Pest control is an integral part of the life of any gardener and indoor plants lover. But few are involved in attracting beneficial bugs for indoor plants. Of course, we plant flowers so that bees, bumblebees, and other pollinators fly into the indoor garden. We know that ladybugs eat aphids, but we often confuse the eggs and larvae of the ladybug and the Colorado potato beetle.
And what other insects can benefit our garden and vegetable garden? How do they help? How to attract beneficial insects to your site? Let’s try to answer these and other questions related to entomophages. This is how those who eat insects are scientifically called.
Why are we so interested in entomophages? It’s simple. Those who eat insects make it easier for us gardeners. Insectivorous predators destroy pests without chemicals – clean and safe.
Today we will focus on predatory insects. We present to you 15+ beneficial insects that are able to regulate the number of pests in gardens and vegetable gardens so that these same pests do not cause trouble for us.
beneficial bugs for indoor plants for pest control
Praying mantis – ruthless pest killer
This insect is distinguished by its gluttony. Females are especially zealous during the breeding season, since they require a lot of protein at the stage of formation and laying of eggs. Have you heard that often the female eats the male after mating? It’s about praying mantises. The praying mantis eats everyone: larvae, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, flies, caterpillars and other insects. And its larvae feed on aphids. The female lays eggs in a kind of egg storage – ootheca, from which young pilgrims hatch after 4-6 weeks.
You can attract praying mantises to your site with thickets of legumes – lupine, vetch, peas. They lay eggs on peas. Tall grass, shrubs, dill, and marigolds are also considered attractive to these predators. But the main “magnet” for the praying mantis will be food – where there is an abundance of insects, there he is.
It is said that the habitat of the praying mantis is moving north.
Ladybug (aphid eater)
We have known about the benefits of ladybirds since childhood. They are very different: from the classic red with black specks to black with orange spots. Pests are destroyed not only by adult beetles, but also by their larvae. Each individual eats from 50 to 150 aphids per day. Also in the diet of ladybirds are ticks, whiteflies, fleas and mealy worms.
The most annoying thing is that we often destroy ladybirds without knowing it. The fact is that their eggs and pupae are very similar to the “offspring” of the Colorado potato beetle. Look closely at the photo, the similarities are obvious. Therefore, it is important to remember that:
- the Colorado potato beetle lays eggs only on nightshades, and ladybugs – near aphid colonies;
- the eggs of the Colorado potato beetle are orange, and the eggs of the ladybug are yellow or pale yellow;
- the pupa of the ladybug is motionless, and the larvae of the Colorado potato beetle move;
- there are no specks on the body of the Colorado potato beetle larva, but the pupa of the ladybug has them.
An adult ladybug hibernates under dry grass, fallen leaves, or in exfoliated bark. Ladybugs are ubiquitous, and in some years they are able to reproduce especially violently, literally filling the surrounding area.
Gallica Afidimiza (an inconspicuous assistant to the summer resident)
These tiny 2-3 millimeter flies are difficult to distinguish from pests, and transparent larvae are difficult to even see. But these inconspicuous larvae eat aphids no worse than a ladybug. For two weeks, the larva feeds on aphids and turns yellow, orange or reddish, depending on the species of aphid. Then it falls to the ground and forms a cocoon. Three weeks later, the second generation of gall midges emerges from the cocoons.
No effort is required to attract aphidimiza gall midge, other than abandoning chemical pesticides that kill all insects indiscriminately.
Ground beetle is a useful predator in the garden
Ground beetles are very nimble beetles of various colors: black, metallic, yellow with a tint. They constantly run in search of prey and eat three times their weight. Ground beetles feed mainly on caterpillars of moths, hawthorns, moths, scoops, wireworms and other worms, fly larvae, slugs. One beetle eats about 300 caterpillars per season.
Ground beetle eggs are laid in shallow holes in the ground. Ground beetle larvae look like worms with jaws and thoracic legs. They are as mobile and as voracious as adults. During the day they hide, and with the onset of darkness they begin to hunt in the soil and on its surface.
Along with ground beetles, there are also arboreal and flying species. They feed on small insects and worms and are most often found in compost.
Ground beetles live everywhere, preferring moist soils. In summer cottages, they hibernate most often under a house or a woodpile, sometimes under a pile of stones, sawdust or shavings.
