Beneficial insects on your backyard

When you visit your garden and see an insect what will be your first instinct?? Probably kill it!! But do you know more than 90% of insects you see are totally harmless to you and your plants and some of them are even beneficial.

Well, Small Gardens or big farms both attract and harbor different insects. Some of them are simply nasty with your plants while some of them help in pollination and eliminate those injurious pests. Gardeners should always be well aware of which insects to be attracted and which ones to be eliminated. But nowadays in desire of eliminating harmful insects with pesticides beneficial insects have gone in verse of extinction. So, its very important to know your friends and try to attract and protect them in your gardens and farms.

 

Introduction

Beneficial insects are those species of insects which perform desirable activities on your garden.  On the basis of type of lucrative activity they perform beneficial insects can be categorized as:

Predators: These types of insects eliminate pests by feeding them. This can be by chewing the entire insect or by sucking their bodily fluids. These types are insects are often large and feed on many insect preys throughout their lifetime. Some of them are lady bird beetle, Lacewing beetle, Praying mantids, etc.

Parasitoids: These of insects eliminate pests by parasitizing them. Eggs of these insects are laid on or in the body of host insect and when the egg hatches the immature insects (larva) feed on the host eventually killing them. Generally, many immature insects are needed to kill a host pest. Parasitic wasps belong to this group.

Pollinators: These insects help by aiding on pollination which is essential for formation of seed and fruit. Bees, Butterflies, Moths, flies etc belong to this group. These insects generally feed on pollen and nectar of flowers.

 

Why should beneficial insects be attracted to garden?

  • These insects help in pollination and eventually on fruit formation.
  • These insects are natural enemies to insect pest thus suppress pest damage to crop plants.
  • These insects add on beauty of garden by maintaining the biodiversity.
  • Use of chemical pesticides on your garden is reduced as pests are naturally controlled. This reduces the cost of production and also different harmful effects of chemical pesticides.
  • Enhance the agro-ecosystem eventually increasing the agricultural production.

How to attract beneficial insects?

  • Maintain diversity on crops to attract variety of insects.
  • Provide optimum habitat for basic need to attract specific insects. Beneficial insect attracting plants should be included 5% to 10% within the planting area.

 

Let’s get acquainted with some beneficial insects on your garden:

  1. Ladybird Beetle:

These are small and oval beetles. Both larva and adult stages of ladybird beetle are predators. There are many species of ladybird beetle which vary on size and color. Many of them have different patterns on their back.

They prey on: Aphids, mites, thrips, Scale, Caterpillar, mealybugs and insect eggs.

They are attracted by:  Various nectar and pollen producing plants like Dill, parsley, sunflower, white lace clover, buckwheat, chamomile, tansy, mustard, spearmint, cowpea, fennel, caraway etc.

 

 

 

 Assassin bug:

These are large in size in compare with other predatory bugs. Both nymph and adult are predators. They are brownish green to dark brown in color and have enlarged front legs to grasp prey.

They prey on: Leafhoppers, caterpillars, aphids etc.

They are attracted by: Legumes, Hibiscus, coreopsis, buckwheat, sunflower, rice, cocoa etc.

Assassin bug nymph
Adult milkweed assassin bug
Assassin bug (wheel bug) feeding on pest

 

  1. Lace wing:

There are two types of lacewings brown and green. Larvae of green and both larvae and adult of brown lacewing are predatory. Larvae have large mandibles to capture the prey.

They prey on: Aphids, Mites, mealy bugs, thrips,moth eggs, small caterpillar, insect eggs, etc. Adult green lace wings feed on nectar and pollen.

They are attracted by: Sunflower, buckwheat, corn, coreopsis, dill, parsley, fennel, tansy etc.

Green Lacewing
Brown Lacewing

 

  1. Praying mantids:

They are green, brown or yellow in color. They have elongated thorax and forelegs to capture and hold the prey. They are large in size and may sometimes feed on beneficial insects or smaller mantids as well. They only feed on live prey.

They prey on: Moths, beetles, caterpillars, aphids, flies, etc.

They are attracted by: Dill, Marigold, cosmos, etc.

Praying Mantid
Praying mantid with its prey

 

 

  1. Hover flies:

They resemble bees or wasps having yellow or orange body with black bands. The larvae are predatory whereas adults are pollinators and feed on nectar and pollen.

They prey on: Aphids, thrips, mites, caterpillars, scale, moth eggs, etc

They are attracted by: dill, fennel, tansy, parsley, coriander, coreopsis, gloriosa daisy, yarrow, cosmos, sunflower, marigolds, candytuft, buckwheat, coriander, etc.

 

 

 

  1. Honey bee:

Adult honey bees look like hover flies. They fly from flower to flower to collect nectar and pollen so they are excellent pollinators. Some useful products produced by honey bee are honey propolis, royal jelly and bees wax.

They are attracted by: Flowering plants.

Honey bee on flower

Honey bee with pollen on its legs

 

 

  1. Spider:

Spiders though not being insects technically are generalist predators and play effective role in controlling pests on garden. Variety of species prefer different habitats like soil, low vegetation and woody plants to prey.

They prey on: Variety of pests including thrips, plant hoppers, moths, etc

They are attracted by: Prefer less disturbed perennial crops than annual crops.

Spider with its prey
  1. Butterfly and moth:

They fly from flower to flower to feed on nectar which make them great pollinators. Their larvae are caterpillar which sometimes behave as pests.

They are attracted by: Butterflies prefer colorful flowers while moths prefer white or pale flowers with strong fragrance.

 

Butterflies

 

Moths

 

 

  1. Tachinid fly:

Tachinid flies resemble houseflies but slightly larger. Larvae of these flies are parasitic but adults feed on pollen and nectar hence are good pollinators. Eggs of these flies are laid near or on host insect and young larvae when hatches bore inside host and feed on its internal organs.

They prey on: caterpillar, worm, looper, etc.

They are attracted by: Found on areas where hosts are present irrespective of crop plants.

Tachinid fly

 

 

  1. Parasitic wasps:

Parasitic wasps include Braconid wasp, Trichogramma wasp, Ichneumon wasp, chalcid wasp etc. Larvae of these wasps are parasitic while adults feed on nectar and pollen. Eggs may be laid on host insects larvae or egg. Larvae feed on internal organs and kill the host.

They prey on: caterpillar, worm, looper, aphid etc

They are attracted by: Flowers and presence of host insect.

Larvae of braconid wasp on hornworm
Ichneumon wasp

 

Image courtesy: Pixabay.com

Barsha Bhandari

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