Good gardeners know the benefits of good bugs. Most insects, spiders and the other invertebrates that get lumped together into the generic “bug” category can really be beneficial in the garden. Take a look at why you want these in your yard.
Predatory Beetles and Bugs
Among the hundreds of thousands of species in the Coleoptera (beetles) and Hemiptera (true bugs) insect orders are many predatory creatures, which dine on their plant-eating kin. Tiger, soldier, ground and ladybird beetles, along with assassin and pirate bugs, are just a few you should welcome to your garden as residents.
Bees, Wasps and Ants
All bee species are important pollinators, which are largely responsible for the seeds, nuts, berries, fruits and other plant foods that form the bottom of the food chain, feeding both people and wildlife. So don’t be so quick to shoo them away. You’ll want to welcome wasps and ants as well. Avid predators, they’re constantly patrolling, picking your garden clean of pests.
Butterflies and moths are attractive; they’re also important pollinators. Even better, their caterpillars attract birds. More than 95 percent of backyard birds rely on caterpillars as a primary food for their young. Attracting these insects to your garden essentially means attracting more birds.
These arachnids are some of the most helpful garden invertebrates, but they’re also among the most maligned. All spiders are predatory and feed on insects, whether they hunt using skillfully woven webs (argiope and orb-weaver spiders), by ambush (tarantulas and trap-door spiders) or by stalking (wolf and jumping spiders).
Dragonflies and Damselflies
These aerial acrobats are a double threat. In their adult phase, they feed on all manner of flying insects, from mosquitoes to biting flies and gnats, but their aquatic larvae are no slouches, either, devouring the larvae of the same pests.
So now that you know some of the good bugs for your garden, what can you do to attract them? First of all, plant native species, which can support 60 percent more native insects than some of the more exotic ornamentals. Second, don’t be too tidy. A natural garden design will provide hiding and hibernation spots, as well as food and places to nest. Finally, stop using pesticides. This can be tough to do if you rely on them regularly, but they kill beneficial insects along with the ones you don’t want. And in the long run, they disrupt the natural order, making it more likely you’ll have overall pest problems.
3 BUGS YOU DON’T WANT
Not only do mosquitoes cause an itchy welt when they bite, they spread diseases. Eliminate stagnant water in your yard, where mosquitoes breed (clogged gutters are a common culprit), and wear insect repellent.
These exotic ants were introduced to Alabama almost a century ago and have been proliferating ever since. They have an extremely painful sting and are displacing many native ant species. Avoid their large mounds, or call a professional exterminator to eliminate them in your yard.
These parasitic arachnids spread diseases and are especially problematic in areas with large deer populations. Avoid areas of tall grass where ticks lie in wait. Mow pathways in your garden, wear long pants tucked into socks, and check yourself and pets after outdoor time.