You can’t talk about gardening without talking about bugs. There are a lot of bugs that will destroy a garden if you let them. Aphids, whiteflies, cabbage worms – I could list plenty. What we don’t talk about very much, however, are some of the common garden bugs that are beneficial to our plants.
Bees, of course, are the superstars. That’s probably fair, given that they pollinate so many of the world’s food crops. But there are other bugs that should be superstars, too. Some of them are pollinators, others eat pests, or in one case, they lay their eggs on pests where they will hatch and eat the plant-destroying bugs. Sounds gross, but it’s effective.
10 Common garden bugs you need in your garden
1. Spiders. Okay, technically these are arachnids and not insects, but darn if they don’t do some serious work in keeping your garden free of pests.
2. Lady beetle. The lady beetle, or ladybug, might be the most popular of common garden bugs. They are cute. They’re also deadly. Not to us humans, but watch out if you’re an aphid. The ladybug larvae can eat dozens of aphids every hour.
3. Green lacewings. These delicate-looking bugs are fierce predators. They feast on aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
4. Ground beetle. These common garden bugs aren’t just one bug. There are tens of thousands of species of ground beetles worldwide (a bit over 2,000 in the U.S.). They happen to be super beneficial for your garden, too, making a meal of aphids, mites, root maggots, even slugs and snails.
5. Parasitic wasps. There are a few species of these wasps, but the end result in your garden is the same. They lay their eggs in or on cutworms, caterpillars, aphids, tomato hornworms, cabbage worms, aphids, and more. The little baby wasps then hatch and eat their host. I could be wrong, but I bet when Ridley Scott was directing Alien, he was thinking about these common garden bugs.
6. Worms. Not all beneficial bugs in the garden are predators. Worms can do wonders for your soil, keeping it aerated and healthy. They break down organic material and turn it into nutrient-rich soil.
7. Dragonfly. Dragonflies are infinitely cool, but their biggest benefit in the garden, to me, is that they eat mosquitos. That might not be directly beneficial to the plants, but the more mosquitos a dragonfly eats, the longer I can stay out in the evening weeding and tending to my garden. They can also fly up to 35 mph! And the Smithsonian points out that dragonflies were among the first winged insects on earth, and some dragonfly fossils have two-foot wingspans! Did I mention that they’re the coolest insects ever?
8. Lightning bugs. The lightning bug, aka firefly, brings a natural light show to your garden. While that’s certainly special, the larvae are known to feed on snails and slugs.
9. Daddy Longlegs. You can find this critter on every continent except Antarctica, so they definitely deserve a place on any list of common garden bugs. They like to eat aphids, caterpillars, mites, and small slugs. Unfortunately, they also will eat earthworms and beetles.
10. Praying mantis. The fearsome mantis is a stone-cold killer. If it moves in your garden, the mantis will destroy it. The mantis can slowly stalk prey or move fast enough to catch flies. While they do eat pests like moths, flies, mosquitos, and aphids, they also eat other beneficial insects like beetles. Fun fact: They’ve also been known to catch and eat hummingbirds.
These aren’t the only bugs that bring benefits to your garden, but they are some of the most common. You can find many of these in a healthy ecosystem. Just stand back if you see a mantis heading your way!
Do you have a favorite beneficial bug in your garden? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.