Arlene Wright-Correll

How to Keep the Good Bugs in Your Garden©

By Arlene Wright-Correll

All of us who garden and who are eco-conscious try to figure out ways to eliminate the “bad” bugs in our gardens. Those slugs and bugs who not only eat up our flowers and veggies, but just give us the “creepy crawlers” when we see them!

Gone are the days of DDT and many other chemicals we used way back when we did not know any better.  We must remember that even today, pesticides not only kill the “bad” bugs, but the “good” bugs also.

We can buy “good” bugs for our gardens or we can invite them into our gardens by growing plants that attract “good” bugs and let them eat the “bad” bugs.  Companies sell beetles that are in hibernation; when they wake up in your garden, they’re not likely to stick around. The first response of any hibernating creature when it wakes up is to disperse, so the beetles fly away rather than staying in your backyard.  So it makes more sense to me to grow plants that attract the bugs and beetles you want.

Some of the “good” bugs are as follows:

Lady Bugs

A favorite "good bug," ladybugs will eat aphids, mealy bugs, scale, leafhoppers and other soft bodied pests. They keep on eating until the bad bugs are gone, laying their own eggs in the process. When new pests arrive, fresh ladybugs will be waiting. These lovable little bugs really do work for you, plus they will be doing something favorable for the environment.

Note: Release at sundown (because they don’t fly at night).

As we know the most commonly recognized beneficial insect is the ladybug or lady beetle, but did you know that there are actually several slightly different types of ladybeetles?

Two very common types are the Convergent ladybeetle with 12 black spots and the Seven-spotted ladybeetle. Both are very similar in appearance with black heads, orange bodies and black spots.

Another common species is the Twelve-spotted ladybeetle. This insect is pinkish-red in color with 12 black spots and more oval or elongated in shape compared to other ladybeetles. As we have stated all these ladybeetles, both adults and larvae, are predators of soft-bodied insects like aphids, mealybugs, scale and also eat egg masses of other types of insects.

Ladybeetle larvae are very different in appearance than the adult beetle, and most people when looking at the larvae have no idea that it is a baby ladybeetle. The larvae look like very small, flat, slim, black alligators with orange spots and are about 1/2" long. Aphids are a preferred food source for ladybeetle larvae, and they are voracious predators eating even more harmful insects that the adult beetles do.

Gardeners sometimes think these purple, dragon-like critters with spines/warts and big legs are pests, but if they’re in your garden, they’re helping you out.

People may think these are causing damage to the plant when in reality they are destroying the aphid population. The worst thing you could do is go out and spray the larvae.

Syrphid Flies                               
These flies are called by several names, such as flower flies or hover flies.  Most are brightly colored, yellow or orange and black, and may resemble bees or yellowjacket wasps. However, syrphid flies are harmless to people. Usually they can be seen feeding on flowers.  It is the larval stage of the syrphid fly that preys on insects. Variously colored, the tapered maggots crawl over foliage and can eat dozens of small, soft-bodied insects each day. Syrphid flies are particularly important in controlling aphid

infestations early in the season, when cooler temperatures may inhibit other predators.

Similar in appearance to syrphid fly larvae is a small, bright orange predatory midge (Aphidoletes). These insects often can be seen feeding within aphid colonies late in the season.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis are ferocious looking creatures eat a wide variety of insects: beetles, caterpillars, grubs, aphids, grasshoppers, yes almost anything that moves, and yes, the females even eat the males after mating! They are so much fun that people often buy them as pets. They don’t fly; they stay right where they are released. The name is derived from the "prayer-like" pose that they remain in as they are preparing to strike. Like Ladybugs, Praying Mantis is completely harmless to people, pets, and the environment.

They are purchased as egg casings which are set in shrubs around the garden. Hatching takes about 2 weeks, after which the Mantis will begin to consume insects. Unfortunately they will also eat some beneficial insects (not ladybugs though) if sufficient pest bugs are not available. Praying mantis tends to be a curious and friendly bug, which may end up keeping you company as you work in the garden.

Predator mites

Predator mites are very useful in controlling spider mites and two spotted mites, both indoors and in the garden. They are purchased as adults which will eat 1-3 adult mites or up to 6 mite eggs each day.


Spined Soldier Bug

Another beneficial insect popping up in many area gardens is the Soldier beetle, also called the Pennsylvania Leather-wing. This beetle is about 1/2" long, with an elongated body, golden or yellowish-brown in color and has black markings on the legs, head, and underside and rear abdomen section. The adults feed on pollen, flower nectar and other small insects while the larva feed on small caterpillars, grasshopper eggs and other beetles. Their eggs are laid in the soil and the whitish, flattened and hairy larvae feed at the surface of the soil. There are two generations of Soldier beetle per season.

Spined Soldier Bug is often called “stink bugs”.   They are normally purchased as a combination of nymphs and adults. Because they are generally only effective for a month or so, it is sometimes necessary to release additional predators if the adult population has diminished or if subsequent plantings are desired.

Hunting Wasps

A large number of wasps from several families prey on insect pests. Many take their prey, whole or in pieces, back to their mud, soil or paper nests to feed to the immature wasps. These hunting wasps can be important in controlling Garden insect pests. For example, the common Polistes paper wasps, when hunting, may thoroughly search plants and feed on caterpillars, often providing substantial control of these insects.


