Not All Garden Bugs Are Pests

Mostly we hate bugs. Unless they’re  Pixar bugs. We don’t want ants in the house (never mind cockroaches!) Spiders are just plain awful, and beetles look intimidating.

But in fact, none of them are bad for the garden.

So here are a few (of the many) bugs that we can happily live with.

Spittlebug, aka frog hopper because apparently the adult has a face like a frog.

Spittlebug, aka frog hopper because apparently the adult has a face like a frog.

Spitbug

Inside the spit in the leaf axil in the above picture is the larva of the spittlebug, or spit bug as I prefer to call it. The spit is protective, and bitter-tasting, altho’ I can’t speak from experience. The bug itself sucks juices out of the plant. But unless there are a few thousand of them, they won’t do any damage in the short time they are there, so you can quite safely ignore them. And the adults’ only harm is that they lay eggs which become spit bugs.

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Ants on a peony bud.

Ants

Ants worry people a bit because altho’ we don’t really think they do any damage themselves, it’s thought that they may spread plant diseases. They don’t. They’re pretty much harmless, even in large numbers.

This beetle looks pretty rough,  but it's a great garden helper.

This 1 inch beetle looks pretty ugly, but it’s a great garden helper.

Ground Beetle

According to About.com, the ground beetle, of which there are thousands of varieties, is one of the top ten beneficial insects in the garden. (And they say 90% of the bugs you see are beneficial, so top ten is pretty good!) They are scavengers, and take care of a lot of the soft-bodied pests we’d like to get rid of–slugs being my chief victim.

Aphids

A few aphids on a rose bud. There are not enough here to worry about of try to get rid of, they're food for the ladybugs.

A few aphids on a rose bud. There are not enough here to worry about of try to get rid of, they’re food for the ladybugs.

Everyone wants to get rid of them. But did you know that the ladybug is one of the beneficials in your garden, and if you destroy all the aphids, you won’t have the ladybugs. And if you use even mild pesticide, like Safer’s Soap, you’ll kill indiscriminately. You can easily put up with a few aphids. If there are more than a few, squish them with your gloved fingers, or shoot them off with a spray of water. Like most pests, aphids take advantage of weakened or stressed plants, so if you have an awful lot, check your plant’s health.

Bees and Such

I think this might be a bumble bee. It's pretty fat and fuzzy.

I think this might be a bumble bee. It’s pretty fat and fuzzy.

i thought this was a honey bee or mason bee, but no, it's a "syrphid fly", another of the best beneficials of the garden. Aphid eaters.

I thought this was a honey bee or mason bee, but no, it’s a “syrphid fly”, another of the best beneficials of the garden. Aphid eaters.

There’s almost nothing bad about “bees and such”, and so much that is good. Don’t step on them, and try not to let them fly under your clothes (experience talking), but other than that, your garden will love you for inviting these multitaskers in. Provide plants with sweet smells, and the bees and syrphids will seek them out, pollinating and pest-eating their ways through the garden.

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