Gardening can be a rather enjoyable past time or hobby. There are, however a few concerns you will need to address if you want it to thrive. Proper care will warrant knowing the good and bad bugs in the garden for maintaining optimal health.
There are many reasons homeowners choose to take up this particular hobby. A flower bed can add a beautiful attraction to your home’s curb appeal or backyard environment. A fruit/vegetable garden can provide fresh and tasty produce at your convenience. They each have their set of advantages, but with these also come disadvantages in keeping it up.
Whether you’re growing flowers or planting fruits and veggies, both of these types will face a common nuisance – Pests. Not all bugs are bad, however. There are many species that are actually beneficial for plants. Being able to properly identify good and bad bugs in the garden is the first step. From there you can take measures to ensure the health of your plants.
Bad Bugs for your Garden
Just as with weeds, certain bugs can wreak havoc on your precious plants. They can feed on the leaves, seedlings, and may even carry diseases that can harm your garden. If you’ve spotted holes in your plants or see signs of munching or black spots you might have a problem with these garden pests.
These guys mean bad news for your plants. Aphids are tiny insects characterized by their translucent appearance and typically green, however their colors may vary. They are one of the worst destroyers for your garden, consuming sap from the stems, leaves, and buds of plants.
Moths are infamous predators for gardens. Although they’re named cabbage moths, the adults will also eat on other garden varieties of vegetables along with fruits.
These bugs are so-named for the famous clicking sound produced when they bounce back to escape their predators. It’s their larvae that make these unwanted around plants as they feed on roots!
These ground worms are actually the larvae of certain moth species and live under the soil. They feed on young plant stems and seedlings, cutting them down as their name implies. These are detrimental to your garden.
These jumpers will leave your garden looking less than healthy if permitted. They jump from plant to plant chewing holes in the leaves.
These large green caterpillars have big appetites to fill. If you have a vegetable garden they love to chow down on tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers to name a few.
These pesky insects are no picnic to deal with in your yard or your garden. Though they don’t particularly feed on plants, they can spread disease and infest your yard.
Snails and Slugs
These slimy night feeders will feast on your precious plants at night and leave a slimy trail behind. Snails and slugs will eat holes in leaves and can even eat the entire leaf of many fruit and vegetable plants if touching the ground.
These buggers will squash the life of your garden as they drain the nutrients from vegetation. This causes leaves to wilt, yellow and can spread diseases infecting vines and stems.
These little wood munchers love to feast on cellulose– a substance found in decaying wood, woody plants, and bark mulch. If they find their way into your garden they could find their way into your home which means a great deal of trouble.
Good Bugs for Gardens
You may be questioning how any bug can be beneficial to your plants, but hear me out. The truth is a vast majority of those creepy crawlies actually have some great qualities. A large percentage of flowering plants and crops alike thrive from pollination that comes from certain insects. If you find these flying around your flower bed your plants are likely doing well. Many of the bugs you find crawling around can actually help protect against the bad ones by feeding on them. These are the good guys!
Assassin bugs (also known as Wheel bugs) prey on other insects by consuming their body fluids through its beak. These bugs are characterized as having a thin head and neck connecting to the body. They’re generally dark in color and range in size from as little a 5mm up to 1.6 inches in length.
Honeybees and small native bees are definitely your friends in the gardening world. These buzzing bugs are largely responsible for assisting in pollination by going from flower to flower collecting pollen and nectar. This is beneficial for the life of your garden to help flowers and plants flourish.
When they begin life as caterpillar larvae, these bugs are not too kind to your garden as they generally like to eat plants. As adults, however, butterflies assist in pollination to help your garden thrive while adding an enjoyable aesthetic.
Some beetle species can serve as beneficial assets to your garden. Ground beetles prey on other insects that are common nuisances for gardens such as fly larvae, cutworms and slugs just to name a few.
These little crawlers are great for gardens but not to come too close to due to their painful stings. These crawlers generally won’t bother you, however, as they’re not too active during the day. They burrow in the soil, providing aeration that will benefit plant roots and they like to feed on slugs – a common garden pest.
These will definitely help keep common garden pests at bay while allowing you to enjoy your time outdoors. Dragonflies will devour mosquitoes and other flying insects that may be threatening to your garden. Even as larvae, they consume mosquito wrigglers that live and breed in water.
These buggers are very beneficial to your garden as they prey on the bad bugs. They have a unique characteristic of imitating bees in their appearance and behaviorisms by hovering over flowers. They also aid in pollination!
These are super bugs to have in your garden.They feed on pollen and honeydew at night as adults and the larvae feed on common garden pests. These bugs are so effective at controlling the bad bugs in the garden that they’re marketed to greenhouses!
If you have these in your garden you’re in good company. The adults and larvae of Praying Mantises prey on a variety of garden enemies and will often wait for the opportune time to attack.
These 8-legged critters often get a bad rap because many have a phobia of spiders. In the garden, however, they can be your ally against other garden predators.
Insects that are BOTH!
Bear in mind that there are a couple of insects that fall into both categories as good AND bad bugs in the garden. This lies in their particular species.
Beetles – with beetles, there are certain kinds you don’t want having around, but then there are some that are worth keeping. The good beetles include ground beetles or Bombardier beetles. These will actually help in keeping the pests down by feeding on other insects. Then there are a few that can be destructive to gardens and worth noting. Japanese beetles, Lily-leaf beetles and the Striped Cucumber beetle are bad news for plants.
Ants – these insects can fall into both categories as good and bad bugs in the garden. Ants are beneficial in digging tunnels underground which helps aerate the soil. They’re also great at ridding your garden of remains from other insects that have fallen prey to previous predators. On the other hand, they’re notorious for collecting aphids (a garden culprit) which can mean bad news for plants. They are also invasive and you certainly don’t want to come across a fire ant mound while pulling weeds!
How to Get Rid of the Pests
Using insecticides and chemicals could potentially harm your plants and will also kill the good bugs in your garden. Natural methods to control good and bad bugs in the garden are a much better approach. Some plants can actually serve as natural pest control by their strong fragrance and natural oils such as these listed below:
- Basil – add these to your fruit/vegetable garden to keep common pests at bay.
- Lemongrass – plant in containers or along flowerbeds as a natural insect repellant that also adds elegance to your garden.
- Lavender – the calming scent of these flowers drives away flies, moths, and mosquitoes.
- Garlic – a great addition to a vegetable garden for harvesting, planting garlic around carrots, tomatoes, and cabbage will deter pests.
Additional measures such as regular gardening maintenance can help too. Getting rid of weeds will eliminate a potential food and shelter source for bad garden bugs.