Check out How to prevent pests on indoor plants?
Mottled beetle ant
Bright speckles can look like a bee or an ant. They are sometimes called a bee-beetle or ant-beetle. Beekeepers do not like bee bugs very much, because their larvae feed on bee bread, bee eggs and damage the hives.
But there is a lot of respect for ant mottles. These entomophages live and feed on tree trunks, and therefore are extremely useful in the orchard. Among the people, these beetles were called bark beetles. It is not surprising, because the menu of speckled beetles includes weevils, bark beetles, longhorn beetles, grinders, golden beetles and their larvae.
By the way, the larvae of the speckled moths themselves live under the bark of trees. They hunt pests, moving along their own routes under the bark.
Anthogs live in the forest, but if you find one on your tree, do not drive or poison. He only benefits the tree.
Firefighter beetle (red-footed soft beetle) benefits the garden
The familiar red-black or ginger beetles are picky about food. Small insects form the basis of their diet. Adults also eat pollen and flower nectar, and can gnaw on plant leaves. But the younger generation of soft beetles are one hundred percent predators – they are very fond of eating aphids, caterpillars, flies, eggs and larvae of other insects, small mollusks.
Let the fire beetles live and reproduce on your site, because they benefit more than harm. Attract them with a variety of honey flowers, especially since most of these insects live in regions with a temperate and cold climate. Soft beetles live under trees and bushes, if you do not dig up the soil there and leave a leaf litter. Some species prefer rotten wood.
The hoverfly got its name from the fact that it often hangs during the flight, making babbling sounds. Outwardly, it is very similar to a wasp, so they are often confused. An adult hoverfly feeds on flower nectar and pollen, but its larvae actively devour aphids and small caterpillars, bringing undoubted benefit to summer residents.
The hoverfly female lays eggs directly in the aphid colony. After a few days, larvae emerge from the eggs and go in search of food. These insatiable kids hunt in the dark. In two weeks, while they develop to the pupa, each larva will have time to destroy up to 700 aphids.
Hoverflies are attracted by plants with yellow flowers, and other honey plants too: daisies, lavender, aster, zinnia.
Even if you’ve never seen a lace-eyed woman, you’ve probably heard of her. This entomophage has been successfully cultivated for a long time specifically for the protection of cultivated plants from pests, especially from aphids. An ordinary summer resident, perhaps, cannot afford to buy larvae. All that remains is to attract these beautiful insects from their natural environment.
Although adult lacewings are not as interesting to the gardener as the larvae. It is the larvae that eat the aphids and eat a lot. The female lacewing is even forced to lay eggs on thin stalks so that the hatched larva immediately falls down, where it will begin to devour pests, and not its fellows. And for other predators, eggs on a thin stalk are inaccessible.
Unlike adults, the younger generation is also active during the daytime. For its gluttony, the larva of the lacewing is also called the aphid lion. During its existence, each eats about 400 aphids. In the Middle Lane, 1-2 generations of lacewings may appear over the summer, and up to 4 generations in southern latitudes.
In winter, lacewings change color from green to brown and hide in secluded corners. Sometimes in our homes. Or in carefully prepared straw boxes.
There are many predatory bugs. Herbivores too. And it is very difficult to distinguish one from the other. Nevertheless, some types of bugs are so good at exterminating pests that they are bred in biological laboratories and used in agriculture.
The anthocoris bug is a good example. It is rapidly growing in number and eats unusually high. There is evidence that in the garden, it destroys up to 95% of hibernating eggs of fruit mites. In addition, it eats aphids, moths, leaf beetles, thrips, leaf rollers. Pests are attacked not only by adult bugs, but also by their larvae.
The bug is similar to the anthocoris orius. He also works in industrial greenhouses, helping in the fight against thrips, whiteflies, aphids, spider mites. Orius can develop 2-3 generations in one summer.
Small and faded hunting bugs are often found on bushes and grasses. Slowly crawling over the plant, they destroy caterpillars, larvae, eggs of other insects, thrips and aphids.
