Identifying Insect Pests And Beneficial Insects

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Identifying Insect Pests And Beneficial Insects

Identifying Insect Pests And Beneficial Insects

The insect kingdom is like a James Bond movie—full of deception and disguise. You may think you know who your friends are in the bug world, but beware: Your garden may be crawling with impostors that are actually pests. Here’s a look at two major masters of disguise and the beneficial insects they’re impersonating. Based on whether you encounter friend or foe, you’ll learn whether you should roll out the red carpet of welcome or launch an undercover pest-control operation. Then you won’t be fooled again by incognito bad bugs.

Good: Tachinid fly

Tachinid fly

Bad: Housefly

The double agents

The larvae of tachinid flies are parasites of many garden pests, including cutworms, tent caterpillars, cabbage loopers, Japanese beetles, and squash bugs. Houseflies, on the other hand, are pesky and unsanitary. The most obvious difference between the two is that most tachinids have many large bristles on their abdomens. Houseflies do not have as many. Tachinids also move around in a fast, jerky unhousefly-like manner.

Attract the beneficial

Grow pollen and nectar-producing plants and let them flower throughout your garden: Golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria) is a particular favorite of tachinids.

Get rid of the pest

Properly manage waste so houseflies do not have a place to lay eggs: Keep garbage cans closed tightly, do not put meat in the compost pile, and bury anything attractive to flies deep in the compost pile. Clean up pet and animal waste.

Good: Ladybugs

Ladybugs

Bad: Mexican bean beetle

The double agents

Ladybugs are garden heroes that feed on aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, scale, and many other pests. Depending on the species, ladybugs can be white, yellow, orange, red, or even black; the number of spots on their backs and the shape of those spots vary. (Some ladybugs have no spots at all.) Mexican bean beetles, which chew bean leaves until they look like lace, always have 16 dots and are yellowish-brown to coppery. Ladybugs are generally slimmer, and they move about faster than the plump, round Mexican bean beetles.

Attract the beneficial

Grow pollen and nectar-producing plants, such as basket-of-gold (Aurinia saxatilis), coriander, dill, fennel, Queen-Anne’s-lace, and yarrow, in your garden.

Get rid of the pest

Don’t panic. Beans can tolerate a great deal of leaf damage and still yield well. Handpick any bean beetles (or the immature, spiny yellow grubs) you find. Plant a new row or two of beans every few weeks throughout the season so that there’s always a new crop coming in to replace any that get damaged. Encourage natural enemies of Mexican bean beetles, such as toads (by providing a shady, moist hiding place) and spined soldier bugs. Protect crops with row covers, and remove spent plants as soon as possible because they may harbor bean beetles.

How to Attract Beneficial Insects

Food

Many beneficial insects need plant pollen and nectar as part of their life cycle or can use them as food when pests are in short supply. The flowers that attract many different beneficial insects are the small ones, such as those that form on plants in the composite (daisy), mint, carrot, and mustard families. The beneficial insects you can attract with these flowers include parasitic wasps, predatory wasps, hoverflies, lacewings, tachinid flies, and ladybugs.

Water

If your garden is not frequently moistened by rain or morning dew, sprinkle a part of your garden briefly every day. Or you can make a simple “bug bath.’ A large pottery saucer with an inch or two of water will suffice. Set some regularly shaped rocks in the water to make little islands where insects can land and sip without drowning.

Shelter

Ground beetles and rove beetles help control slugs and snails, as well as other soil-dwelling pests. All of these beetles are attracted to areas with low ground covers, such as white clover, or areas with mulch or loose surface stones.


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