Imagine, after waking up and having that first cup of coffee in your dewy garden that’s lit by morning sunshine, you decide to take a peek at the tomato plants you’ve been lovingly nurturing these past couple of months. And you’re met with this sight, straight from a horror scene:
These insects may be a part of the great circle of life, but there’s no reason for you to put up with them in your garden. One of the best ways to control pests organically is through the use of beneficial predatory insects. You can either attract them to your garden naturally or head down to your local nursery to purchase them.
So before doing this:
Check out these six predators to add to your garden today.
Tiny, microscopic “worms” referred to as beneficial nematodes have become a popular form of pest control, as they feed on more than 200 pests from up to 100 insect families. Nematodes grow beneficial bacteria inside their guts that when released inside an insect kills it within 24 to 48 hours. It’s important to pick the right type of nematode for your garden because each specific type targets a different pest.
Kills: Flea larvae, grubs, slugs, snails, and root weevils.
There are as cute as can be, but they are deadly to annoying garden pests. A single ladybug may consume as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime. They are also an inexpensive remedy—I got a bag of 500 for $5 at my local nursery.
Kills: Aphids, chinch bugs, asparagus beetle larvae, alfalfa weevils, bean thrips, grape root worm, Colorado potato beetle larvae, spider mites, whiteflies and mealybugs.
I also picked up a fairly inexpensive package of lacewings at the same time I got ladybugs. Since the larvae are the actual predators, you usually buy them in egg form; since adults fly away, they need to be reapplied every couple of weeks.
Kills: Aphids, insect and moth eggs, mealybugs, scale, spider mites, thrips, and other soft-bodied insects.
The Praying Mantis is the most fearsome of all garden predators as it can hunt and kill insects and small mammals (including, unfortunately, some beneficial garden insects and birds) three times its size. It is the only insect that can rotate its head a full 180-degrees, which helps them seek out their prey from all angles. I was so proud when I found a praying mantis in my garden last year because they are attracted to thriving gardens with good ecosystems.
Kills: As youngsters, they feed on aphids and mosquitoes. Adult praying mantis prey on larger bugs, such as moths and grasshoppers.
There are thousands of varieties of assassin bugs, and all are voracious predators of irritating garden pests. Some varieties include Milkweed Assassin Bug, Spined Assassin Bug and Predatory Stink Bugs. They kill by poking their sharp mandibles into the pest’s body and injecting a toxin that immobilizes it and dissolves its innards.
Kills: Aphids, mealybugs, caterpillars and thrips.
If you thought that previous image of a tomato hornworm was scary, check this out. This tomato hornworm is on its way to a gruesome death because a parasitic wasp laid her eggs in his body.
Kills: More than 200 types of pests, including cabbage loopers, caterpillars, cutworms and tomato hornworms.