Just Listen! The birds sharing sounds and songs along with bugs happily buzzing from place to place working hard to create a most lovely garden. Of the bugs you hear, 95 percent of those bugs are either beneficial or benign.
Throw out the pesticide and get to know and recognize your garden visitors. Pesticides kill indiscriminately and your garden loses many helpful and beautiful insect friends. Who doesn’t love seeing a butterfly floating from plant to plant or a dragonfly resting and opening and closing its wings on a bloom? Overuse of pesticides will rid your garden of these lovely creatures.
Beneficial bugs can be divided into four categories. First, the predators, such as praying mantis and spined soldier bugs that tend to eat every insect in sight, good and bad. Ladybugs, the darlings of the garden, are more specific to the choice of prey and are less likely to kill good insects.
Second are pollinators; these insects do not kill other bugs. Their relationship is with the plants. Through blooms and fragrances the insects are attracted to the plant and are rewarded with nectar and pollen. Bees are the most common and well-known pollinators.
Next are the parasitoids that are most efficient receiving nourishment from the body of a host insect. A tiny Braconid wasp can consume an entire plant’s worth of aphids.
Last and very beneficial are the soil builders such as earthworms and nematodes. These types of friends live underground and in compost piles working ever so hard to make that lovely garden soil rich with nutrients.
A partial list of the most common garden friends are lady bugs, lace-winged insects, beetles, butterflies, bees, wasps, moths, centipedes, sow bugs, dragonflies, praying mantis, spiders, hover flies, earthworms and nematodes. In addition, birds, bats and toads help to assist the plants and soil to thrive and maintain a balance of elements for a healthy garden.
There are many books and websites so available today to help the gardener learn about establishing a pesticide-free garden. My three favorite bug books are: “Good Bugs for Your Garden” by Allsion Starcher; “A Guide to Natural Gardening” by Boring, Glasener, Keator, Knoff, Scott and Wasowshi; and “American Horticultural Society Pests and Diseases” by Greenwood, Halstead, Chase and Gilrein.
To get started with your beneficial insects, one can buy a beginners package of bugs from www.gardeners.com. In addition to the bugs you can also buy habitat supplies to encourage lovely insects to join your garden. So please keep in mind when managing your garden, “do no harm.” Those pests can be your garden’s best friends.