Ladybugs

Busy Little Lady

Anywhere I look in the garden I see buds on stems and branches.  New shoots sprout up from soft cold ground.  Some leaves start to unfurl and early flowering plants and trees are blossoming.  A new colorful season has started, a new life cycle.

Spring is always a busy time of year for me.  I have started to do a little clean up.  The soil is warm and still moist enough to start feeding the trees and roses and mulching should keep it from freezing if the temperature drops for a night or two.  Cleaning, feeding, pruning, transplanting and sowing new annuals will take much of my time in early spring.  Then comes a time to sit back and enjoy it all in late spring and summer.

While I was doing the clean up, I found a few Lady beetles (Harmonia axyridis) hiding in the base of plants so I put back the dry leaves and left them alone.  A couple of them were out on the half unfurled rose leaves, helping me clean up small pests that I couldn’t see.  Their population seems to increase every year which I don’t mind at all.

A friend who gardens asked me if she should buy a ladybug package for her garden.  I told her ‘no’.  There is no point since no one can keep beneficial insects locked up in their garden.  I told her to improve her garden condition, forego pesticides and chemical fertilizer.  Once there is plenty of food and shelter, they will come to stay.

This lady beetle helping me cleaning up Rosa Rugosa 'Hansa'
This lady beetle helping me cleaning up Rosa Rugosa ‘Hansa’

Below are variety of Lady beetle from last year.

Bright orange with plenty of spots
Bright orange with plenty of spots
This one with dark yellow and a hint of orange
This one with dark yellow and a hint of orange
This one hardly has any spots.
This one hardly has any spots.
Another orange with a hint of red.
Another orange with a hint of red.

Before they become these cute looking beetles, they are in shape and form below.  If you see them crawling on leaves, don’t kill them.  Both lady beetle adults and larvae will help you get rid of aphids.  Ok, the larvae are not cute but they make up for looks in doing a great job.

Ladybug larva on rose leaf
Ladybug larva on rose leaf
After enough eating garden pests, they pupate.
After enough eating garden pests, they pupate.

I’m glad they are in our garden one generation after another.  Thank you for helping me keep the pests in check.

 

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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