As spring gets closer and closer, the amount of insect activity we see will increase as more plants start growing. This may seem like a problem, but consider this reality; only 11-15 percent of insects are pests. Most are actually beneficial in one way or another.
Which insects are good for your garden?
Many common insects are truly beneficial because they seek and destroy insect pests. This small, but important group of insects, includes both predators and parasites. Common predators include ladybird beetles, ground beetles and praying mantis who feed directly on pests. Parasites include several tiny wasps and some moths and butterflies. Most go unnoticed or are mistaken for harmful insects. They are one of nature’s ways of keeping insect pests in check but often their number may be insufficient to control a pest outbreak. Beneficial insects occur naturally but many can also be purchased locally at co-op garden centers or online.
How do I get the good bugs in my garden?
Beneficial insects can and do control insects but results can often be improved. Several factors increase their effectiveness. First, there must be pest insects present for beneficial insects to eat or parasitize. If food isn’t available or is eaten up, the beneficial will go elsewhere to find food. This also means that you will have to tolerate a low level of pest insects in your garden to provide food for the beneficial insects. Often, when you do tolerate that low level of pest insects, predatory insect will just show up to eat the pests.
Ladybugs are more likely to stay close to the release site if a water source is available. This could simply be droplets of moisture from a hose sprayed on nearby plants. Ladybugs are also less likely to fly away if they are released in the evening hours and spend their first night in your garden.
Will pesticides hurt my garden?
When using beneficial insects be very careful when using certain pesticides. Broad spectrum pesticides will kill beneficial insects as well as pests. If you do need to use pesticides spot treat only and avoid treating large areas to limit damage to beneficial insects. Horticultural molasses, insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils are good choices should a spray be necessary to reduce the damage level before beneficial insects are introduced or their population builds naturally in the garden.