While much of what we do as organic gardeners focus on watching out for "bad" bugs—those pesky ones who eat our plants and spread diseases—it is just as important to know which bugs we should be welcoming into our gardens. These beneficial insects pollinate our plants and are more effective than we could ever hope to be at keeping insect pests under control. There are many beneficial insects, and the five featured here are easily recognizable and common in most gardens. If you see them hanging around, you're doing something right!
Bees: Without plenty of these helpful insects buzzing around your garden, you'd have to be sure to hand-pollinate.
Lacewings: Lacewings are voracious predators. Both the adults and larvae feed on aphids, scales, thrips, mealy bugs, and caterpillars.
Ground Beetles: Your first reaction upon seeing a big black ground beetle might be to squish it—don't do it! They are great partners to have in your garden. Because they're nocturnal (digging down into mulch and other organic matter during the day) they're great at keeping those night-time pests under control. Slugs, snails, and cutworms are just three of the more than fifty types of pests the ground beetle hunts. You'll want plenty of these in your garden!
Soldier Beetles: Soldier beetles are rather mercenary in their dietary preferences; they're just as likely to hunt the good bugs as they are the bad bugs. Even so, soldier beetles deserve to be welcomed into any garden. They help control pests such as aphids and many types of caterpillars.
Lady Beetles: Lady beetles (ladybugs) are probably the first thing that comes into most people's minds when they hear the term "beneficial insect," and with good reason. While the adults eat a fair share of aphids, mealybugs, and mites, it's their larvae (pictured) that are the true heroes. The larvae look like "bad bugs," at first glance: black and red, like miniature alligators making their way through your garden. But they have voracious appetites and can get an aphid or mite infestation under control in no time.
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