Common beneficial insects
Praying mantis and ladybugs: Effective predators of soft bodied pests like aphids.
Ground beetles: Predators of soil-dwelling pests like slugs and snails; they may also be found eating pests on plants.
Wasps: Predators and parasites of caterpillars, beetle larvae and other soft bodied insects. They are attracted to pollen and nectar-producing plants.
Lacewings: They are generalists predators and are commonly called "aphid lions". Lacewings are green or brown.
Soldier Beetle and Spined soldier bugs: They feed on caterpillars, aphids and cucumber beetles
For a complete list of beneficial insects, call the Hall County Extension office.
What is a beneficial insect?
We often think of insects as pests in our gardens. But actually there are beneficial insects that can lower the amount of harmful pest populations.
Beneficial insects help suppress other insects as a type of biological control that dates back to the fourth century. Insect predators feed directly on their prey, killing them immediately. Other insects parasitize their enemies by depositing eggs on or in them and the hosts will eventually die. Many beneficial insects occur naturally in your landscape. Learning to identify them can be important when maintaining your garden.
What do you need to do to attract and keep beneficial insects?
1. Find alternative sources of food for beneficials. These insects feed on pollen nectar and plant juices to supplement their diet. Try daisies, yarrow and goldenrod.
2. Provide shelter for beneficial insects where they can establish a habitat from mowing and tilling. Perennial flower beds (especially pollen and nectar producing plants), vegetable gardens, hedges and borders provide excellent protection. Compost, mulch covers and rocks can also provide a stable habitat.
3. Water sources such as birdbaths provide hydration. Remember to change the water every few days to discourage mosquitoes.
Because beneficial insects will not solve all of your pest problems, try incorporating natural enemies (beneficial insects) along with other pest management strategies. Choose products that target specific pests. For example, a product called B.t. attacks caterpillars, beetle larvae and various flies. Sabadilla dust acts as a stomach poison. Insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils are less toxic and are likely to not devastate populations of beneficials.
Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.