One of the most effective ways of dealing with common garden pests is through the use of beneficial insects, such as lacewings and ladybugs. Once released into your yard or garden, these tiny predators do what comes naturally: They eat. By releasing the right insects at the right time, you can put a serious dent in the local pest population.
Adult lacewings are of little benefit to gardeners. Commonly seen around porch lights, these delicate, green insects primarily subsist on nectar. However, their offspring, called aphidlions, live in small pits dug into the soil, where they catch passing insects. Lacewings are usually sold in egg form, which allows you to place the eggs where you need them. The University of Wisconsin-Madison recommends placing 5 to 10 lacewing eggs at the base of each plant in your garden.
Use lacewings to help reduce small pest species, including:
Despite their cute appearance, ladybugs are voracious predators. Their preferred prey varies from one species to the next, but aphids and scale insects are frequently on their menu. Ladybugs are prolific, as adult females can produce over 1,000 eggs in a month or two. Unlike lacewings and most other beneficial insects, ladybugs are predators during both their larval and adult life stages, which makes them especially effective agents for pest control.
Ladybugs and their larvae can help you eliminate:
Many wasps have evolved parasitic lifestyles, in which they deposit their eggs inside the bodies, eggs or larvae of their host species. The lifecycle of some species is particularly gruesome for their unfortunate hosts, who are eaten alive from the inside out. Some do not eat their way out of their hosts; they simply push themselves through the pores in their host's skin. Do not be put off by the term "wasp," as the species suitable for biological pest control are harmless to humans.
Parasitoid wasps are often host-specific, so be sure to consult your local extension office to determine the correct species for your problem. Generally speaking, parasitoid wasps will help you manage populations of:
Praying mantises are some of the largest insects used for biological pest control, but they are effective at controlling prey of many different size classes. While the adults primarily consume large garden pests, the young may consume aphids and other small pests. Praying mantises are not harmful to humans, but they can pinch careless fingers with their front limbs. Gardeners usually purchase praying mantises as oothecas (egg cases) and keep them inside until they begin hatching. The males often disperse through the area over time, but females tend to remain in a small area as long as food is plentiful.
Rid yourself of the following insects by releasing praying mantises in your yard:
For more tips on dealing with garden pests, visit a local store like ASE Pest & Weed Supplies.