8 Bugs You Should Never Kill In Your Garden

No one likes bugs. Well, unless you're an entomologist. But not all bugs are created equal, especially when it comes to those that live in the garden. Some pollinate the crops or feed on destructive pests, while others are simply passing through. Here are eight bugs you should be happy to have in your garden.

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Larva of Mealybug Destroyer
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Mealybug Destroyer

Mealybugs are those annoying armoured beetles that you’ll often find in your garden or greenhouse. They’re a problem for gardeners because they feed on plant juices, and carry and spread plant disease. Enter the mealybug predator, or Cryptolaemus montrouzieri. Specifically brought from Australia for pest control, the mealybug destroyer is harmless to plants and humans, but as a larvae and adult, eats aphids and other soft shelled pest insects, and of course, mealybugs.

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The Praying Mantis

The largest and most formidable of garden insects is the praying mantis. This “faithful” insect features a large triangular head with bulging eyes and a long body in which they conceal their wings. Mantises have enlarged forelegs used for catching and holding prey. Yes, to satisfy their enormous appetites, these predators feed on other bugs like aphids, caterpillars and beetles. If you find this bug in your garden, do not kill it. If you find one somewhere else, put it in your garden.

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If you are terrified of spiders, understand they mean your garden no harm. In fact, they weave their webs to catch those bugs you don’t want eating your plants. Will they bite you? Probably not. And if they do, the chances are the bite will kill you are pretty slim. Your average garden spider is non-lethal, at least to humans. You might not see them, but they’re all around you — and that’s a good thing. Your garden spiders, and learn how to entice more into your yard.

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Lady Beetle

Commonly known as the Ladybug, the Lady Beetle (Hippodamia convergens) eats aphids, mites, other soft-bodied bugs and all the eggs she can find. Not only is the Ladybug a bug you want to keep around, some gardeners even buy them in bulk to introduce them to their garden.

Do not, however, confuse the Lady Beetle with the Japanese or Asian ladybug (Harmonia axyridis). This invasive species, while equally harmless in the garden, is a pest that invades homes and buildings in large numbers. If you have a nuisance bug in and around your home, there are plenty of things you can do to control them.

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Braconid Wasp

If you love tomatoes, you will love what the Braconid wasp can do for you. An enemy of the dreaded tomato hornworm, this wasp lays its eggs just under the skin on the back of the worm. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the insides of the hornworm, literally eating it alive. The larvae then chew their way out through the skin and spin a cocoon on the back of the hornworm. Of course, the hornworm eventually dies. And your tomatoes are saved!

In addition to beneficial bugs, you can include plants in your yard that keep the pests away. Check out these 11 pest control plants you need in your yard.

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Everyone knows about the threat to the honeybee and the concerns about colony collapse disorder. But, maybe you didn’t realize that all of our plant pollinators are threatened. In fact, several species of Bumblebee are included on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of endangered species. These harmless bees are important because they pollinate plants that other native bees or European honeybees cannot.

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Green Lacewing

In its larval stage, the Green Lacewing is known to devour over 200 aphids in a week, as well as other soft-bodied pests. That’s a lot of bugs. They continue this feeding frenzy for two to three weeks before spinning into tiny cocoons. The adults feed on nectar and pollen but continue the beneficial cycle of eating aphids by laying up to 200 eggs on the underside of leaves.

In addition to beneficial insects above ground, your garden needs to be the home to someone special below the surface. Not a bug—the lowly earthworm. The best aerators of your soil, and fertilizer producers, there are several ways to entice earthworms to take up residence in your garden.

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Aphid Midge

The tiniest of flies, the Aphid Midge stands tall on its slender legs with its antennae positioned backward over its head. Its larvae are bright orange and feed on soft-bodied pests. Because they eat 60 different species of aphids, these beneficial bugs are invaluable in the garden. In fact, they can wipe out aphids faster than the Lady Beetle or Green Lacewing.

Introducing beneficial insects to your garden is one way to manage your bug population. However, there are other humane methods of pest control for critter-proof gardens and planters.

Carol J. Alexander
Carol J. Alexander is a Virginia writer specializing in sustainable/green living, home remodeling, and lifestyle topics. Since 2007, her work has appeared in Grit, AcreageLife, Hobby Farms, and over 70 other national, regional, and local print publications, as well as online. Carol helps clients position themselves as an authority in the marketplace by providing easy-to-understand, educational content that attracts readers, answers their questions, and meets their needs.