Garden insects the good the bad the green and the ugly

Every gardener knows that insects accompany plants like day follows night, but the more you know about those insects, the better prepared you are for a confrontation if it becomes necessary.  Don’t forget that Nature has her own checks and balances to ensure survival of the species, no matter what that species may be.  As for your garden, you should know the difference between the good, the bad and the plain old ugly.

Here are just a few tips about some of the most common insects found in gardens, the ones you want and the ones you want to get rid of post-haste.  Take note before you start undiscriminating spraying of insect killer; you don’t want to slaughter the good guys, and when you go after the bad guys, there are usually better ways to do it than using insecticides.

To start with, make sure your garden is well-mulched and drains properly, and plants are far enough apart to allow air circulation and minimize the ‘cover’ for attacking pests.  Check with your local gardening centre and/or an experienced gardener to find out which insects you’re most likely to encounter in your area.  If you must use an insecticide, try to make it an organic formula that is specifically designed for the particular insect you’re after.

Insects you should welcome to your garden include ladybugs, praying mantis, fireflies, lacewings, wasps, spiders and many species of ground beetles.  All of them prey on the larvae or adult-stage pests such as aphids, mites, mealy bugs, thrips and snails.  Some, like the mantis and the spider, will eat anything they can catch, including the good guys, but mostly the benefit outweighs the harm.

Some of the insects that do more harm than good (except to provide food for other insects) will often include aphids, spider mites, thrips, snails, Japanese beetles and leaf miners.  All of these feed on the leaves, roots, stems or flowers of garden plants, and/or the sap.  They tend to leave unsightly trails at best, and at worst can destroy the plant altogether.

If you really want the best results from your garden, both in productivity and aesthetic appeal, make the effort to know your insects.  There is a plethora of information on the net regarding how to identify each insect, its characteristics and its good qualities versus bad ones.  Look for plants you can add to the mix that actually deter harmful insects, such as pennyroyal, garlic, rosemary and many others.  Again, there is a wealth of information available, and the more you learn, the better for your garden.