We’re getting better at it but sometimes it’s a hard call whether to ‘watch and nurture’ or ‘isolate and destroy’! I won’t give an extensive list but here’s a few bugs to keep an eye out for to determine if you’re among friends :)
(if you’re not sure, look the pics of each up online...no doubt you’ll recognize the following)
Aphid parasite: Lays eggs inside of the aphid causing aphid to mummify...eech!
Bumblebee: Don’t sweat it...just stay away and let the bumblebee do its thing. Pollinates veggies and fruits.
Lady Beetle: (of course) Almost embarrassed to have to put it up as a reminder but after all this little guy is often our unsung hero. The beetle’s diet (particularly in the larvae stage) includes mites, aphids, whiteflies, insect eggs etc...yum, yum. And don’t forget, those bright yellow eggs on the leaf, they’ll be the beetle babies
Spined Soldier Bug: Yup, this bug definitely has its armour on. Easily recognizable. Consumer of grubs, corn borer, gypsy moth caterpillars, cabbage worm, potato beetle to name a few...
Syrphid (or Hover) fly: You might mistake this little friend for a honeybee but watch how it hovers and that will be your clue. Another clue that sets it apart is its bulging head which looks a little out of proportion to its slender striped body. And lovely, its larvae feeds on dead plant material, aphids and other nasties while the adult indulges in the nectar and pollen of the flower...great pollinator. Studies show white and yellow flowers seem to be their specialities.
Soil nematodes: Particularily easy for home gardeners. They are microscopic so you’ll only see the symptoms of their activity. There are the beneficial and the parasitic nematodes. Guess which ones we want to encourage! Companion planting (that’s the dominion of marigolds, dahlias, painted daisies, etc) can deter some parasitic root nematodes that damage plant roots. Crop rotation is a good practice to remember. Other than that without making your gardening too labour intensive just ensure that your soil is healthy because a strong plant is your first weapon against disease.
Spider: ALERT! Leave them alone! All native spiders are beneficial predators
Praying mantis: Doesn’t really care if the bug it’s eating is helping you in your good fight or not! It just eats what’s in front of him good or bad...but certainly an interesting beneficial insect to watch.
Remember identification is only the first step. Purpose to create a garden that will be a home for your new friends.
- Include many plant varieties with different bloom cycles (spring, summer and fall) so there will always be a source of pollen and nectar for hungry insects. Don’t forget to add in some native flowers ie: milkweed, marsh marigold, gloriosa daisy, new England aster, viola labradorica...
- Remember just like with your own health, ‘prevention is better than cure’. Keep the conditions of your garden as stress free as possible to foster good healthy plants. Consider good air circulation, good drainage, nutrient rich soil and adequate moisture. If the plants are healthy they are more able to resist disease and insect damage.