Nature provides a free workforce that keeps pests under control. Beneficial insects include predators and parasitoids that prey on insect pests such as aphids, scale, mealybugs and caterpillars. Many chemical insecticides used to control pests will kill these garden friends as well. Learning to recognize beneficial insects in all their life stages helps you know when sprays should be avoided, and pest control left to these voracious predators.
Beneficial Insects – Here’s your workforce!
Turn over a new leaf and identify some of the natural enemies worth conserving in your yard with this video from the University of Georgia. Learn the signs and symptoms of insect damage and get up close with the praying mantids, tiger beetles, syrphid flies, and parasitoid wasps hunting them. We can all pick out lady beetles, but do you know what their larvae look like? These black and orange alligator-like juveniles are aphid-eating machines, each one consuming upwards of 300 as it develops.
In a nutshell
- Insects are the most diverse creatures in the world – you may have over 1,000 different ones in your yard this very moment!
- Even if it were possible, it certainly wouldn’t be desirable to eliminate all insects – they’re a critical link in the food chain, essential for most birds, amphibians, and garden “friends.”
- Predatory insects tend to be larger and quicker than plant-eating pests, with strong piercing or biting mouthparts.
- Predators are generally found singly or in small numbers (<10) on a plant, whereas pests group in much larger numbers.
- Many insects are useful partners, some are minor players, and fewer than 3% pose a potential problem; knowing which are which and how they live is the key to effectively managing them.
- Conserving insect predators by reducing or eliminating pesticides lets nature’s pest control do the work for you.
Discover more beneficial insects, spiders, and other mini-creatures in your garden with this picture-heavy resource. We cover some plants that will draw them into the yard – check out how to mix up your blooms in Pest Prevention by Design.
There’s an app for that!
Join us Friday, June 4, 2021, as Texas Nature Tracker Biologist Craig Hensley walks us through how easy it is to click a pic and get a suggestion with the iNaturalist app. Register here to receive the link.
Share these 10 Interesting Insects with your budding entomologists. Watch a monarch emerge from a chrysalis, follow worker bees in their quest for pollen, and learn how a cricket chirps and grasshoppers sing.
These Good Bug/Bad Bug Activity pages from AgriLife Extension help children learn about the benefits of insects and gain an appreciation for what insects do for the world in which we live. View the picture gallery here.