What’s Bugging Your Garden?
Turn the Good Guys Loose
There are a number of predator insects just ready and waiting to go to work gobbling up the pests in your garden. You can order them by mail through seed catalogs if your local nursery doesn’t sell them. If you plan to use predators, you’ll have to order a large number of the good insects. Many gardeners recommend a combination of ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantises. Don’t be surprised if they immediately take off to the garden next door. You’ll be more likely to keep them if you:
- Provide water.
- Plant a variety of flowering plants along with your vegetables.
- Keep something growing in the garden the entire season.
It would be wise to plan a year ahead of time, if you haven’t already done so, by planting herbs and flowers among your vegetables. In general, the beneficial insects like flowers that look like daises and Queen Anne’s Lace. Select open-pollinated flowers.
The ladybug, age-old symbol of good luck, is familiar to most gardeners with its spotted bright orange-red hemispherical shell. It eats two and a half times is own weight each day in aphids, mealybugs, moth eggs, and spider mites. Ladybugs eat both the adult and larval stages of many common garden pests. The ladybug larva is a blackish spiny-bodied little beast with six short legs and red, blue, or yellow spots. It also consumes a number of insects before it becomes an adult.
Lady bug Photo courtesy OrganicGardenInfo.com
Flowers ladybugs like are: alyssum, dill, fennel, Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Queen Anne’s Lace, sunflowers and common yarrow.
The praying mantis (a funny-looking walking-stick-like insect) consumes huge quantities of beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. The young eat aphids, flies, mites, insect eggs, and other small insects.
Praying mantis Photo courtesy OrganicGardenInfo.com
Do not put praying mantis eggs in a butterfly garden. They eat the good, as well as the bad bugs. They prefer plants with green stalks and leaves that hide them.
Lacewings (sometimes known as stinkbugs) are those fragile-looking lighty-green insects most gardeners see from time to time. The lacewing adult is mainly a nectar lover. The larvae (known as aphidlions) have a gluttonous appetite for aphids, mealybugs, mites, leafhoppers, thrips, and other insects.
Green lacewing Photo courtesy OrganicGardenInfo.com
Green lacewings enjoy angelica, caraway, coriander, cosmos, dill, fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace, and sunflowers.
Syrhip flies, which look something like bees, are also nectar lovers, but their larvae will gobble up aphids, scale insects, and soft-bodies bugs.
Robber flies have long whiskered faces, long abdomens, and look like bumblebees, and they eat everything from grasshoppers to flies and bees.
Robber fly Photo courtesy OrganicGardenInfo.com
There are a number of wasps (including the trichogramma. Braconid, chalcid wasps) raised commercially for pest control. These wasps lay their eggs inside more than 200 insect pests, including cutworms.
Trichogramma wasp Photo courtesy OrganicGardenInfo.com
To lure these good guys into your garden plant small-blossomed, single-blooming flowers. These wasps are nectar loving. These wasps do not sting. They eat aphids, scale, mealy bugs to the larvae of many beetles, moths and butterflies. They are available commercially and through some seed catalogs.
My next blog is dealing with vegetable diseases—bacteria.