Bugs That Are Beneficial
People grumble and moan about flies, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. But a great many denizens of the insect world are man’s (and woman’s) best friends. The most beneficial bugs on the planet are by far honey bees. Seventy-one of the 100 most important food crops worldwide depend on pollination by bees including almonds, avocados, lemons, grapes, celery, tomatoes, and carrots. Honeybees support a $15 billion produce industry in the United States alone.
While other beneficial insects are less monetized, they are nonetheless valuable assets. Ladybugs eat scads of aphids, small sap-sucking plant lice which wreak havoc on cultivate plants throughout the world. Around 250 species of aphid are known as major pests for farmers, foresters, and gardeners. If it were not for the ravenous appetite of the ladybug, the majority of plants would look like wilted brown stumps with mottled and yellowed leaves. And ladybugs need to eat aphids to mate and lay eggs, so what benefits gardeners also benefits the bugs.
Some insects with scary names are more beneficial than their monikers suggest. The assassin bug is a wicked super-predator which injects lethal saliva into its victims. This liquefies the insides which are then sucked out like a six-legged Big Gulp. Black assassin bugs have large white eye-like markings at the base of their wings which make you think they are staring at you. They exhibit startlingly aggressive behavior and fearlessly take on anything they can overcome, including prey much bigger than themselves. This includes locusts, moths, mealworms, and the dreaded cockroach. Some people are so enamored of the ferocious feeders that they raise assassin bugs for kicks.
If the name soldier beetles isn’t cool enough the critters are also known as leatherwings. While it sounds like the name of an old John Wayne movie, the name comes from the bug’s soft, cloth-like, brightly colored wing covers. The predators sort of look like fireflies but they do not flash in the dark. What the lack in luminosity they make up for in appetite. Soldier beetles hunt in leaf litter and other locations close to the soil. They make short work of slugs, worms, caterpillars, and aphids. Like other beneficial bugs, soldier beetles are not considered pests and it is inadvisable to kill them. Without beneficial bugs, we would all be drowning in a sea of pests so, assassins or not, these soldiers are on our side.