Friend or foe insects have a role to play in our gardening world. Sometimes we encourage them in and other times we want rid of them.
Many ants are predators and feed on insects that attack lawns and gardens, and in the process of gathering food, they often pollinate flowers and distribute seeds. None of us want them in the house so sprinkle or wipe a few drops of lavender or peppermint oil around ant entry points to confuse their chemical trail. Blue Ants are actually a wasp and beneficial in our garden. One of our most common ant is the ‘Sugar Ant’. These ants love ‘honeydew’, which is a substance that caterpillars and aphids excrete so sugar ants will go to extreme measures to protect them. If you see a trail of ants going into for example broccoli it may be an indicator that you have aphids.
The world is experiencing a global bee crisis and with bees responsible for almost a third of the food on our plate, this is a crisis that could affect us all. Australia is the only country in the world where the bee population continues to thrive. For the home gardener have a variety of flowering plants to attract bees into the garden. Borage is a fabulous bee attractant plant.
Butterflies & moths: Beneficial
Butterflies and moths are indicators of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems so welcome them into your garden. Butterflies pollinate or carry pollen from plant to plant, helping fruits, vegetables and flowers to produce new seeds. Butterflies and caterpillars are an important source of food for other animals such as bats and birds.
Dragonglies are great to have around your garden as they are insect eating machines. Dragonflies and dragonfly larvae particularly love to eat mosquitoes. Adult dragonflies also eat White Cabbage butterflies and other flying insects, which they grab in mid-air.
Earwigs; Both beneficial and a pest
Earwigs are an outdoor insect usually found in damp areas, such as under mulch, dead leaves, logs, and piles of firewood, boards, stones and other debris or in rotted wood. The earwig is a scavenger and will feast on aphids, mites, nematodes, slugs and their eggs. Although earwigs occasionally attack living plants, including vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants, they are considered only minor pests.
Harlequin Bugs; Pest
This pest is attracted to plants in the mallow family – so control any weeds like the common mallow (Malva parviflora) to reduce the bugs’ breeding grounds. For the vegetable gardener they love all brassica’s such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower and can attack tomatoes decimating your crop.
European wasps; Pest
An introduced species, they are a pest because they are far more aggressive than native wasps. Lack of predators and warmer weather conditions mean that the European wasp is an increasing problem in Australia. This insect likes to live around humans because of the ready supply of food and drink, particularly of the sweet varieties. Locate the nest, or nests and eradicate using an insecticide registered for the purpose.
A simple method of eradication for earwigs, harlequin beetles and aphids is to use a small spray bottle with liquid detergent, spray directly onto the insect and they will suffocate. This is just a small sample of pests versus beneficial so before you go for the poisons first check their purpose in natures life cycle.
References: Wikipedia, The Old Farmers Almanac, Hortnews, Gardening Australia, Victorian Health services, Catalyst, Backyard Buddies.