Before You Banish Bugs, Consider the Benefits

Erin Conant

Helpers in the garden come in many forms: the friend who comes over to help pull weeds or that nifty new watering timer for your outdoor faucet. But did you know bugs can be helpful, too?

There are thousands of beneficial insects that play an important role in keeping plants and soil healthy. Here are just a few:

  • The larval stage of parasitic wasps preys on destructive garden pests such as aphids, flies, and cutworms. One type — the trichogramma wasp — is widely sold in garden centers and distributed to help control worm pests within fruit and vegetable crops.
  • Ladybugs are not only cute but also famous for their rapid consumption of aphids. They can devour several thousand aphids in their life span of about one year!
  • Beneficial nematodes are among the smallest of garden helpers. These little guys spend their lives in the soil, feasting on a large variety of pests including fleas, grubs, mole crickets, and weevils. Unlike other beneficial bugs, nematodes are sold on a small sponge and must be soaked in water before being distributed.

Spend some time in your landscape and get to know the bugs in your garden. Seek the guidance of an entomologist, local nursery professional or literature (try the Texas Bug Book) to help you make the most of those of beneficial insects.

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