14 Beneficial Insects for Natural Garden Pest Control

Not all insects are bad pests. There are some insect species referred to as beneficial insects that may provide a long-term sustainable pest control solution by preying on the bugs that do a great deal of damage to your garden and backyard plants.

Beneficial insects are considered a biological control solution, which refers to methods of controlling pests using other living organisms.

Why Use Beneficial Insects

1. Chemical pesticides – the first and most obvious benefit to using these insects is not having to resort to chemical pesticides. The non-toxic approach allows you to grow plants organically. You won’t have to worry the next time you take a bite out of your home-grown fruit or vegetable.

2. Good bugs – keep in mind that chemical pesticides don’t only wipe out the bad bugs. They are just as deadly to the beneficial insects. This is bad for the long-term maintenance of your garden as there won’t be a population of natural predators to feed on the pests. Pesticide may be effective at wiping out of the first wave of pests, but the same cannot be said for the second wave.

3. Cost saver – beneficial bugs are there to stay if you are able to build an environment for them to thrive in. You might not even have to spend money if the beneficial insects are native to your area.

4. Resistance – a number of insects are starting to show greater resistance to chemical pesticides. According to the Pesticide Action Network, between 500 and 1,000 insect and weed species have developed resistance to pesticide since 1945. There is nothing much a pest can do if it is getting eaten by a predator though.

Before You Introduce Beneficial Insects

As you can see, there are many benefits to introducing the bug predators, but before you do anything, here are some important things to consider.

1. Regulations & permits – you may potentially need a permit if you are importing certain species of insects.

2. Neighbors – have the courtesy to tell and educate your neighbors on introducing beneficial insects. The last thing you want is for your neighbors to be spraying chemical pesticide all over the place, which in turn, could easily have a knock-on effect on your garden. Who knows? Your neighbors may also be willing to share the cost of investing in these beneficial insects too.

3. Optimal environment – make sure the climate and vegetation provides a suitable habitat for the beneficial insects. What’s also important is to make sure there is a low to medium population of the targeted pest in your garden. Otherwise, the insects may leave for an area with a more reliable source of food.

14 Beneficial Insects for Pest Control

In no particular order, here are fourteen beneficial insects to consider for natural pest control. You can learn about what they prey on, what habitat they are suited for, plants that attract the beneficial insects, and typical costs.

1. Ladybug

Preys: aphids, whitefly, mites, fleas, Colorado potato beetle
Attracted by: Dill, Dandelion, Fern-leaf Yellow, Basket of Gold, Common Yarrow
Facts: Ladybugs can consume more than 5,000 aphids during their lifetime.

2. Praying Mantis

Preys: wide range including caterpillars, moths, beetles, gnats, and crickets
Attracted by: tall grasses and shrubs, cosmos, marigolds, dills
Facts: Mantis can turn their heads 180 degrees to view their surroundings.

3. Spiders

Preys: wide range including bed bugs, aphids, roaches, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, and fruit flies
Attracted by: tall plants for weaving spiders, mulch for predatory spiders
Facts: Most spiders complete their life cycle in one year.

4. Ground Beetles

Preys: slugs, caterpillars, ants, Colorado potato beetles, cutworms
Attracted by: evening primrose, amaranthus, clover
Facts: Ground beetles are typically only active at night.

5. Aphid Midges

Preys: aphids
Attracted by: Dills, plants with plenty of pollen and nectar, source of water
Facts: aphid midges can attack over sixty types of aphid species.

6. Braconid Wasps

Preys: tobacco hornworm, tomato hornworm, caterpillars, aphids
Attracted by: Fern-leaf Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Dill, Lemon Balm, Parsley
Facts: Braconid wasps kills hornworms by laying eggs inside the caterpillar.

7. Damsel Bugs

Preys: caterpillars, mites, aphids, potato beetles, cabbage worms
Attracted by: Caraway, Fennel, Alfalfa, Spearmint, Peter Pan Goldenrod
Facts: damsel bug populations can thrive if you provide them alternative places to hide.

8. Green Lacewings

Preys: aphids, whitefly, leafhopper, mealybugs, caterpillars of pest moths
Attracted by: Dill, Angelica, Golden Marguerite, Coriander, Dandelion
Facts: the larvae does the actual job of getting rid of soft-bodied pests.

9. Minute Pirate Bugs

Preys: spider mites, insect eggs, caterpillars, aphids, thrips
Attracted by: Caraway, Fennel, Alfalfa, Spearmint, Peter Pan Goldenrod
Facts: both immature stages and adults prey on a variety of small insects.

10. Soldier Beetles

Preys: grasshopper eggs, aphids, soft-bodied insects
Attracted by: goldenrod, zinnia, marigold, linden trees
Facts: soldier beetles do not damage plants and are harmless to people.

11. Tachinid Flies

Preys: gypsy moths, Japanese beetles, cutworms, squash bugs
Attracted by: carrots, cilantro, dill, coriander, buckwheat
Facts: Tachinids parasitize pests by laying eggs onto the host or onto nearby foliage.

12. Hoverflies

Preys: aphids, scale insects, caterpillars
Attracted by: Fern-leaf Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Dill, Basket of Gold, Statice
Facts: Hoverfly larvaes feed on pests, while the adult flies feed on pollen.

13. Mealybug Destroyer

Preys: mealybugs (not all species)
Attracted by: fennel, dill, angelica, sunflower, goldenrod
Facts: One mealybug destroyer can eat up to 250 mealybug larvae.

14. Predatory Mites

Preys: spider mites
Attracted by: humid environments like greenhouses and high tunnels
Facts: predatory mites feed on the pollen, and not the plant itself, when prey is unavailable.

Find out which of these beneficial insects work best for your situation and start planning on how you can better grow the plants the insects are attracted to. Remember, biological control methods like using these insects should not be viewed as immediate solutions.

In most cases, it may take from a couple of days to a few weeks to see any sort of result. Be patient and make sure you are playing your part by providing a suitable habitat for the beneficial insects to co-exist with your healthy garden.

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