Friend or Foes? A Guide to Garden Insects
Planting an abundant garden is a rewarding experience, as is experiencing the fruits of your labors at harvest. If insects are ravaging your favorite plants, however, it can be frustrating trying to figure out how to get rid of them. The good news is that most insects are actually beneficial for your garden and can be used to combat insects that are harmful.
Recognizing Harmful Pests
Most people know that aphids are not good for a garden. Here are some other insects that you should look out for:
- White flies
- Caterpillar-like insects such as cutworms, cabbage worms, tomato horn worms and parsley worms
- Slugs and snails
- Flea and Mexican Bean beetles
- Spider Mites
- Cabbage moths
- Colorado Potato Beetle
Sometimes it is difficult to identify garden pests, and it is easier to recognize the signs of their presence. If your garden plants are looking puckered or deformed and their leaves have yellow spots, small yellowish specks or dead areas, bumps, leaves with holes that look as though they have been eaten, and diminished yields from your plants, it is likely that you have pests in your garden. Many harmful insects can be found on the underside of leaves.
Many of the insects present in the garden are actually helpful for plant growth. The most popular of these insects are ladybugs, also called lady beetles. Ladybug larvae eat aphids voraciously. As adults they continue to eat the insects, but not as much as in their larval stage. These are common beneficial garden insects:
- Green lacewings
- Praying mantis
- Ground beetles
- Parasitoid wasps
- Rove Beetles
- Pirate bugs
- Predator flies
Beneficial insects help your garden by eating insects that damage plants. Many times, it is their larvae that feed on insects, while others, such as spiders, will feed on pests throughout their lifespan.
Having a Happy Harvest
There are ways to draw more favorable insects into your garden to help minimize pest damage. Some insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings and mini-wasps can be purchased for your garden, but there are also steps that you can take to increase their presence. Providing water sources such as pebble-filled saucers, growing plants that flower and produce nectar for pollinators, planting extra herbs and allowing those to flower as well will entice more insects to your garden.
Contending with pests is many times part of growing a garden. Remember, not all insects in your garden are bad. Most, in fact, will help you grow healthy plants and deliver beautiful landscaping and even nutritious food for you and your family.