Don't bug me

5 insects that keep your garden healthy


If creepy crawlers in your garden give you the creeps, it may be time to re-assess the insects around you. Many of the insects that call your lawn and garden home are beneficial, and can help to control pests and problems in your yard.

We all know that lady bugs, bees and butterflies are great garden companions – not to mention the fact that they’re generally nice to look at. But what about their less appreciated counterparts: the ugly bugs doing the dirty work in your lawn?

Assassin Bugs: Assassin bugs (Reduviidae) are common across Florida and are just as stealthy and deadly as their name would imply – to pests. Assassin bugs are ambush predators that eat a wide variety the baddies in your garden, including other insects like flies and caterpillars. Assassin bugs attack with strong beaks, and can actually deliver painful bites to humans – so give these insects space and let them do their job without interfering.

Green Lacewing: Don’t let the delicate name and appearance of this insect fool you: green lacewings are predators that feed on a wide variety of small insects like mealybugs, psyllids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers and insect eggs. Many gardeners and farmers actually buy and release green lacewings to help with pest control, so be kind if you happen to see these insects in your garden for free.

Big-eyed Bug: Big-eyed bugs (Geocoris spp.) are great assets for your crops, ornamental plants and your lawn. These predators stalk their prey and eat insect eggs, other bugs, small caterpillars, flea beetles and mites.

Earwig: Earwigs may look like tiny nightmares, but they’re a dream come true for your lawn, where they live and prey on pests like chinch bugs, mole crickets and sod webworms. Earwigs get big – up to one inch – with mean-looking pinchers on their abdomens. Ugly as they are, according to the University of Florida, in lab studies they consume a whopping 50 chinch bugs a day!

Syrphid Fly: Syrphid or “hover” flies include about 900 different species and have the ability to hover in extended flight, and can even hover backwards. Syrphid flies resemble wasps and bees but do not sting. Their larvae are beneficial predators that eat harmful aphids. Adults also help with the cross pollination of some plants.