Beneficial Insects

Natural Pest Control

Many people have been asking me how I deal with insect control in the garden since I don’t use pesticide.  It required a few years of organic gardening, but the eco system in our garden has come back into balance.  The first couple of years were a little difficult since the pest insects seemed to move in quickly and had a field day with our vegetables and flowers.  Now?  The damage is minimal.

Birds are the best insect control.  Frogs, toads, spiders and snakes also help a lot.  Snakes spook everyone out of the way, me included.  They do try to stay out of sight and out of the way though, which I appreciate.  They are the quiet partners in rodent control when not poisoned.

What fascinates me most are the predator insects, they or their larvae consume other insects.  Some will go for a particular type of insect but others don’t pick and choose; they eat anything they can grab.  The well known beneficial insects like Lady Beetles and Mantis are being sold commercially.   Below are some of the lesser known good guys I found in my garden:

Ambush bug waiting patiently to ambush other bugs
Ambush bug waiting patiently to ambush other bugs
Bagged a wasp
Bagged a wasp

The in-discriminatory Ambush bug (Phymata americana) is very hard to spot since their color blends in very well with the plants they choose and once positioned, don’t move.

Spined Soldier bug nabbed a bumblebee, a good guy, but they nab the bad too
Spined Soldier bug nabbed a bumblebee, a good guy, but they nab the bad too

I have a difficulty differentiating this Spined Soldier bug (Podisus maculiventris) and the invasive brown Marmorated Stink Bug.  As far as I know the Spined Soldier bugs don’t try to hibernate in the house like the brown Stink bugs do.

Digger Wasp
Digger Wasp

Both male and female of this hairy Digger Wasp (Scolia dubia) forage on flowers during the day.  The female also prey on grubs, paralyzing it and laying her eggs on it.

Great Golden Digger Wasp
Great Golden Digger Wasp

This larger size Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) preys on katydids and crickets.

Mason Wasp
Mason Wasp

The females of this solitary Mason Wasp (Monobia quardridens) prey on Cutworms by paralyzing them and storing them in her nest for her larvae.

Robber Fly
Robber Fly

The adult Robber Fly (Promachus fitchii) preys on other insects indiscriminately.  Their larvae eat the larvae of May beetles (Phyllophaga fusca) when they are just white grubs.

Tachina Fly
Tachina Fly

As more Stink bugs (Banasa dimiata) moved in, I have seen more and more of the Tachina Fly (Trichopoda pennipes) in the garden.  The females attach their eggs to a variety of insects on which the larvae will feed.  Tachina Flies are sometimes used in the biological control of plant-eating Stink bugs and Leaf-footed bugs.

The next wasp or an insect you just about to swat may be your great ally.  By keeping them around will make pest control in your garden easier and safer.

References:

  • Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity by Stephen A. Marshall
  • Flies: The Natural History and Diversity of Diptera by Stephen A. Marshall
  • Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw
  • Natural Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America by Arthur V. Evans
  • Bring Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Douglas W. Tallamy
  • The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control Edited by Fern Marshall Bradley, Barbara W. Ellis, and Deborah L. Martin

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