Week 12 - 7 Beneficial Garden Bugs
It can be all too easy when out in the garden to squish every bug that passes your way, assuming it ill be damaging to your imminent harvest. Now admittedly there are a lot of bad beasties out there who want nothing more than to eat your harvest before you do but WAIT- before you squash everyone you need to know which are the good guys, the bugs and beasts that actually HELP get that harvest from garden to plate.
These small wasp like insects get their name because of the way they hover in one place whilst seeming to choose where to go. Unlike wasps, though, they never sting. As adults they are very important plant pollinators and the larvae of some species eat aphids/blackfly.
These multi legged arthropods have between 30 and 354 legs, not 100 and are great garden pest-munchers enjoying nothing more than eating beetles, flies, moths, crickets, silverfish, earwigs and other garden pests.
Now I know adult wasps can be the bane of any picnic or lunch in the garden but actually they are a hugely useful friend to the gardener. They are able to pollinate plants like tomatoes and beans and both adults and larvae eat aphids.
It is estimated that bees pollinate 30% of the plants humans eat and without them we would struggle to feed the population of the world. In our individual veg gardens therefore, without bees expect to see 30% of your crop varieties fail completely if we had no bees. Say farewell to plants such as varied as broccoli and pumpkins, apples and almonds as they totally rely on bees to pollinate them.
This small red and black insect* has managed to be the one beetle that unceasingly gets all the good publicity. Loved my adults and children alike, ladybirds are incredibly useful with both the adults and their slightly weird-looking larvae munching their way through aphids galore.
* not all ladybirds are actually red with black spots and they come in a range of colours including orange, yellow, black with red spots and brown. This page from the BBC Breathing Spaces shows what ladybirds you can look out for.
|Image from the BBC Breathing Spaces|
Lacewings with their delicate see-though green wings may not have as many children's books written about them or be as recognisable as ladybirds but they are even better at eating aphids than their colourful cousins. They really are a champion friend to the gardener.
I know, lots of people have a bit of a phobia about spiders but if you could ignore the 8 hairy legs and big eyes for one moment please bear in mind that spiders are not at all fussy and will eat a whole range of garden pests from caterpillars to beetles, aphids to weevils. They really are a gardener's friend.
So please, the next time you are about to zap a small beastie in your garden stop and think whether actually it is more friend than foe. It may not always be pretty and there may be a small risk it will sting you but overall it's advantages far outweigh these minor disadvantages. Come on, let's hear it for the beneficial garden bugs and their tireless work keeping pests at bay.