This fly cannot be confused with another. Powerful paws are armed with suction cups and bristles. The head is flattened, and the abdomen is elongated. Their proboscis is so strong that it can pierce the shell of any beetle. Therefore, ktyri are not afraid of anyone and eat everyone, including May beetles, wasps, dragonflies. Ktyry larvae are no less gluttonous. They prey on the soil, eating all the other larvae. Moreover, one grub larva can easily devour another.
True flies ktyri are rare. Some species (for example, humpback ktyr) are listed in the Red Book. So if you see, take care.
Another useful fly is called the tahina fly or hedgehog. Tahina owes this nickname to the hairs covering her body and sticking out like the needles of a hedgehog.
Tahinas lead a parasitic lifestyle. The females lay their eggs directly on the caterpillar of another insect. Other species – on plants that actively eat the larvae, so that the eggs of the parasite get inside along with the food. Still others – to the ground, where the larvae will have to look for “prey” on their own. Tahina larvae develop at the expense of the host and thereby lead the latter to death. Actually, this is their benefit. After all, they parasitize on the caterpillars of all butterflies, on the larvae of Colorado beetles, weevils, woodcutter beetles, sawflies, bugs, etc.
Adult flies feed on flowering plants, preferring thyme, dill, cougar, lovage and coriander. They live near water bodies in bright, sunny areas. Distributed everywhere.
A whole group of insects useful for agriculture lives and thrives on the same principle. They are riders. They were called riders because the female, laying eggs, climbs onto a caterpillar or larva, like on a horse. Then she pierces the body of the larva with her ovipositor and lays the eggs inside. The unfortunate larva becomes the kitchen factory for the next generation of the rider. The larva is not lucky, but the gardener is happy. Since many pests fall under the distribution of the rider: fly larvae, cabbage caterpillars, aphids.
Riders are large (ichneumonids) and tiny (egg-eaters). The most famous egg-eaters are trichogramma and telenomus. They are grown in laboratories and released into fields and greenhouses to exterminate pests. Each female lays up to two hundred eggs per cycle.
Like many other beneficial insects, riders willingly settle on umbrella plants: caraway seeds, cilantro, dill, etc.
These insects prefer a temperate climate, and are distributed almost throughout country. Few gardeners want to have a hornet’s nest on their property. Not only do adults feed on fruit juices, that is, they spoil berries and fruits, they also sting and bite people. Nevertheless, there is also a benefit from wasps. They feed their offspring with protein food: caterpillars, moths, larvae, flies – in a word, pests. Without wasps, there would be many times more flies around us.
If there are no children on the site, you can coexist peacefully with wasps. They will never sting someone who does not touch them, they quickly get used to the smell of a person. But, they say, wasps are vengeful. If you killed one wasp and left the corpse in a conspicuous place, they may attack. It’s a myth or a fact, it’s hard to say. In any case, a wasp that has flown into the house is better off in peace. For example, put a piece of meat or sweets on the window. So she will orient herself faster and fly safely.
Beetles with short upper wings – rove beetles – are also found in garden plots. Their abdomen is unprotected, but they know how to lift it up, like scorpions. They take enemies to frighten.
Almost all species of these beetles are predators both in the larval stage and in the adult stage. Staphilins prefer dark places and are often found in the soil, in animal burrows, in the forest floor, under stones, boards and fallen trees, in rotting organic matter, manure, mushrooms, and even in anthills.
Females try to lay eggs where there is enough food for future offspring – in the soil, in the passages of woody insects, on the underside of leaves. And sometimes even directly on other larvae. A couple of weeks after laying, rather aggressive larvae appear. They are similar to their parents in appearance and eating habits. They feed on millipedes, pupae and larvae of beetles and flies, caterpillars, ticks, even wasp larvae and small molluscs.
The people call the stethoracea a tick-borne bug because this small bug feeds on a spider mite. Moreover, the tick is the “favorite dish” of both the adult stethoerus and its larvae. During its life, the tick ladybug destroys about 2,000 individuals of the spider mite.
Stethorans often die from the drugs we use against ticks because we simply don’t notice these crumbs. Their length is only 1-1.5 millimeters. Therefore, the next time, before spraying plants against spider mites, we advise you to look at the colony with a magnifying glass. If you see black shiny stethoses there, no processing is needed. A useful bug will cope with the pest on its own.
