Healthy gardens are home to a plethora of beneficial insects and pollinators. Whether insects make you squeamish or not, it's important to become a good host to your friendly garden insects, and a good steward of their home (your garden). Many of us get the heebie-jeebies when we see insects up close and personal. We'd like to encourage you to move past that initial "icky" feeling and look at your garden insect population with curiosity and wonder. Get to know some of the most common and most helpful beneficial insects using this visual guide.
This guide will show you some examples of common beneficial insects you might find in your garden. We label the insect using the common name and put the scientific name in parenthesis. Keep in mind that there is a vast array of species within each genus, so this is a general guide to a truly complex topic. Thanks to some help from our resident Plant Protection Manager at the Oregon Monrovia Nursery, Ron Tuckett, as well as a knowledgeable entomologist and photographer, Chris Hedstrom, we're able to dive into the world of insects with visual and informative clarity.
Monrovia has been using beneficial insects for years to provide natural pest control, and we'd like to help you do the same by passing along what we've learned. When we asked Ron about his approach to using beneficial insects for pest control, he explained, "the Oregon nursery has been using beneficial nematodes to control insects for close to 30 years. Predatory mites have been another big part of our pest control programs for about 20 years." And as for the bugs you commonly see in gardens? Ron says "we have resident populations of lacewing, ladybugs, soldier beetles, syrphid flies, parasitic wasps, minute pirate bugs, rove beetles, etc. in our pest management plans."
Chris Hedstrom echos Ron's sentiment about the best predators for common garden pests like aphids, saying they "are fed on by the generalist predators like lacewings, ladybugs, and snakeflies." If you've looked around your garden and haven't seen many of the insects mentioned, have no fear. The next time you're at your local garden center, ask around — they might have some beneficial insects waiting for you to bring home and release into your garden.
We're also including tips on encouraging these beneficial insects to not only visit, but make themselves at home in your garden. Here's a hint: the key is to create a healthy and welcoming space for them amongst your favorite plants. There's some advice on how to do just that, as well as a few plant recommendations and further reading at the bottom of the page.