved beaks.

4. Ant Lions

There are roughly 2,000 species of ant lions and adults can be easily mistaken for damselflies, except that their antennae are generally longer and blunter at the ends. Adult ant lions prey on various small insects, often coming out at dusk or dark to hunt. The larvae of most species have more commonly recognizable eating habits, often digging pits to trap unwary prey.

5. Ground Beetles

Ground beetles are small (1/8 inch to 1 inch maximum). They are either bluish-black or dark brown, though they can have a metallic sheen of green or bronze. Ground beetles have large, strong jaws and yet can move quite quickly, feeding on the larvae of other insects.

6. Ladybugs

Because of their bright color, it’s easy to spot these beneficial bugs (widely referred to by entomologists as ladybird beetles) in your garden. They can feed on a variety of tiny insects, but aphids are their favorite.

7. Braconid Wasps

These valued predators, which grow no bigger than ½ inch, look similar to flying ants. Various species have different diets, but their prey often include tomato hornworms, cabbage worms, gypsy moths, and various insect pupae. Wasps lay their eggs under the skin of a host, such as the tomato hornworm caterpillar. The eggs hatch and the tiny larvae come to the surface and spin cocoons, where they stay until they emerge as adults. Needless to say, the host caterpillar dies in this process.

8. Aphid Wasps

These wasps have a distinctive method of killing their prey: by paralyzing the host and laying their eggs on its body, which the larvae will then consume after hatching. As the name implies, aphid wasps prefer aphids as their hosts, and each female can find hundreds to prey on in a single day. They resemble flying ants with long antennae, although the aphid wasps are generally smaller.

If encouraged, insects can play a crucial role in the health and well-being of any garden. Rather than resorting to the extensive use of pesticides, relying instead on natural solutions such as these eight common insect species can have a profoundly beneficial impact on one’s gardening efforts.

Perennial flowers are a great way to entice beneficial insects into your landscape and best of all they grow back year after year. Learn more about gardening with perennials here.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

How to Tell the Difference Between a Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter Cactus

How to Tell the Difference Between a Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter Cactus

Learn how to tell the difference between a Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, and Easter Cactus. Three very similar plants that are grown and sold for holiday décor and gifting.
Different Seed Types You Can Grow

Different Seed Types You Can Grow

One of the first steps for growing plants is selecting from different seed types. Learn about the different heirloom, hybrid, standard, certified organic and non-GMO seeds.
Preserving Your Apple Harvest

Preserving Your Apple Harvest

The gardener who grows one or two apple trees is often faced with the happy problem of having a lot of apples. Luckily, kitchen technology and several hundred years of apple cultivation allow today’s growers to preserve the overage. We have three recipes for canning apples that will delight apple growers and eaters.

Related Posts

Cat Palm Troubleshooting Guide

Cat Palm Troubleshooting Guide

How to Successfully Move Plants to a New Home

How to Successfully Move Plants to a New Home

When to Harvest Garden Vegetables

When to Harvest Garden Vegetables

frost map with dates

Frost Map with Dates

USDA zone finder with zip code search and maps

USDA Zone Finder

plant library

Plant Library

Save plants to your personal library

Join My Garden Club to access more features

Already a member?
Log in now

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!