Fast, swift and beautiful dragonflies settle in large numbers near water bodies. To fly so fast, a dragonfly needs a lot of energy. And she gets it by hunting flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, mosquitoes and other insects that the dragonfly grabs on the fly.
The female lays eggs near the water: in the soil or on an aquatic plant. Dragonfly offspring live and develop in stagnant water. And actively eats crustaceans, mosquito larvae and other aquatic life.
An earwig or pincer is considered a site attendant. Because of its omnivorous nature. Its menu includes both rotting organic matter and living plants, as well as small insects and their remains. Of the pests, earwigs do an excellent job with aphids, dahlia wood lice, spider mites, and small larvae.
But with earwigs, not everything is so simple. Their ability to eat everything and everyone is not in the hands of the gardener, because together with the pests, earwigs gnaw flower petals, they can damage seedlings and tender young shoots. Usually these scavengers have enough food, but with a large number they can spoil peas, cucumbers, and potatoes.
Mostly earwigs are active at night. They do not experience aggression towards a person, although they can bite. Their bite is quite unpleasant, especially for allergy sufferers. So we will consider the earwig only a relatively useful insect for the garden and vegetable garden.
Do you know are earthworms good for indoor plants?
How to attract beneficial bugs for indoor plants
It would seem that such vegetable gardens rich in all sorts of pests should be a desirable habitat for predators. But no. An innumerable colony of aphids can eat all our currants clean, and ladybugs at the same time will seek out rare food in the neighboring forest.
The fact is that beneficial insects are attracted not by food abundance, but by flowering plants, tall grass, the ability to build a shelter. Few areas can boast of wilderness, untouched nature. Therefore, gardeners have to “artificially” create conditions close to the natural habitat of entomophages. What can you do to attract beneficial insects to your garden?
1. Fence the houseplants with a hedge of shrubs
For example, viburnum, barberry, hawthorn, elderberry, euonymus, lilac. Or from the shorter ones – Potentilla, Spirea, Rosehip. If the site allows, you can even plant trees – spruce, birch, linden. In such a fence, predatory bugs, lacewings, ladybugs will take refuge.
2. Plant umbrella plants
Coriander, dill, fennel, caraway seeds, parsley, lovage attract riders, fire beetles, and hedgehogs.
3. Start a flower garden from honey plants
Phacelia, buckwheat, sweet clover, fireweed, tansy, St. John’s wort, marigolds, calendula – the list goes on for a long time. All nectar-bearing flowers attract bumblebees, bees, wasps, wasps, ladybirds, predatory bugs and flies. The main thing is that honey plants bloom all season, replacing each other. And it is desirable that among them there were flowers of yellow shades.
4. Grow herbs
A bed with thyme, lemon balm, dushchitsa, valerian, tarragon and mint will come in handy for you, and the predatory insects will like it.
5. Plant a legume area
Even a small area with leguminous green manure (alfalfa, vetch, clover) is useful in every way. Mowing grasses during flowering will, first of all, provide you with valuable fertilizer. And secondly, force predatory insects to migrate from flowers to trees to feed on caterpillars.
6. Leave a couple of flowering weeds in the beds
Oddly enough it sounds, but a few blooming dandelions are more good for the garden than harm. Dandelion not only attracts pollinators and predatory beetles, it also speeds up the maturation of cucumbers, for example.
7. Arrange a compost heap and mulch the trunks with humus
Ground beetles, rove beetles, hoverflies and earthworms will settle in the plant remains.
8. Leave shelter materials in the garden
Flat and rounded stones, planks, pieces of bark, heaps of leaves, and shavings will help insects hibernate or hide from daylight.
9. Make special huts for wintering
If you wish, you can help insects and make them a ready-made winter shelter. Hotels for beetles made of natural materials will decorate any summer cottage and serve as “bait” for insects and other animals.
Finally, the most important point is avoiding pesticide treatment. Alas, pesticides do not care who to kill – a pest or its natural enemy. Therefore, everyone suffers. And if you are serious about attracting entomophages, you need to say no to chemicals.
However, do not forget that the task of using beneficial insects is not the total destruction of pests, but the regulation of their number. A small number of harmful insects will still inhabit your area. For balance. Can you sacrifice a small fraction of your crop for an environmentally friendly product? Then useful insects to help you!