Early fall is the prefect time of year to search for beneficial, predatory insects that live in your garden plot. These big bugs have spent their summer growing, eating, and growing some more! Get out in your garden beds and search for some of these awesome insects!
#1. Yellow Garden Spider
An arachnid of many common names, this beautiful 8-legged carnivore primarily feeds on insects. Females of this species are larger and feature the striking colors displayed in the photo. Their presence helps rather than harms the landscape and garden plants you are hoping to harvest. While they are indiscriminate hunters, catching prey in their sticky web, garden pests beware! Attract these predators by having permanent log piles close to garden fences.
While in their larval stage, lacewings are lethal predators of soft-bodied insect pests, like aphids, thrips, whitefly and spider mites. Once hatched, these larvae roam garden crop foliage looking for prey in the form of pest eggs, nymphs or even adults. Once they’re all grown up and fancy, lacewing species make excellent pollinators to transform flowers into produce! Attract these predators by inter-planting native
wildflowers that produce lots of pollen and nectar, like goldenrods and asters.
#3. Golden Sand Digger Wasp
Make way for a large wasp with striking beauty! Despite its vivid alarm coloration of black and orange, this member of the thread-waisted wasp family is not aggressive to humans, but sure does a number on garden pests like katydids and crickets. These beneficial predators make vertical tunnels in the soil, where they bring paralyzed prey to feed their colony. Attract these predators by providing nesting locations in your yard featuring exposed, bare, loose soil and have plenty of native wildflowers.
#4. Carolina Mantis (and other non-native mantids)
Though the jury is still out on whether these indiscriminate predators are helpful or harmful, it is undeniable that the impact these insects have is measurable. With large, forward-facing eyes and retractable front legs prefect for ambushing, preying mantids are the most patient garden predator. These insects use camouflage and natural movements to disappear in the garden landscape and are a treat to watch in action! Attract these predators by incorporating tall, native and perennial grass-like plants nearby or in your garden beds.
#5. Marbled Orb Weaver
Just in time for Halloween, be on the look out for this pumpkin mimicking friendly neighborhood spider. Like the yellow garden spider, the female of this species features the plump orange abdomen…and boy is she hungry! Their webs catch indiscriminately, but also aid in capturing smaller pesky insects like mosquitoes and flies that are active in periods of low light. Attract these predators by planning your garden plot adjacent to the tree-line and offering them places of refuge like log piles or other sturdy wooden structures.
Regardless of insects being predators or prey, beautiful or scary-looking, inspiring awe or fright, each and every insect has a role to play in the garden environment. When that environment is in balance, diversity abounds, and the intricate food web regulates itself. I know I mentioned specific things you can do to attract the above insects, but the most important thing you can do for the health of your neighborhood insects, neighbors and your family is to limit or eliminate pesticide and herbicide applications on your property and encourage others to do the same. Together we work to unite our garden defensive line, let the games begin!