9 Beneficial Bugs & Insects to Welcome in the Garden

The majority of bugs in your garden are beneficial. Only a handful of insects can harm your crops and ornamental plants. When you see one of these invaders, wait a few days before you try any insecticides. You’ll often find predatory bugs moving in soon after looking for their next meal.

Keep an eye out for some of these common beneficial bugs in your yard.

Ladybugs

Ladybug Larva
Ladybug Larva

These well-loved garden predators are also known as lady beetles, or ladybird beetles. They eat various pests, including aphids, thrips, white flies, scale insects, mites, and mealybugs.

You may be familiar with the classic red shell and black spots of an adult ladybug. But, immature ladybug larvae are just as important to watch out for. They look like a tiny red and black alligator and they eat pests as voraciously as their parents.

Parasitic wasps

Hornworm covered in braconid eggs
Tomato Hornworm with Braconid Wasp Pupae

Many different types of parasitic wasp exist, but you’ve likely never noticed them. The individual wasps are often small and nondescript. It’s their damage to pests you’re more likely to see. Parasitic wasps indirectly kill soft-bodied insects, like aphids, grubs, and caterpillars, by using them as hosts for their eggs.

For instance, one species of braconid parasitic wasps lays its eggs just under the skin of tomato hornworms. The hatching larvae will slowly feed on the inside viscera of a hornworm until they’re ready to pupate, literally eating the hornworm alive. The white cocoons of the pupae are obvious at this stage as they protrude from the hornworm’s body. The adult wasps will kill the hornworm when they emerge and move on to find new worms to parasitize.

Praying mantises

Green Praying Mantis on forest ground
Praying Mantis

The largest praying mantises can grow up to 6 inches long, which makes them one of the largest bugs you’ll meet in the garden. Don’t be put off by their size and creepy appearance, praying mantises are harmless to humans and eat many pests.

Praying mantises are actually non-selective predators. They will prey on almost any insect, whether it’s a honey bee or a cabbage moth. Mantises are also known to catch small frogs and birds, lizards, and sometimes other mantises.

Check out a few more strange facts about praying mantises.

Lacewings

Lacewings
Green Lacewing Larva                                           Green Lacewing Adult

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Adult lacewings are very elegant, nectar- and pollen-feeding insects. But they don’t start out that way. Immature lacewing larvae eat many different soft-bodied insects, such as aphids, thrips, and mites. They can also eat moth eggs.

To attack its prey, a lacewing larva lunges forward, impales its victim with its large front mandibles, then injects enzymes into the insect. Once the enzymes have digested the contents of the insect’s body, the larva sucks them back in to finish its meal.

Bees and other pollinators

Honey Bee
Honey Bee

Flowering plants rely on pollinating insects for fertilization. These insects benefit your garden by promoting abundant fruit and vegetable crops, and ensuring the continuation of wild flowers and trees.

Pollinators don’t usually prey on other insects, but it’s been shown honey bees have an inhibiting effect on certain pests.

Hover Flies (Syrphid Flies)

Hover fly on flower
Hover Fly

Hover fly adults and larvae are both beneficial. The adults are excellent pollinators, whereas the larvae prey on pests like aphids, scale insects, caterpillars, and thrips.

Adult hover flies are one of the few insects that can fly backwards and hover almost motionless in midair. They often have yellow, orange, and black markings similar to bees and wasps. But if you look closely, a hover fly will always have a head with large eyes like other flies.

Hover fly larvae look like small, green worms. They’re often found on the underside of leaves, especially if aphids are around. So, if you see any green worms on your leaves and there’s no obvious damage, assume they’re your friends and leave them alone to do their job.

Ground Beetles

Ground Beetles
Ground Beetle Larva                                                     Ground Beetle Adult

Ground beetles are another great adult and larva team in your garden. They’re both fairly inconspicuous and usually hide out under rocks or plant debris.

The large eyes, powerful legs, and strong jaws of both adults and larvae make them formidable predators of insects on the ground, such as caterpillars, cutworms, maggots, ants, aphids, and slugs. As an extra bonus, many ground beetles also eat weed seeds.

Spiders

Spider

Many spiders aren’t able to spin webs and instead rely on other ways to hunt their prey, such as ambushing or jumping on them, and even spitting a glue-like substance to immobilize their victims. These spiders can also overwinter outside, which means they’re often awake and on the prowl as soon as the weather warms in spring.

Spiders routinely catch insects like mosquitos, flies, moths, beetles, wasps, and cockroaches. This not only helps your garden, but it also reduces the chances of you getting stung or bitten by bothersome bugs while you’re outside.

Assassin Bugs

Rhynocoris annulatus, an Assassin bug, sitting on leaf
Rhynocoris annulatus Assassin Bug

Over 7000 species belong to the assassin bug family. They all have short, three-segmented beaks that can pierce other insects and suck the bodily fluids out of them. Although they rarely attack humans, they can give you a nasty bite if you get too close.

Each species of assassin bugs if often specialized to eat one type of insect, such as ants, beetles, caterpillars, and even bed bugs. They often use camouflage, trickery, or pure muscle to subdue their prey.

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244 comments

Joseph B
Joseph B7 days ago

Spiders are very beneficial, but they are neither a bug nor an insect. They belong to the group called, arachnids.

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Marianne R
Marianne Rabout a month ago

Yes, it is true that majority of bugs in our garden is beneficial. But, there are some insects who can harm your crops and beautiful plants.
So, to get rid of those insects it is necessary to hire a pest controller like Exterminator Trumbull CT, Pest Control Monroe CT, City Pest Control Services, etc., who will use pesticides that are only harmful to those insects which were destroying plants and other bugs.

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Jim V
Jim Ven3 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S3 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Sonia M

Thanks for sharing

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Christine J
Christine J3 months ago

Great advice. I'm an organic gardener and I used to waste endless hours trying to get rid of aphids. One day I saw a gardening show with a lady who had a beautiful rose garden. She said not to get rid of aphids, as you'd be depriving ladybirds of their food. She said to just leave all the insects alone and they will sort themselves out. I've done that and it works and saves a lot of time and effort.

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Melania P
Melania Padilla4 months ago

Sharing

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S4 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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