What are beneficial insects?

While we often categorize all bugs as pests, there are some that can actually help your backyard garden thrive this season. Gardeners are ordering these protective bugs online and creating environments to entice them into their soil to yield better results with their summer produce. Camille Schuelke, BT, greenhouse farmer, Parkview Community Greenhouse and Learning Kitchen, explains the concept of beneficial insects and how you can get started.

Getting started

An easy place to start is utilizing one of the options with a generalized host range, such as ladybugs, praying mantids and assassin bugs. But really, knowing what insect pest you are targeting is best. There are several great resources online to help identify the bugs and parasites that might be giving you trouble with your plants.

Beneficial bugs will kill/eat aphids, chinch bugs, beetles, white flies, mites, leaf hoppers, mosquitoes, caterpillars and crickets, just to name a few.

Mail order

I have been organically farming for almost 20 years, and it’s so nice to see how readily available and economical beneficial insects are now, compared to the past. To purchase them, all you have to do is go online and type in “purchase beneficial insects” for a slew of options to come up.

When you order beneficial bugs online, they’re shipped overnight since they are living organisms. They typically come in one of two phases: 1) As eggs that haven’t hatched yet, or 2) as adults that are in diapause (asleep). If they are eggs, you will sprinkle them around your garden and just let them do their thing. If they’re adults, they will wake up after you let them go in the garden.

Introduction

Always follow the instructions provided by the company you purchased them from. Typically, you sprinkle the eggs or release the adults over your plants at dusk. Dusk provides cool temperatures which allows them to acclimate before the hot sun pops out the next day.

Benefits

Beneficial bugs are a great organic option because you don’t have to spray anything, which costs time and money. They also multiply themselves, creating more bug-eating power with no extra effort from the gardener. And, I have learned through the years that working with Mother Nature is better than working against her.

Drawbacks

It’s important to know that your beneficial bugs could die over a harsh winter, so you might need to replace them in the spring. Also, you don’t want too many or too many different types of beneficial insects or they will eat each other.

 

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