Benefits of Scary or Bad Insects in Your Garden

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Ants are beneficial in a garden setting because they eat weeds, aerate the soil, and clean away dead insects and birds.
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Bees are beneficial because of their need to gather nectar and pollen, which they do by going from flower to flower helping to pollinate the entire garden.
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Beetles are beneficial garden insects because of their tendencies to eat other harmful insects.
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Caterpillars are sources of high-protein for young birds and if they evolve they turn into beautiful moths and butterflies.
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Earwigs may have a scary appearance, but they are useful and beneficial in breaking down decaying organic material.
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Slugs are tasty snacks for snakes and skunks, but if left unchecked they can increase in numbers and be a pest in your garden.
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These tomato hornworms will devastate your tomato crop and should be picked off by hand when you see them.
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Wasps are protective over their nests and their young, so it is best to avoid them unless they have nested in an unsafe area. Besides their protective nature wasps are also apart of nature's cleaning grew, taking care of dead insect remains.
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“The Guide to Humane Critter Control: Natural, Nontoxic Pest Solutions to Protect Your Yard and Garden” is a guide to understanding and handling pests that appear in your garden in a humane and natural way. Instead of killing or destroying the pests readers can learn ways to deter them and mitigate or prevent damage that may be done to their gardens.

The Guide to Humane Critter Control: Natural, Nontoxic Pest Solutions to Protect Your Yard and Garden(Cool Springs Press, 2017) by Theresa Rooney is a different approach to handling the pest in your garden in a humane and natural way. This book encourages readers to try alternative methods to killing or destroying pests such as deterring them or preventing the damage they might do in a garden. By introducing new techniques for dealing with garden pests, animal and insect populations do not decrease and the natural balance remains healthy between all species. Learning which plants, insects, and gardening products are safe and can coexist the best together leads to a successful garden that effectively takes care of itself.


They eat lots of weed seeds, aerate the soil, and clean away some of the dead insects and birds. Ants may also milk aphids. If you see them on plants look for aphids. They are a clue for the gardener.


Most beetles are beneficial. They eat lots of other insects and clean up dead insects and birds. They are also good at aerating the soil.


They may sting and buzz noisily and can seem scary, but most are shy and gentle and just want to do their business of gathering nectar and pollen for their colony or their young. If a honey bee stings you, she will die. The stinger usually gets stuck in your skin and, when the bee tries to pull away, it rips out of the abdomen—making stinging you a last resort. Most native bees and bumblebees can sting you many times, but they seldom sting at all unless you threaten them.


Many of these insects turn into beautiful, gentle butterflies or moths. All are a favorite food for adult birds to feed to their young. Young birds need high-protein diets and caterpillars are the perfect food.


They look scary but really are not. Earwigs eat decaying organic matter, breaking it down even further. Usually, they don’t bother plants unless their numbers are very high or other food sources are very low.


These sometimes can be a problem on hostas. Pull back the mulch and, if needed, use iron phosphate to kill them. Skunks and snakes eat a lot of slugs. Some birds will too. If you usually have a slug problem, before you expect them, lay down boards in the evening. In the morning, scrape the slugs hiding under them into the trash or out on the driveway for the birds to enjoy. They can increase in numbers exponentially, so be very proactive. Once your garden is diverse and healthy, you may want to leave mulch in place, as it will be the home of many beetles that can help keep slug populations in check. Invite birds in with bird baths or other water features.

Tomato Hornworms:

These are the larval stage of the sphinx or hawk moth and are devastating to your tomato crop. You can handpick the hornworms.

Wasps and Hornets:

Often confused with bees, they are not “hairy” and they have a waist between their abdomen and thorax. Wasps and hornets are more territorial than bees and will protect their nest and young—and can sting more than once doing so. When frightened, they emit a pheromone that warns the entire colony of an impending attack. If you are stung, leave the area as quickly and quietly as possible. The female wasps are the ones that sting; the males do not. As long as you can leave their nests alone, they usually leave you alone too. If a nest is in a high-traffic area, you may need to remove it, but if it is far up in a tree or in another out-of-the-way place, you may be able to leave it alone. Wasps will also be more aggressive in late summer and early fall.

More from The Guide to Humane Critter Control:

Reprinted with permissions fromThe Guide to Humane Critter Control: Natural, Nontoxic Pest Solutions to Protect Your Yard and Gardenby Theresa Rooney and published by Cool Springs Press, 2017.