All spiders feed on insects or other small arthropods. Most people are familiar with many common web-making species. However, there are many other spiders -- wolf spiders, crab spiders, jumping spiders -- that do not build webs but instead move about and hunt their prey on soil or plants. These less conspicuous spiders can be important in controlling insect pests such as beetles, caterpillars,
leafhoppers and aphids.  This is a picture of a crab spider.

Trichogramma wasps


Trichogramma wasps are tiny wasps which prey on the eggs of more than 200 worm type pests, including borers, webworms, and many types of moth caterpillars. The wasps lay their eggs directly into the pest's eggs, killing the eggs as they hatch. As soon as the wasps mature, they will fly off in search of new eggs to parasitize. Different species of Trichogramma wasps are more effective against certain pests, so purchase eggs appropriate for the pests which have invaded your garden.


Green Lacewings

The Green Lacewing is a common insect in much of North America. Adults feed only on nectar, pollen and aphid honeydew, but their larvae are active predators.  They will attack and destroy several species of aphids, spider mites, thrips, whiteflies, eggs of leafhoppers, moths, leafminers, small caterpillars, beetle larvae and the tobacco budworm. They will also eat the long-tailed mealybug often found in greenhouses and interior plantscapes.

These eggs are shipped in a medium of rice hulls to facilitate ease of spreading. The 1,000 eggs are so small that they would easily fit inside something as small as half a pea!  But upon hatching they have voracious appetites, consuming up to 1,000 aphids a day!  Adults will lay eggs and the cycle will perenniate in your garden for years.

This insect is normally purchased in the egg stage, and allowed to hatch out in the proximity of an insect problem. The larvae will feed for only 2 or 3 weeks before becoming adults, at which time it may become necessary to introduce additional larvae to your garden rather than relying on the reproduction habits of your adults. Lacewings are most effective when a large number of the larvae are introduced into a limited area.

Beneficial Nematodes

These microscopic insects will seek out and destroy over 200 kinds of soil dwelling and wood boring insects, including cutworms, armyworms, rootworms, weevils, grubs, fungus gnat larvae, and many more. They are completely safe for people, pets and the environment, and are compatible with other beneficial insects. You can buy these in cartons from your gardening store or on line.

Because these beneficial nematodes are microscopic in size, they cannot be seen by the naked eye. But the seven million active (live) nematodes in each container will hunt down, penetrate and kill most soil dwelling pests. When mixed with water and applied to the infected area, they swim to and destroy your garden pests. Results can be seen almost immediately!

Parasitic nematodes are microscopic worms which seek out and then eat their way into the bodies and killing many soil dwelling pests including grubs, weevils and webworms. Soil conditions and the method of releasing the nematodes are critical, so be sure to read and follow the directions. Nematodes must be replaced each spring.

Once you buy the “good” bugs you have to keep them there and planting the right plants help greatly.

Plants which attract and provide homes for beneficial insects include Alyssum, Butterfly weed, Caraway, Clover, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Wild carrot and Yarrow.  These are all easy to grow.

I like to plant basil in and around my tomatoes as they help control bugs. This year, in my patio containers I have put large pots of tomatoes ringed with basil.  I also plant marigolds in my tomato beds because they help greatly.

Large numbers of beneficial predatory insects can usually be found in areas or on plants with high populations of harmful insects like aphids. When the harmful insects are gone, the predatory insects will leave also.

“Tread the Earth Lightly” and in the meantime… may your day be filled with….Peace, light and love, 

I grant “ONE-TIME” publishing rights  

About the author,

Arlene Wright-Correll (1935-    ), free lance writer, award winning artist and avid gardener is mother of 5 and the grandmother of 8.  For almost 40 years she was an International real estate consultant and during the last 20 years of her career traveled to many parts of the world.  She has been a cancer and stroke survivor since 1992. While working and raising her children she had many hobbies including being a very serious home-vintner for approximately 14 years while residing in upstate New York in St. Lawrence County producing 2,000 to 3,000 bottles of wine a year. She was the president of the St. Lawrence County chapter of the American Wine Society in Potsdam , NY. During that time she wrote a Home Vintner column for the Courier Freeman and the Canton Plain Dealer.  In 1975 her hearty burgundy won first place at the annual American Wine Society meeting in Toledo , Ohio. This home vintner created many formulas or recipes for not only still wine, but sparkling wine and beer. She enjoyed the friendship and fellowship that was created by working with other home vintners during those years. She is an avid gardener, an artist, and a free lance writer of many topics including, but not limited to “The ABC’s of Making Wine and Beer©” by Arlene Wright-Correll   this jam packed information CD includes 15 chapters on how to make your own wine and beer. This CD has loads of tried and true recipes, easy instructions, equipment identifying photos and it includes three bonus articles “How to Host a Wine Tasting Party”, “How to Build an Underground Wine Cellar” and “ Everything You Wanted to Know about Wine, but Were Afraid to Ask”. This $19.95 value is on sale today for only $14.95 at

"Tread the Earth Lightly" & in the meantime
may your day be filled with...
Peace, Light, and Love,
Arlene Wright-Correll

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