Bugs We Like!
A garden is an ideal environment for supporting populations of a diversity of lacewings and related allies. Encourage these valuable predators by providing layers of trees and shrubs, annuals and perennials. They inhabit many niches in the garden. As with many garden allies, biodiversity is also encouraged by developing a landscape with many kinds of plants, producing flowers over a long season.
The most useful of the beneficial insects may be the lacewings (green and brown), ladybugs and the dustywings.
Green lacewing adults are familiar to most gardeners. Their diaphanous, mint green wings blend into foliage; coupled with their primarily nocturnal, and sometimes arboreal habits, they are infrequently seen, although they may be attracted in numbers to porch lights. The smaller and more often nocturnal brown lacewings are harder to spot and cannot be purchased for gardens yet. Many species of brown lacewings are restricted to certain plants, suggesting that they may be specialist predators. Ladybugs are beneficial insects that play a major role in keeping down populations of insects that feed on plants. Perhaps most importantly, ladybugs are predators with an insatiable appetite for aphids. Minute dustywings if noticed at all, are usually mistaken for whiteflies—a less welcome occupant.
The gardener may come across green lacewings and snakeflies visiting blossoms during the daylight hours. Depending on the species, lacewings and their kin prey on all sorts of arthropods, including homopterans such as aphids, scale insects, whitefly, mealybugs, and other prey such as spider mites, various insect eggs, beetle larvae, thrips, and small caterpillars. Some species are known to detect the larvae of leafminers, and pierce the leaves to reach their prey.
Although smaller and drab-colored, brown lacewings are readily recognized by alert gardeners. The eggs are laid singly on leaves or bark, usually in arboreal habitats. The larvae are similar to those of green lacewings, but with less prominent mandibles. Brown lacewings are important beneficial insects, as both adults and larvae are predators, primarily of homopterans such as scale insects, aphids, and whitefly nymphs. They live long, have a high reproductive capacity and enjoy voracious appetites.
Salvation can arrive in the form of ladybugs. Aphids can be a serious problem in the garden and ladybugs can eat up to 5,000 aphids over its lifetime. They can also help to rid your garden of other soft-bodied insects such as mites, mealybugs and leafhoppers, along with insect eggs and even ants. Ladybugs are actually beetles, not bugs. And of course, not all female.
If you plant to buy ladybugs for your garden: For successful handling and release of ladybugs purchased at retail stores, keep them refrigerated until time for release. They may be dehydrated when purchased, so mist them with water from a squirt bottle before putting them in the refrigerator. Do not release them into your garden during the daytime or they will fly away immediately. Instead, release them at dusk or early morning. Before releasing, spray a fine mist of water on plants that have aphids on them and place the ladybugs at the base of the plants.
Dustywings can be found in ornamental purple-leaved plums, although they are often mistaken for the disruptive whiteflies. Dustywings are easily distinguished from whiteflies however, by their wing position at rest (whiteflies hold their wings much flatter). This tiny tree-dwelling predator is known to have an appetite for spider mites as well as scale insects and arthropod eggs. More common than once thought, dustywings are found primarily in warmer parts of the Pacific Northwest. Despite their usefulness, they are also commercially unavailable.
Aphids Will Eat your Favorite Plant’s Leaves, such as ... Hibiscus, Roses, more!
Dragonflies are great for gardens! But for more about dragonflies please see our blog Dragonflies aren’t Pests!
NOTE: Anyone obsessed with insect observation would be well advised to acquire a pair of the close-focusing binoculars popular with butterfly enthusiasts.