Although gardening is remarkably fun and healthy, it can also get a bit frustrating at times, especially when pests decide to make your plants their new homes. While many are handpicking aphids and smaller beetles, others are power washing flying swarms and resorting to pesticides to tackle these issues.
Handpicking is slow and applicable when there are only a few pests in visible places; power washing may damage weaker plants while pesticides are almost sure to contaminate your garden with toxic materials. Instead, you should consider introducing companion insects to your garden, as they can both nurture your plants and eliminate the many-legged nuisances.
Today we’ll talk about the 8 beneficial insects that will actually help your plants, so without any further ado, let’s start from the top:
Honey-producing, gentle, friendly, and arguably one of the most gorgeous flying insects in the world is the bee. Despite many people being afraid of bees and their stings, these little beauties won’t attack unless provoked and will help your garden prosper, become more beautiful and bountiful surprisingly quickly.
Bees pollinate the vast majority of flowers (both grown and wild), allowing them to bear healthy fruit, breed, as well as setting seeds. Furthermore, bees also create honey, which is the reason enough to have them even if you aren’t a gardener.
Sadly, bees are vegetarian and will not be able to help you with insect infestations directly. However, by keeping the plants healthier, they indirectly deter pests that are generally attracted to unhealthy, decaying plants and flowers.
Another absolutely gorgeous insect, the ladybug is the natural nemesis of aphids, which are some of the most annoying garden pests when allowed to breed and multiply. Contrary to their beautiful exterior, ladybugs actively hunt aphids, as well as thrips and tiny caterpillars.
Furthermore, having ladybugs in your garden ensures that infestations of soft-bodied pests are just bad memories; ladybugs would not only hunt aphids and thrips, but they also lay eggs atop aphids (when full), which essentially means that ladybug larvae are also participating in the extermination process.
However, you can’t simply release ladybugs into your garden and expect them to start hunting right off the bat. They are gentle creatures and aren’t exceptionally fond of the sun and summer heat.
It’s best to release them in the early evening and spray a bit of water on your plants; this will ensure that ladybugs stick around for longer periods of time, but they might eventually leave when they’ve had their fill of aphids.
3. Hover Flies
Hoverflies are slightly more versatile and less demanding in terms of maintenance when compared to ladybugs, but they essentially fulfill the same roles. Hoverflies are perfect for controlling large groups and infestations of aphids and most scaled insects.
Some would argue that ladybugs are a bit more effective and faster, which is largely true; however, ladybugs are more inclined to tunnel on aphids, disregarding other soft-bodied pests while hoverflies would indiscriminately hunt whatever they could eat.
Hoverflies pollinate flowers and plants just like bees, although to somewhat reduced effects. Many people dislike hoverflies due to the fact that they resemble wasps, although they neither bite nor sting.
Even though you may not like how they look (or sound), if a group of hoverflies comes to your garden, consider keeping them. You can also purchase them and release them into your garden, although they may leave; wild hoverflies who come on their own are more likely to stay.
4. Damsel Bugs
Damsel bugs hunt moth eggs and will make short work of large groups of aphids and tiny caterpillars, which are the main reasons why you should encourage them to stay in your garden by frequently spraying mists of fresh air near them.
They will also frequently hunt flies and even mosquitos, although not as often as assassin flies would. Damsel bugs can’t harm plants or flowers in your garden and will do their best to keep them clean from most smaller pests.
Butterflies are among the most gorgeous insects on the planet, although bigger species tend to frighten people, such as Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, Giant Swallowtail, Atlas Moth, and Canadian Tiger Swallowtail.
Regardless of which butterflies you want to keep as a companion to your plants, you can rest assured that they will pollinate your flowers and enrich your garden with their presence alone. They don’t hunt insects and mainly feed on flower nectar.
6. Braconid Wasps
While the vast majority of insects we’ve mentioned so far mainly prey on aphids and soft-bodied insects that are dangerous to plants, braconid wasps are actually capable of hunting pests that are more famous for bothering humans as well, most notably squash and stink bugs.
Braconid wasps can tackle bigger challenges (and bigger insects) despite being relatively small in size. These insects may not be as aesthetically perfect as ladybugs, bees, or butterflies, but they fulfill a much more practical role.
7. Praying Mantises
Praying mantises are near the top of the insect food chain, and they are rightfully proclaimed as some of the most successful pest hunters, but keeping them may be a risky gambit.
Namely, they are meticulous and indiscriminate when it comes to food, and they will eat both bests and companion insects just the same. They are also famous for attacking humans when provoked, so consider them a nuclear option if you are facing constant assaults of infestations.
8. Assassin Flies
The apex predator and the ultimate solution to pest-infested gardens is the assassin fly. It can hunt the vast majority of insects with ease and has more than earned its nickname. Assassin flies are ‘lone wolves,’ and they feed on pretty much anything that isn’t capable of killing them.
Although they won’t harm your plants, they will feed on beetles, bees, dragonflies, and practically all insect-type pests up to the size of larger wasps. The main reason why they are on the list is that they don’t transmit diseases like houseflies, they actively hunt houseflies, and they won’t bite or harm people.
We hope that this guide was useful to you and that you’ve learned something new today on the beneficial insects that will actually help your plants. Make sure you are staying safe in these times we are all going through and have a good one, guys!