Good Garden Bugs: The 10 Most Wanted

these are the good insects that you want to encourage when backyard gardening.

In this case, these garden bugs really are the 10 Most Wanted in your backyard.

What's that you say? No such thing as a good insect? The only good insect is a dead one? Nah. These good guys eat the bad bugs.

So if you kill off the good guys, you're going to have twice as many bad guys on your hands (and your plants).

Here are the 10 good bugs you'll want to make and keep a part of your backyard garden, along with a brief description of why each is a beneficial addition to your plants:

1. garden Earthworms.

Good garden bugs: the 10 most wanted.

Earthworms till the soil by tunneling through it as part of their everyday routine. These tunnels allow air and moisture to pass easily through the soil, creating a healthy environment for plants to grow.

These  creatures don't stop there: After digestion, earthworms produce excrement about the size of a pin head that improves the properties of the soil, such as porosity and moisture retention, and helps in the fight against pests and diseases.

I call them "poopers".

Good garden bugs: the 10 most wanted.

2. Pillbugs.

Pillbugs actually aren't really bugs at all: they're land-based crustaceans.

These creatures are the best kind of scavengers, as they feed on dead or decaying matter. They return nutrients to the soil when they defecate. They are also beneficial because they circulate the soil without eating plants.

Another pooper.

3. Dung Beetles.

Good garden bugs: the dung beetle.

Dung beetles are small, dark-colored beetles that are usually shiny, brown or black and sometimes have a metalic-blue or purple luster.

They benefit your garden by feeding on and disposig of fungi, decaying organic matter, dung and other organic materials. (Hence the name.)

They're extremely important in the natural cycle of the breakdown of organic matter in the soil.

Another pooper.

4. Bumble Bees.

Good garden bugs: the bumble bee.

Bumble bees are friendlier than honeybees and only sting if they've been really molested or roughly handled. They don't swarm, like honeybees, nor attack like wasps.

They're important pollinators of plants and vegetables because they have longer tongues so they can pollinate plants with deep flowers.


5. Praying Mantises.

Good garden bugs: the 10 most wanted.

In the world of biological pest control weapons, praying mantises are howitzer cannons. They're among the few nocturnal hunters able to catch and eat moths. You want this good guy hanging out around your plants.

Although moths themselves aren't garden pests, their larvae can decimate an entire plant in a matter of days.

Did I mention they come with a delightful added benefit built in? They love to eat roaches.

6. Lacewings.

Good garden bugs: lacewings.

Lacewing larvae preys on aphids, leafhoppers, mites, psyllids, thrips, whiteflies and the eggs of insects.

The larvae's huge appetites make them a very important player in the pest control arena if your backyard plants include flowers, fruits, or vegetables.

You can attract these beneficial bugs with wildflower plants and pollen-producing flowers. Eat aphids.

7. Ladybugs.

Ladybugs control pests that pester your plants. Definitely a good bug to have.

They are capable of consuming up to 60 aphids per day, but will also eat a variety of other insects and larvae including scales, mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, mites, and various types of soft-bodied insects.

They may be white, yellow, pink, orange, red or black, and usually have spots. Eat aphids and other pests.

8. Braconid Wasps.

Good garden bugs: braconid wasp.

Braconid wasps are parasitoids: parasites which usually kill their hosts.

And, they like to feed on things we don't like on our plants: hornworms, caterpillars, aphids, squash bugs and stink bugs.

The Braconidae family of bugs consider these to be gourmet delicacies. Eat hornworms.

9. Butterflies.

Good garden bugs: butterflies.

Butterflies are pretty to look at. But this good guy is much more than a pretty face to your plants.

When an adult butterfly lands on a flower to suck some delicious nectar through its proboscis, it accidentally gathers pollen on its body.

The butterfly rubs some of the pollen on the next flower it moves to and collects some more. Pollination allows plants to reproduce by producing seeds. Pollinate plants.

10. Wasps.

Wasps are beneficial predators. They hunt insects such as white flies and aphids. They kill caterpillars; a nest of fall webworms can provide ample meat.

For many, wasps are seen as a threat and even a nuisance, but they perform vital roles in the eco-system.

As a natural form of pest control, they are a gardener's friend, taking crop-eating insects to feed to their young. They also pollinate flowers and other plants. 

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About the Author

Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.