Beneficial Insects are used in gardens and landscapes and even small organic production. Take a look at the age old organics list of beneficial insects promoting Integrated Pest Management.
Beneficial Nematodes– These nematodes work very well in controlling hundreds of types of garden pests. For example, grubs, slugs, fungus gnats, fruit flies, beetles, and cockroaches. You can buy nematodes at your local garden center. There are two genera of nematodes and depending on your garden pest, you will want to know which one to use. As always, read the labels on all things going into your garden and landscape. Apply them by mixing with water and using your favorite fertilizer application tools such as a watering can, a backpack sprayer, or a hose-end sprayer. Make sure the holes are big enough to allow nematodes to be applied. It is best to keep the nematode application area moist so they get a chance to work themselves into the soil. Also, nematodes don’t like bright light so applying at dusk is ideal.
Fun Fact- Nematodes “swim” through the soil or sit and wait for their host. They can find their host by the bug’s breath or the CO2 they give off when breathing.
Green Lacewings– Green Lacewing larvae after hatching are also known as “aphid lions.” Now that’s a beneficial insect you want near your Brassicas and Roses! They are extreme predators of soft-bodied insects like aphids, thrips, mealybugs, whiteflies, and mites which if you have encountered them are ‘numerous’ to say the least. Lacewing larvae eat by injecting venom through tube-like structures from their jaws and then suck out their fluids. One lacewing can consume a couple hundred of these guys in a week. When applying Lacewing larvae, do so early morning or early evening as they don’t prefer extreme heat. Adult Lacewings will stay in your yard if you have some pollen, honeydew, and nectar to stick around for. Please note- it is great if you know what the life stages of these good bugs look like.
Click on the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management link to find images of the four stages of the Green Lacewing’s life cycle to be sure you don’t remove this buddy from your garden. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/NE/green_lacewing.html
Ladybugs- We all know or should know by now that Ladybugs are delightful friends to have in the garden. There are about 4,300 different kinds of ladybugs in the world. Sometimes they are called Lady Beetles or Ladybird Beetles.
They are largely known for controlling aphid populations but also attack soft-bodied insects much like that of Lacewing larvae. Ladybugs can be many different colors such as white, pink, black, yellow, orange, and of course red. They usually have spots but they do fade with age. Did you know that the French call ladybugs, les betes du bon Dieu, which translates to ‘creatures of God’. They truly are a fantastic garden friend. And good eaters! One ladybug can eat up to 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.
You can buy ladybugs from your garden center. Be aware that most will fly away. Don’t be discouraged, if you welcome ladybugs into your yard (with herbs like fennel, cilantro, and dill, and flowers like geraniums and dandelions) you will be sure to see the benefit of your purchase. Increase your odds by watering the area of release first so they can have a drink. Release them early morning and not in the hot sun in mid-day.
Earthworms– One of the best things you can do for your soil is to make sure earthworms inhabit it. Earthworms act as a catalyst in decomposition. While they feed off of organic matter, breaking it down, all while mixing the layers of soil inside your garden. Charles Darwin has referred to earthworms as ‘nature’s ploughs’ in his last book published in 1881 before he died, entitled, The Formation of Vegetable Mold through the Action of Earthworms. He thought earthworms so fantastic that he studied them for 40 years. Earthworm castings are a rich source of available N, P, K, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria. You can buy Earthworms and you can also buy Age-Old earthworm castings from us.
Bumble Bees and Honey Bees– It should be well known worldwide that it is imperative to protect our bees. They are natural pollinators of our flowers and without them, we would have to find our own way of pollinating for fruit and vegetable production. Sometimes people become perplexed why their squash had so many blossoms and never produced one squash. It is very possible that the squash blossoms have not been visited by any bees.
Bumble Bees and Honey Bees have many different characteristics. For instance, Bumble Bees byways of ‘buzz pollination’ only have to visit a flower once to pollinate while honey bees have to visit several times. Their big furry bodies can hold a lot of pollen to make the job easier. One benefit Honey Bees have over Bumble Bees is their ability to produce a surplus of honey, which we love to eat. It is very effective on our immune systems if consumed raw and regularly. Watch out for the ultra-filtered grocery store knockoffs. Bees work hard for us on a worldwide scale. They are responsible for most things beautiful.
Praying Mantis– Females are green while Males are brown. Their heads can turn almost a full 360 degrees. These alien looking creatures prey on almost all bugs so one can argue that they are a good thing to have in the garden. (Just as long as they’re not eating your beneficial bugs). Praying Mantes are carnivores and can even be cannibalistic. They play a major role in insect control and natural balance. The strange thing is (as if there is only one) about praying mantes is that they even attack and eat hummingbirds, lizards, and even small mammals.
Ants– Have you ever seen an anthill? Does it not look like the most aerated soil you have ever seen? Ants are also very effective in the decomposition of dead carcasses of animals and converting them into usable organic matter. There is also the issue of ants farming aphids for the sweet substance that aphids secrete while sucking the plant. The ants paralyze the aphids making them unable to move or fly away. Since the ants don’t actually eat the aphids (like our dear ladybugs and lacewings) it is yet to be determined whether or not the ants keep the aphids around for easy access to food or if the ants are actually helping control the aphid population. You can read more about it here: