While some insects found in lawns and gardens are consider pests, many insects, and other bugs are beneficial. Three major types of beneficial garden and lawn bugs are pollinators, parasitoids and predators.
Pollinators are animals that help flowering plants distribute pollen from male to female plant parts. This is a necessary process for plant seed production and many plants that make up our food supply rely on pollinators to reproduce. Common pollinators include bees, beetles, flies and butterflies and moths. Pollinators can be attracted to your lawn and garden by planting native, pollinator friendly plants in your garden.
Parasitoids are insects and other organisms that lay their eggs on a host species. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the host species until it dies. Parasitoids can either hatch on the outside of the host insect and then feed on the host insect from the inside or the outside. They are some of the most important ways pest populations are kept under control because they are usually active at the same times of the year that their hosts are active. Parasitoids’ presence in gardens is often hard to see, but they can be attracted to your garden by planting native flowers, having high plant biodiversity in your garden, having plants with shallow flowers and have plant varieties that bloom throughout the growing season.
Predators are insects and other bugs that feed on pests. Some only eat certain types of pests and others eat all kinds of insects and spiders. Predators attract and hunt for prey in a variety of ways. Some are more active hunters and pursue prey by stalking or chasing. Others hunt in more patient ways, like hiding and waiting for prey to come along. Some predator prey on insects as young, then eat nectar as adults, while some are predators for their whole life cycle. Predators include ladybugs, predatory stink bugs (no, not the invasive ones), lacewing larvae, praying mantis and spiders.
Spiders are predatory arachnids (they are not insects, but they are close relatives) that are often misunderstood, since many people fear them. However, spiders are very beneficial to have in gardens because the catch and eat a variety of pests. They catch their prey in a variety of ways including ambushing, waiting and pouncing, and trapping victims in webs. Most spiders found in Maryland are harmless to humans and should be welcomed into gardens with open arms.
The only spider native to Maryland that has venom capable of harming humans is the black widow spider. Black widow spiders, like many spiders, are non-aggressive to humans and will only bite in self-defense. Females can be identified by the red hourglass on the underside of their abdomen (male black widow spiders do not bite humans). Wolf spider may also bite humans, but their venom is mostly harmless and causes swelling, itchiness and mild pain. Brown recluse spiders are not found in Maryland. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources page on native spiders can help you identify some common spiders.
Avoiding pesticides helps the population of beneficial insects in your lawn and garden. Some pesticides are broad spectrum and can also kill beneficial insects, along with pests. Others may not kill beneficial insects but can still harm them.
Post by: Emily Elkonoh