Host: Gary Bachman, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist
Insect pests can cause problems in the garden, but not all insects are bad today on Southern Gardening.
In fact there’s a literal army of insects on our side in our landscape pest battles. Beneficial insects are a natural and earth-friendly way to defend the garden. The bad guys like aphids are always around. Many times we just don’t see them as the good guys keep them in check. Here are a few of the most recognizable. Lady beetles are voracious aphid eaters. But they will also dine on thrips, mealy bugs, and mites. And they do double duty as their larvae have big appetites too. They can eat up to 40 aphids each a day. A beautiful insect with large, transparent wings and a bright green body is the green lacewing. The adult lacewings feed on nectar, but the larvae are ravenous predators with aphids and other soft bodied insects. Predatory wasps called braconids seek out many of the caterpillar pests such as tomato hornworm. The wasp lays its eggs on the hornworm. As they hatch, they eat their host, killing the hornworm in the process. Gruesome, but effective. These beneficial insects are always out in the garden looking for their next meal. Many also will feed on nectar and pollen, so creating a suitable habitat can help keep them in your garden. You can also buy some from a local garden center or mail order company, but realize that once the meal is over they will probably leave. It may be difficult to accept bugs as your friend, but remembering that many are on our side may make it a little easier. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.