Beneficial Bugs: Insects That You DON’T Want to Kill

Imagine this: you’re gardening along, pulling weeds and admiring your kale patch, when you notice it; tiny bites, perfect cookie-cutter chomps removed from the edges and sometimes even centers of your leaves. You frantically search the plot, desperate to find the culprit of this assault on agriculture, and you find it. A small green worm inches away, his belly full on your hard-earned produce, leaving you at wits-end to figure out what to do with holey salad greens. It is encounters like this that can drive us gardeners to an unfair hatred of insects. It’s easy to want to take drastic measures against these invaders, spraying pesticides and harmful chemicals to try and rid ourselves of them forever. However, on top of this being terrible for the environment, pesticides can also harm all of the beneficial bugs out there. Below are only a few of the many species of insects that we welcome in our gardens.

One of the most well-known and obvious candidate for our list is the Ladybug. Not only are ladybugs cute, but they actually eat aphids, the small green scourge of gardeners everywhere. You can buy ladybugs practically anywhere that sells plants (the Home Depot in my hometown even sold them); they’ll come in a mesh bag by the thousands, ready to serve as your new garden guardians when released.

The next beneficial insect is the Honeybee. Honeybees are vital pollinators without whom many of our plants could not reproduce. Additionally, bees produce useful products such as honey and beeswax. They may have a bad reputation, but typically bees will not sting you if you leave them alone; they’re much more interested in flowers than in you. One way to attract bees is to plant yellow, white, blue, and purple native flowering plants which will both look lovely and provide tasty nectar for your new buzzing friends.

While not technically insects, earthworms are an essential part of a healthy garden. Simply dig for a while in your soil and you’re bound to find one (or several) of these guys. Worms can serve as indicators of soil health, so if you aren’t seeing many then you probably should do some work to improve your soil by mixing in compost. Earthworms loosen the soil as they burrow through it, helping to decompose organic matter, improve water flow and provide your plants with a healthier growing environment.
These are only a few of the many species of beneficial insects. I encourage you to go out and research more of these for yourself, and discover new ways to attract these helpful critters to your garden!

-Katie Lewis


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