Gardeners are generally taught through advertisements that bugs are bad for the garden and even the yard. The truth is there are many garden bugs* that are beneficial, including some often thought of as pests.
The list of good insect-like creatures in the garden is extensive, so it is unrealistic to cover them all. However, many of them are so common people often don’t pay much attention, while others can be surprisingly helpful though they may not often be included in a list of good bugs.
*Note: This article isn’t limited only to actual “bugs”, so for clarity, we’ll be using the term for any insect, arachnid, or similar creature commonly found in the garden. Without this distinction, a garden bug is simply a member of one group of insects.
Ladybugs may not be true bugs, but their enormous appetite for aphids and similar plant sucking insects make them an obvious choice for one of the best bugs in the garden.
Aphids can quickly overwhelm the garden since they can reproduce without fertilization. Aphids give birth to live young (except just before winter), which are virtually born pregnant.
Ladybugs are up to the task of keeping the number of aphids low since they have a nearly insatiable appetite for the small insects. A few ladybugs on a plant heavily infested with aphids will not only keep the number of aphids in check, they will decrease those numbers.
There are many kinds of preying mantis, ranging from tiny to large. Mantids also have a voracious appetite, though they capture and eat many different garden pests rather than focusing a just a few.
The smallest preying mantis is capable of devouring creatures as small as spider mites, while larger ones will eat flies, mosquitoes, bees, wasps, and other garden pests. Unlike the ladybug, instead of sucking the juices out of its prey, it eats the prey usually headfirst.
A daddy longlegs is not an insect, and despite its appearance, it isn’t a spider. However, a daddy longlegs is a predator will kill insects and other pests in the garden.
They are mainly nocturnal hunters and an “infestation” of daddy longlegs is usually a sign that there are a great number of pests present for them to feed on.
Definitely not an insect, a centipede is still a great predator of the garden. They are equipped with strong fangs and a poison gland that can make fast work of any insect pests they come across.
Many people find these animals repulsive, but there is little doubt that they help the garden. The down side is that they will also eat helpful bugs.
Although almost never thought of as bugs, worms are soil dwellers and do an enormous amount of good work in the garden. They are not usually predators, however they aerate, break up, and enrich the soil.
As a rule, the more worms there are in a small section of the garden, the better the garden will produce. Healthier plants are more resistant to the bad bugs in the garden, as well.
Ant lions are curious little insects. The larvae build small pits, hiding under soil at the bottom. If an ant or similar insect tumbles into the pit, they are promptly devoured.
While many ants are more of a pest than anything, a few do cause garden damage, such as those that transport aphids from one plant to another. Ant lions, by devouring the ants, help to maintain the control over ant populations.
Also known by many other names including sow bugs, these little animals are actually crustaceans. Many people are surprised to learn that they often do much more good than harm.
They are often found at the base of plants, which can give a person the idea that they are feeding off the healthy plant. Normally, though, they eat decaying plant material such as dead leaves. This more quickly breaks the dead plant material down so the plant roots can use it more rapidly. Pill bugs give a service, just by eating dead plant matter.
It’s a Garden Bugs’ Life
As an organic gardener, I don’t stress bug invasions. Instead I often plant extra plants and specialty plants like sunflowers just to help feed the wildlife, including bugs. Nature needs nourishment, too.
There are many more bugs that are good for your garden, which haven’t been mentioned here. The majority of the creepy crawlies you find in the garden are neither good nor bad for the garden. There are a few distinct pests in the garden though.
For each pest, there are other little creatures that live by eating them. Other “bugs” help in other ways. This is the key to true green gardening, too. Encourage the good ones. They will take care of the bad ones. Which eliminates the need for using chemicals to kill pests.