Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Good Bugs vs. Bad Bugs

Garden Check List

  1. Compost- Check
  2. Early Spring plants in ground-Check
  3. Chicken fence up and maintained-Check
  4. April and May plants planned and plotted- Check

Aphids, White Flies Earwigs and Cutworms…….Not on the check list……

One of the beautiful benefits of having free ranged chickens is their appetite for bugs. However, chickens do not discriminate against good bugs and bad bugs. They tend to eat everything including Lady Bug larvae and Lacewings and Soldier Beetles.

I do not like using insecticides in my garden or around my yard for various reasons, including the “organic” kind. The top three reasons:

  1. My Children- they love to eat right out of the garden
  2. My Bees- Bees very sensitive to insecticides, even the organic versions
  3. I love Lady Bugs and Butterflies!!!!

Last year we planted with great success plants that are bee friendly. Our honey was outstanding from our efforts. So, this year my plan is to plant beneficial plants to attract beneficial insects. But, what is a good bug vs. a bad bug? I recently discovered the top ten beneficial insects a gardener wants in the garden. Now, as I understand it these insects are subject to region. What would be found in San Diego, California may not be in Charleston, South Carolina or Janesville, Wisconsin. Check out your local Ag Extension to see which beneficial insects are in your region.

Here are the Top Ten Beneficial Insects

  1. Braconid Wasps (Hymenoptera) – The larvae is the beneficial portion. The adult eats nectar and pollen.
    1. Diet: Caterpillars (including tomato hornworms), flies, beetle larvae, leaf miners, true bugs and aphids.
  2. Ground Beetles (Coleoptera)
    1. Diet: Asparagus beetles, caterpillars, Colorado potato beetles, corn earworms, cutworms, slugs, squash vine borers and tobacco budworms.
  3. Hover or Syrphid Flies (Diptera)- The larvae is the beneficial portion. The adults eats nectar and pollen
    1. Diet: Larvaw eat mealybugs, small caterpillars, and early season aphids.
  4. Lacewings (Neuroptera)
    1. Diet: larvae prey on aphids, small caterpillars and caterpillar eggs, other larvae, mealybugs, white flies.
  5. Lady Bugs aka Lady Beetles (Coleoptera)
    1. Diet: Larvae and adutlts both dine on aphids, small caterpillars, small beetles, and insect eggs.
  6. Predatory Bugs (Hemiptera)
    1. Diet: Numphs or larvae and adults feed on aphids, catepillars, scale insects, spider mites and insect eggs.
  7. Soldier Beetles (Coleoptera)
    1. Diet: Larvae feed on the eggs and larvae of beetles, grasshoppers, moths and other insects. Adults feed on aphids, and other soft bodies insects.
  8. Spiders (Araneae)
    1. Diet: Depeneds on species, but can include aphids, beetles, cutworms, fire ants, lacebugs, spider mites, squash bugs, and tobacco budworms
  9. Tacinid Flies (Diptera)
    1. Diet: Larvae feed internally on caterpillars, beetles, bugs, earwigs, and grasshoppers.
  10. Trichogramma Mini Wasps (Hymenoptera)
    1. Diet: Pest eggs, especially those of cabbage worms, codling moths, corm earworms, diamondback moths, and other moths and butterflies.
Now, why Praying Mantises aren't included in this list, I don't know why. But, I would also include them as a beneficial insect in the garden. Plus, they are cool.

Top 19 Plants Beneficial Love

These annual and perennial plants draw an abundance of diverse beneficial insects in many regions. Choose early, mid and late season bloomers to insure beneficial insects stay in the garden. California Agriculture researchers have also found that a good hedge can also attract and maintain a healthy environment for beneficial insects.

Check the following list for your area:

  1. Sweet Alyssum- Spring through frost
  2. Hairy vetch- Spring to Summer
  3. Angelica- late spring
  4. Common Garden Sage- late Spring to early Summer
  5. Orange stone crop- late Spring to early Summer
  6. Thyme – late Spring to early Summer
  7. Catmint- late Spring to Midsummer
  8. Buckwheat- three weeks after planting; continues up to 10 weeks
  9. Dill –Summer
  10. Fennel-Summer
  11. Shasta Daisy- Summer
  12. Mints- Midsummer
  13. Coreopsis- Summer to Fall
  14. Cilantro- Summer to Fall
  15. Cosmos- Summer to Fall
  16. Oregano- Summer to Fall
  17. Yarrows- Summer to Fall
  18. Goldenrod- Late Summer to Fall
  19. Asters aka Bachelor's Buttons- Late Summer to Fall

The ones highlighted are the ones we currently have in our garden. What I have found interesting is how many of these plants are also associated with companion gardening. The rest I am planning to add to the garden in addition to the "Bee Garden."

Viking Son is six years old. Having bugs and creepy crawlys in the garden for him to explore and study has added an extra bonus. Both Viking Kiddos love Lady Bugs and bugs. Viking Son built a Lady Bug Cathedral last week. It was amazing. Then the other day he brought me a handful of pill bugs.

For extra information check out these resources

Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw

Natural Enemies Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Biological Pest Control by Mary Louise Flint and Steve H. Driestadt

Mother Earth News at

Happy Gardening!!!

Royalty the Rooster and his Family.

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