Bugs! They’re everywhere in the garden – but who’s nice and who’s naughty? Correctly identifying insects means being able to encourage the goodies and deal appropriately with the baddies.

Integrated pest management is an important part of garden management and insect identification. The first rule of IPM is to visit your garden daily – be out there, note changes. IPM is also about supporting beneficial bugs. Many bugs are garden helpers and should be encouraged to forage and feed on garden pests.

Let’s talk bugs!

Meet the Goodies

There is a lot of buzz about bees these days, and for good reason. They pollinate edible and ornamental flowers, making it possible for us to continue to eat and enjoy gardening. Remember, bees are quite docile and don’t want to sting – it will mean the end of their life.

Green lacewing

Green lacewing. Photo: Fairfax County Public Schools

Butterflies, dragonflies, and many spiders are also well-known as “goodies” for gardeners. But there are even more good bugs.

Have you ever seen a lacewing? They are delicate little bugs that are a welcome site in the garden. Lacewings love to eat aphids. Their larvae also eat scale insects, leafhoppers, thrips and small flies. If you see aphids, consider tolerating them for a little while before choosing chemical controls. If there are lacewings around they will find the aphids, enjoy the feast, and do the work for you.

Lady beetle larva

Lady beetle larva. Photo: whatsthatbug.org

Lady beetles are well-known for being great garden helpers. Their larva is quite striking and likely not as familiar. However, be sure you can identify lady beetle larva to help protect them.

Soldier beetles, seen in the top photo, are garden friends, too. They have soft, leathery wings and can vary in color from yellow to red with brown or black accents. The larvae and adults are predators of aphids and caterpillers and they eat the eggs of grasshoppers, beetles, and moths.

They may wait for their prey on flowers, occasionally sipping nectar, but they do no harm to plants.

To attract soldier beetles, plant marigolds and goldenrod.

Identify the Baddies:

Japanese beetle

Photo: Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota

Some bugs are bad, indeed, and need to be controlled to protect our flowers, veggies, trees and shrubs.

Japanese beetles – the bane of many gardeners. These invasive, voracious pests are on a three-year cycle. This means if they are terrible one year, they may not be so bad the next two, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone.

Tonkadale carries Bonide Japanese Beetle Killer, Garden Dust, and other products designed to kill Japanese beetles.

Two types of aphids

Left photo: David Cappaert, Michigan State University, bugwood.org. Right photo: Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota

Aphids are a common pest on plants in and out of doors. Small sap-suckers, they secrete a residue called honeydew and can range in color from translucent green to brown. Aphid damage is varied, including discolored leaves, curled and scrunched spots on leaves, and discolored or misshapen fruits and veggies.

Aphids have many natural predators, but populations can increase rapidly, so the first step to a good defense is to monitor your plants often. If the problem must be controlled chemically, there are several options, including organic. Tonkadale carries a variety of products: Neem Oil, Horticultural Spray Oil, and Insecticidal Soap can be used to manage aphid populations.

Though these are different kinds and colors of aphids, they are similar in size and shape.

Cucumber beetle

Photo: UMN Extension

Cucumber beetle attacks cucumber, summer and winter squash, and melons. Easy to spot, they are bright yellow with either black spots (this one is not as common) or black stripes. Not only do they eat the flowers and leaves, but they often carry a virus that causes bacterial wilt. The leaves will begin to wilt, and once healthy stems will quickly die. Once a plant has the virus it should be removed and destroyed.

An organic chemical control option good for a wide variety of pests is Bonide Eight. Be sure to follow label directions exactly.

There is also a variety of plants that combat bad bugs. Cucumber beetles don’t like radish or nasturtium, tomato hornworm finds borage and marigold unpleasant, and borers and aphids hate garlic, onion and chives.

Know your bugs and support your beneficials for gardening success!