Insects for Garden Pest Control
Fewer things are more frustrating for gardeners than strolling through the yard, admiring the years of hard work, only to discover prized roses devoured by aphids and foliage eaten, chewed and destroyed by mealybugs or mites. Fortunately, not all insects damage plants and turn the garden into a feasting ground. Lucky for us, many insects feast on those same insects that cause the damage. Encourage beneficial insects into the garden with the right plants and a clean environment, and let them take care of removing the unwelcome bugs.
Also known as lady bugs, lady beetles eat aphids, whiteflies and other soft-bodied insects that are often found destroying bright blooms and plant foliage. Round to oval in shape and usually spotted, lady beetles consume up to 50 aphids per day once weather conditions warm up. The young larvae will eat up to 400 before transforming to adult insect. Dormant lady beetles are available for purchase at some garden supply centers and when released into the garden will start to do their magic.
Mantids will devour any garden pest.
Also called praying mantis, this odd-looking insect will devour any garden pest. Large front legs grasp at prey, and their large triangular heads allow them to observe and search for pests at any angle with minimal effort. Eggs overwinter in pods attached to solid surfaces, and young mantids hatch in early spring, quickly beginning their search for food. Available from many garden centers, dormant egg pouches will give the garden a good head start in the fight against bad bugs in early spring as the mantids burst out.
One of the most effective beneficial insects, lacewings will take care of caterpillars, aphids, leafhoppers, whiteflies, mealybugs and insect eggs. The larvae of lacewings look like 1/2-inch alligators, and the adult develops greenish-blue lacey wings that carry it from plant to plant in search of prey. Plenty of flowers will keep lacewing working in the garden. The nectar provides the lacewing with the needed energy for hunting.
Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that work under the soil surface removing grubs and larvae that grow into plant-damaging flying insects, like Japanese beetles. Different nematodes attack different pests, so ensure you have the right predator for the job before applying them to the lawn area. Nematodes are used for insects that spend part of their life cycle underground, where they wait for the pest to move through the soil and then move to destroy it.
Parasitic wasps grow to varying sizes and prey on a number of caterpillars, including cabbageworm, tent caterpillars and tomato fruitworm. The trichogramma, a parasitic wasp the size of a speck of dust, lays up to 300 eggs inside pest larvae, destroying the developing insect. Larger wasps lay their eggs on the caterpillar; as the eggs hatch, they kill the insect. Parasitic wasps are also a good defense against aphids.
Plant a variety of flowers that attract beneficial insects to keep them working in the garden all season long. Keep the garden clean to eliminate spots for the bad bugs to hide, and as plants fade or go dormant at the end of the season, remove any debris from the garden. Remove or prune damaged or weak plants during the season because these become targets and home for garden pests.