A ‘buggy ride’ of introductions to beneficial insects

Print Article

  • "Skimmer” dragonflies come in many bright colors as this one sporting a yellow stripe.

  • 1

    Delicate Lacewing savors nectar and pollen, but when in larval stage feasts on aphids.

  • "Skimmer” dragonflies come in many bright colors as this one sporting a yellow stripe.

  • 1

    Delicate Lacewing savors nectar and pollen, but when in larval stage feasts on aphids.

Recently, I extolled the benefits of “bugs” in the landscape, and urged readers to let them do their work without DBP (death by pesticides). I decided to compile a primer of some of the many beneficial insects working for us aside from the much-lauded honey- and bumble-bees and butterflies. As you will see, they are many — each created for their own duty in our world. Let’s give them a chance! Here’s a much-marginalized list of the most familiar area denizens, beginning with the ephemeral lacewing.

• Lacewings: Adult lacewings feed on nectar and pollen, thus serving as pollinators while nourishing themselves.

Their predatory larvae, however earned the nickname “aphid lion” for their consumption of aphids, though they also eat small caterpillars and other pests.

• Dragonflies: Well-named, dragonfly larvae is aquatic and feasts on fly and mosquito larvae in their birth pond (or lake, fen, or other quiet water).

As a winged adult, they roam at random, seeking flying pests which they snatch right out of the air. Close cousins include damselflies, darters, and skimmers, some brightly colored in red and/or blue.

• Wasps: nectar and pollen-lovers — and unwitting pollinators, many wasp species also feed on other insects.

Large species such as paper wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets paralyze caterpillars and other prey with a sting and transport them back to their nests to eat. Tiny trichogramma wasps — often seen in a pollen-filled blossom, not only pollinate but also parasitize moth eggs. Braconid wasps lay eggs on living caterpillars such as tent worms and some large beetle larvae.

• Flies and midges: often considered pests themselves, many species help control other pests.

The larvae of nectar-eating syrphid flies and predatory midges feed on aphids. Tachnid flies, like braconid wasps, lay their eggs on living caterpillars, grubs or beetles.

• Mantids: The familiar large green Chinese praying mantis is a long-time Asian import, but should be welcomed as an effective pest-killer by impaling and consuming pests while holding them in their strong spiky forelegs. Smaller mantids are equally lethal. While waiting to ambush prey, they hold their legs in a position that reminded early naturalists of praying hands, thereby coining their common name.

• Beetles: Some beetles are themselves considered pests, but many are voracious predators — as witness the much-loved “ladybug” or ladybird beetles.

They feed on small, soft-bodied prey such as aphids, even when they are still larvae themselves. Hundreds of other beetles — most beneficial — include tiger beetles, soldier beetles, ground beetles, all of which patrol the landscape night and day.

• Bugs: True bugs, per se, are generally of the order Hemiptera (half-wing) which are the only insects correctly known as bugs.

They include assassin bugs, predatory sting bugs, pirate bugs and ambust bugs, and are constantly on pest patrol. They impale their victims with a hollow, spear-like mouthpart, and suck out the fluids.

Spiders: Arachnids are not bugs or even insects, but they are important pest predators. Generally tending sticky webs which allow them to trap prey, such as the bright black and yellow garden spider, some, like jumping spiders and wolf spiders actively stalk the garden, waiting to pounce on unwary insects. Give these valuable workers as chance! Here’s how to get them started.

As you have seen, many beneficial insects feed on nectar or pollen. Ensure that you have a variety of blooming plants to attract them. Colorful and/or fragrant flowers will draw them and, since many of them need protection, provide places to hide. Ornamental grasses, leafy mulch, brush piles, perennials and flowering shrubs can be the answer. Other pals may show up and surprise you — toads, tiny salamanders (careful, they snuggle under leaves!) and our pretty black/yellow garden snake — all good guys and a blessing to your garden!

Broad-spectrum insecticides and/or herbicides kill beneficials, so don’t use them. Pull weeds and destroy unwanted insects by hand and work with Mom Nature for a true natural garden that teems with vibrant life.

Note: I do not have personal access to email, but please feel free to call me at 208-265-4688 anytime between 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Leave a number if I’m not home and I promise to return your call. VN.

Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at bcdailybee@bonnercountydailybee.com. or by phone at 208-265-4688.

Print Article

Read More Columns

Bonner County History - Sept. 15, 2019

September 15, 2019 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee From the archives of the Bonner County History Museum 611 S. Ella Ave., Sandpoint, Idaho, 83864 208-263-2344 50 Years Ago Sandpoint News-Bulletin Sept. 15, 1969 – MARRIAGE LICENSES Sept. 2 ...

Comments

Read More

Bird-watching provides delight, revelations

September 13, 2019 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee Those of us who spend a lot of time lazing on the deck/porch just watching the birds know that it is a healthy, healing non-activity that brings calmness, peace of mind and lowers the blood pressure....

Comments

Read More

Library helps man earn degree in dream career

September 13, 2019 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee When Robert (name has been changed), a local Bonner County resident, decided it was time for a career change, he knew it would not be easy. After deciding on a field that was known to be high in dem...

Comments

Read More

Perspective of faith

September 13, 2019 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. (Psalm 22:27) Only two major disagreements linger in my memory from m...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 263-9534
PO Box 159
Sandpoint, ID 83864

©2019 Bonner County Daily Bee Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X