Friday, April 10, 2015

Garden Insects: Good Guys or Bad Guys?

You know the dilemma. You're playing in the garden, and there it is...a new bug. Is it a friend or foe? You don't have time to research it or look it up. You must decide- to squish or not to squish? 

There are no sure ways to tell whether a mystery insect is beneficial or a garden pest just by looking at it, but there are some general indications that can help you figure it out most of the time. Hopefully this chart with some general guidelines will help you know which bugs to squish and which ones to leave alone :)

Characteristics of Garden Pests

Good Bugs

1. They are Hunters
Usually good bugs are good because they eat other bugs, specifically the bad bugs. As hunters they will usually be sitting on a leaf, poised for attack. Their movement will be sly like a ninja with a swift attack on prey that comes near.

2. They are Loners
Usually hunters will hunt alone, not in big packs. They will be hiding most of the time, so they are sometimes difficult to spot in the garden.

3. They do not Play Favorites with Plants
SInce these bugs are after bugs and not after plants, you can find them on almost any and every plant in your garden. The wider their range of placement, the more likely they are to be good.

4. There is no Damage Left Behind
If you observe them closely, you should not see their mouth attached to your plant in any way. You also shouldn’t see any damage to the plants around them (unless it is left from the bug they just ate)

Bad Bugs

1. They are Gatherers
Bad bugs are there for the free salad bar. You have done a wonderful job growing something tasty and they thank you for the meal. They will eat and eat until they have enjoyed all the wonderful food that you grew for yourself. Free loaders!

2. They Come in Hoards
Most bad bugs flock together in huge groups, devouring an entire crop in record time, laying eggs and increasing in numbers until there is nothing left to ravage.

3. They are Usually Attracted to One Plant
Bad bugs often target a single type of plant. If all of the bugs in question are found only on any particular plant or family of plants, it is most likely a pest.

4. The Evidence is Clear
There are holes in leaves, droppings from the meal they gorged on your plants, wilted leaves, or vegetables with damage on them. Usually you will see the evidence of a bad bug long before you find the bug!

Hope this helps solve the mystery of that new bug in your garden!