Beneficial Bugs: Some Insects Help Your Garden

When it comes to insects that destroy our gardens and lawns, everyone loves a quick fix.

Pesticides can do just that, but you may want to think twice before you start spraying away. Be aware of an unintended effect — killing the good bugs that keep your backyard healthy. Instead, why not take an eco-friendly approach to insect pest control by releasing beneficial bugs that can help with the problem?

Before you bring in good bugs, figure out which bad bug is causing your woes. Try to identify the pest by looking it up in books or the Internet — check out www.gardeninsects.com for a good guide to common culprits. If you are still having trouble, call your local Cooperative Extension Office or local nursery.

Here are some beneficial bugs that will organically keep your garden healthy:

• Beneficial/predatory nematodes, also known as roundworms, seem to eat everything! They are very easy to use — garden supply companies often sell them as microscopic dry pellets. Just combine these with water and sprinkle the mixture on the problem areas. The nematodes will attack soil dwelling insects such as cutworms, cabbage worms, squash bugs, flee beetles, grubs and sod webworms which are often found in your lawn and garden.

• Ladybugs, our favorite type of beetle, are ravenous eaters when it comes to unwanted insects in the garden, especially aphids. Ladybugs can consume 50 to 60 aphids per day but will also eat a variety of other insects and larvae including scales, mealy bugs, leafhoppers, mites, and various other soft-bodied insects.

• Green lacewings are another extremely carnivorous insect. They feed on many soft-bodied insects and mites, including thrips, mealybugs, whiteflies and small caterpillars. They can consume over 200 aphids or other prey in a single week. Green lacewing eggs are shipped in bran or rice hulls and packed with moth eggs for food. They're then set free into the garden; the best time to release them is early morning or later afternoon.

• Praying mantids have enormous appetites, eating various aphids, leafhoppers, mosquitoes, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects when the mantis is young. As they develop, they will eat larger insects, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and other pest insects. Mantis wait patiently for their food, and when it is close enough, snap it up with a rapid movement of their powerful forelegs.

• Trichogramma wasps are extremely tiny parasites (four or five will fit on the head of a pin) but they have a diverse appetite, feeding on the eggs of over 200 species of moths and caterpillars.

• Decollate snails are voracious predators and feed on common garden snails, slugs and their eggs. They are most active during the night and during rainfall.

All of these beneficial bugs can be purchased from local nurseries or from websites such as www.buglogical.com or www.gardensalive.com . Be sure to follow the releasing directions as packaging of the bugs may differ.

Who would have thought that adding more bugs to your garden could be a good thing?

Keep checking iMag for more GO Green tips!