A great way to naturally control garden insects and tiny vegetable-mauling beasties is to attract (or import) beneficial insects to your garden. Good insects can help your garden by eating bad garden bugs and pollinating your flowers and vegetables. Not sure which bugs are worth your time? Try these garden insects and you shouldn’t be disappointed.
Bugs with Bennies: Beneficial Insects for the Garden
Pro: Mantids look incredibly cool and eat plenty of pesky garden insects. Con: They’re just as likely to eat bad insects as beneficial insects. Bright green and fantastically intense looking, mantids are exclusively predatory and will even engage in cannibalism now and again. (So, don’t buy more than you need.) Praying mantis are usually available for sale as eggs or live insects.
Spined Soldier Bugs
Neither pretty nor ugly, spined soldier bugs are stinky but beneficial insects that do a solid job of guarding gardens against common pests like caterpillars, grubs, hornworms, potato beetles and bean beetles. Like assassin bugs, spined soldier bugs skewer their victims and suck out their juicy insides. If you decide to get rid of these beneficial buggers, don’t get pinchy: soldier bugs are in the stinkbug family.
Possibly my favorite garden good guy, fireflies make an average garden magical. When coaxed out of hiding with a nighttime watering, they’re like fairies in the air. Plus, their larva are handy predators that eat grubs and snails. (Note that they also eat earthworms though, so if you’re partial to your worm population, you’re better off not encouraging these flashy but generally good insects to hang around your garden.)
Possibly the only truly beautiful beneficial garden bugs, dragonflies are as lovely as they are handy. Not only do these graceful insects feast on garden-ravaging aphids, they also eat flies, mosquitoes and wasps. (Be warned though, they’ll occasionally take out a butterfly too. They don’t eat butterflies often, but if you’re building a butterfly garden, you may not want to intentionally import any of these generally good insects into your garden.)
For other ways to keep your garden healthy naturally, see my Gardening Guides page. There you’ll find links on how to attract beneficial insects to your garden, garden plants that repel insects, and recipes for natural pesticides.