Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Your garden is a beautiful place that you have worked hard to create. The last thing you want are pests destroying your plants.
But did you know that there are some bugs that can actually be beneficial for your garden? Here are a few of the most helpful bugs to help your plants thrive.
What Insects Are Beneficial to the Garden?
The average garden plays host to thousands of different types of insects. While that might have you breaking out in a cold sweat, worrying that these bugs are doing nothing but gnawing on your plants, take a deep breath and relax.
For the most part, the vast majority of insects in the garden are either not harmful at all – or are actually helpful. There are three main types of beneficial insects in the garden – those that pollinate, those that predate, and those that parasitize.
Pollinators are necessary to pollinate your plants and help their flowers turn into fruits and vegetables. Predators eliminate pests by eating them, while parasitizers eliminate pests by laying their eggs in or on the harmful pests.
So without further ado, here are 11 of the most beneficial insects that you’ll find in a garden.
1. Parasitic Wasps
The name alone of this beneficial type of insect is enough to make you think of an Alfred Hitchcock movie – but don’t worry, parasitic wasps won’t be taking over the world any time soon.
These tiny wasps are so small you probably won’t even see them – and they aren’t harmful to humans.
They lay their eggs on the backs of different insect pests (the most common parasitic wasp is the Braconid wasp, which targets tomato hornworms and other kinds of caterpillars).
2. Assassin Bugs
Assassin bugs, like parasitic wasps, have a bit of a foreboding appearance – they look like a combination between a squash bug and a praying mantis. They have sharp mouthparts to feed upon a variety of other insects in the garden – including common pests.
3. Praying Mantises
Praying mantises are voracious grasshopper predators, hunting these and many other kinds of garden pests with abandon. They can sometimes eat other beneficial insects, too, like bees and butterflies – so don’t be alarmed if you see this happening! For the most part, their feeding habits are harmless.
4. Ground Beetles
Technically, ground beetles aren’t a single species of insect – the name applies to many different kinds of predatory beetles. These creatures are helpful both as larvae and as adults. They eat all kinds of insects, including silverfish, slugs, caterpillars, and nematodes.
The problem with ground beetles is that some types are quite similar in appearance to other types of beetles that can be less beneficial – or even harmful – like Japanese beetles. Do a close inspection and consult a field guide if you aren’t sure what kind of beetle you’re dealing with.
5. Soldier Beetles
Soldier beetles are rockstars when it comes to getting rid of all kinds of different garden pests. To name a few, they’re extremely effective at getting rid of Colorado potato beetles, aphids, caterpillars, and the infamous Mexican bean beetle.
6. Green Lacewings
Both the adult and larval versions of the green lacewing are beneficial. As adults, these insects feed on nectar and pollen. As larvae, they feed on soft-bodied pests like aphids.
Hoverflies are also quite helpful in the garden. These insects look like yellowjackets – so if you see what you think is a yellowjacket, pause before you swat at it. It doesn’t have a stinger and it won’t harm you.
This creature feeds on pollen and is vital for a healthy garden. Not only that, but its larvae are predators that target aphids, thrips, and more.
Dragonfly eggs hatch into aquatic larvae, which feed on the larvae of other flying bugs – including several different kinds of pests, like mosquitoes and gnats. These beneficial insects are attracted to water features, so you may want to consider adding a pond or fountain to bring them in.
Ah, ladybugs – the helpful garden friend that just about everyone knows about!
Although ladybugs look cute and cuddly, they’re actually fierce predators. When they are still in the larval stage, ladybugs will feast hungrily on aphids, downing more than three dozen in just an hour.
How’s that for an all-you-can-eat buffet?
10. Robber Flies
With abnormally long legs, robber flies look a bit odd – and a bit intimidating. While they can bite when threatened, this is unusual. Instead, they’d prefer to eat garden pests like moths and crickets.
Although spiders aren’t technically insects – they’re arachnids – they’ve certainly earned their place on this list! These effective pest predators eat all kinds of live insects. While you might not like the thought of them creeping around your garden plants at night, try to resist the urge to squash the ones you see – they’re friends, not foes!
Can You Buy Good Bugs for Your Garden?
You can buy many types of beneficial insects, like ladybugs and parasitic wasps, online and release them into your garden. Some gardening supply stores might carry them, too, but this isn’t as common.
Even if you don’t go so far as to purchase these bugs and release them, there are other ways you can encourage them to visit your garden on their own.
Grow a diversity of plants – rather than just one type of plant – to attract a variety of insects. Early blooming plants and biennials that are allowed to bloom freely (instead of being harvested right away) can also attract beneficial insects.
There are certain plants you can grow to attract beneficial insects, too, including mint, lavender, fennel, sage, lemon balm, and yarrow.
Most importantly, avoid using chemical pesticides. These will kill both good and bad bugs – something you probably don’t want to happen.
Try Beneficial Insects For Your Garden Today!
The next time you’re in your garden, take a closer look at the bugs. Some of them might be doing more good than you realized!
By trying some of the tips we shared in this post, you can start to encourage these helpful bugs and create a thriving ecosystem that benefits your plants and helps keep pests under control.