Monday, May 22, 2006

More Beneficial Insects:

Here are some more of those wonderful carnivorous bugs to help keep your garden’s pests in check. Each listing includes some information you can use to attract these self-propelled seek and destroy professionals to your yard. You will also find links to more information.

Lace Wings: These elusive and beautiful insects come in blue and green with matching gossamer fairy wings that are sure to entrance most little girls. They are often attracted to porch lights on warm spring and summer evenings. When I was a child Grandma called them May and June bugs, and she kept the porch lights free of spider-webs so these good luck bugs would be safe. Their tiny green alligator-like larva are devastating to colonies of white fly. They also eat plant mites, insect eggs, aphids, thrips, mealy bugs, and whatever else they can catch. The adults are reported to be attracted to the flowers of wild lettuce and Queen Anne’s Lace, the flowers of several shrubs; California coffee berry, Eunoymus japonica, and Oleander; and the Chinese Tree of Heaven.

Money Bugs or Arboreal Ground Beetles: These round to oblong green, gold, or bronze beetles are about the size of a Ladybug. They are generally shy solitary creatures, which may explain why it is considered good luck if one happens to land on you. The adult money bugs are primarily pollen and nectar eaters and are said to be especially attracted to evening primrose and to a number of varieties of amaranth, including pig-weed. Recently I saw large numbers of the small oblong bronze variety resting on a Royal Empress Tree. The owner of the tree told me he did not have a slug problem in his yard. Young slugs are devoured by the larva stage of these beneficial insects. (The black ground beetles that actually live on the ground are predators too!) See: Empress Flowers and Ground Beetles.

Praying Mantis: Of all the beneficial insects, these are the ones really worth purchasing. Their egg cases release hundreds of tiny hunters, who begin their life feeding on aphids, ants, and flea beetles. Adult praying mantis can catch cabbage moths as they swoop in to lay their eggs. They are equally adept at catching cucumber beetles and stinkbugs. As long as you have plenty for them to eat, they are likely to stick around, and they may even breed and leave egg cases to hatch the following spring.

Snakefly: These unusual and solitary creatures are occasionally found hunting in the garden. The first time you see one it can be a bit startling. They have a long slender neck and powerful mandibles for reaching down into plant crevasses and extracting tender aphids and scale. Their large translucent wings are reminiscent of a dragonfly, but when resting they fold along the creature’s back and sides. While you are unlikely to attract snakeflies in abundance, they are said to appreciate clover, fennel, and yarrow. Those that do happen into your garden will make a great lesson in observation and diversity for any children who also visit.

For more information, and more bugs see my articles on:
Beneficial Insects
Sex and Magic in the Garden
Orgy Aftermath

Next time we will be talking about the secret life of seeds. Until them you can find me in the garden . . .


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