Tag Archives: bugs

Beneficial Insects: Ladybug / Ladybird Beetle.

ladybug-larvaeOrder: Coleoptera. Family: Coccinellidae

Average Size: 1/8″ to5/8″.

Something not many people know, even avid gardeners, is that ladybugs come in different colors and do not always have spots. They can also be brown, black, yellow, gray and orange besides their common red color with black spots.

The larvae of the ladybug looks nothing like the adult. They are more alligator-shaped and do not have a smooth shell, but once you spot one, you will remember what they look like. They are usually dark brown to black and have a 2 distinctive red bands on their back. They are voracious eaters of aphids, so learning to recognize them and protect them is a plus.

The adults like tall grasses, so it’s not always advantageous to cut every bit of grass in your yard. They also like borage, tansy, geranium and angelica.

Ladybugs purchased from garden suppliers don’t always stay where you want them and will usually fly away, but here are a few tips to try to make them stay put:
– Release them just before sunup or just after dusk.
– Lay them gently at the base of aphid-infested plants.
– Spray plants with water just before releasing them.

Photo: Adult ladybug and larvae chasing some aphids on the leaf.

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Natural Insect and Disease Control: Birds.

bluebird-bugInsect-eating birds are one of the best pest controls around the garden, however, you have to keep them away from your fruit and berries by covering your fruit bushes and trees before the berries are noticed by the birds and usually before they are even ripe. A Chinese deterrent is to hang sliced onions in the tress to deter fruit-loving birds.
Birds such as purple martins are very beneficial to have around and encouraging them to stay close to your garden is a big advantage since they have to catch and eat flying insects constantly in order to live. Many people build martin houses to keep them around. Bluebirds also eat many insects and are not known for going after fruit.

Putting bird houses of all different sizes around your yard and garden will encourage birds to nest close by and return every year to catch many insects to feed their young with. Certain birds, such as robins and towhees love fruit more than insects, and will forego eating insects if fruit is easier to get to, so the key is not to make it easy for them by using bird netting, mesh or other materials that you can use to cover your fruit crops but still allow the sun to get to the plants. We find coverings are much more effective than anything you can hang in a tree to scare or throw off the smell, because eventually the birds will figure out how to get around anything that just hangs in a tree to deter them. Birds are clever.

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Beneficial Insects: Ground Beetles.

ground-beetleOrder: Coleoptera. Family: Carabidae
Average Size: 1/8″ to 1″.

Ground beetles are usually found under rocks or other debris in gardens, fields and woods. You will also find them under a compost pile quite often. When disturbed they may give off a foul odor. They feed on other ground-dwelling larvae and insect eggs, but are partial to cutworms, gypsy moth larvae and root maggots.

The adults have a blue-black or dark brown hard outer shell with a bronze or green metallic sheen to it at times. To attract ground beetles, plant white clover as a ground cover or put down some stone or paving bricks as a path for them to hide under.

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Damsel Bugs as Beneficial Insects.

Beneficial Insects: Damsel Bugs.
Order: Hemiptera. Family: Nabidae

Long, thing bodies with curved, needlelike beaks. Dull brown or straw colored. They resemble a lot of harmful bugs, but their heads are narrower than most species that feed on plants. The adults and nymphs prey on aphids, caterpillars, thrips, leafhoppers and other soft-body insects. They are partial to clover, and you will often see them on tomato plants while eating aphids. Average size is 1/2-3/4 inch.




Related to dragonflies, obviously, Damselflies are weak fliers and will stick close to water so if you have a backyard pond, water garden or live close to a lake you may see them. They will eat almost any insect and are very adept at picking aphids off plants. They lay their eggs in water, so if you want to keep them around, consider a backyard pond close to your garden.


Beneficial Insects: Assassin Bug.

Beneficial Insects: Assassin Bug.
Order: Hemiptera. Family: Reduviidae

Depending on your area, your assassin bugs may look slightly different from the one in this photo, but generally they are elongate, about 1/2″-3/4″ long, dull or brightly colored, with a long head and legs and a curved beak they use to inject paralyzing venom into their prey- which is why you don’t want to pick one up barehanded as it might bite you. They feast on flies, bees, leafhoppers, Japanese beetles, caterpillars and tomato hornworms etc.
They will take up permanent residence in leafy perennials where they can stalk their prey – hence the name Assassin Bug.
The nymphs (young) look like smaller wingless versions of th adults.