Bugs that eat bugs

The more we discover about synthetic pesticides, herbicides and insecticides the more we learn how unhealthy they are for the environment and the people and animals that live in it. Pesticides can create more problems than they solve.

Spraying garden chemicals to get rid of bugs and weeds not only cause health risks, they often aren’t even that effective. Initially, they will kill off a lot of pests, but eventually these pests can develop resistance to the pesticide and come back even stronger. Another problem is the side effects many synthetic pesticides can have on unintended targets (think of DDT and birds).

The best plan is to avoid the need to use pest control in the first place by starting with healthy fertile soil, matching your plants to the soil type, ensuring proper sunlight levels and watering conditions, and using appropriate organic fertilization and pruning, when necessary. But, if that doesn’t work there are many alternatives to chemical pesticides that can reduce pests while leaving a healthy environment for your plants, pets and family.


At Planet Natural we offer a large selection of natural and organic pest control solutions that are guaranteed SAFE and effective. From beneficial insects to botanical sprays, we only carry the best. Also, visit our Pest Problem Solver for pest pictures, descriptions and a complete list of earth-friendly remedies.

Barriers & Repellents

Barriers and repellents help keep bugs out of the garden. They can act like a wall preventing crawling insects from accessing your home or vegetables. For example, by planting carrots in toilet paper rolls cutworms can’t get to them. Plants can provide a living barrier to insects, too. Peppermint, spearmint and pennyroyal naturally deter aphids and ants, so plant them throughout your garden and these pests will stay away.

Simmering cedar twigs in water and then pouring the (cooled) water over plants will deter cutworms, corn earworms and other pests. Snails won’t cross a line of lime, just as ants avoid cayenne pepper or iron phosphate — a natural inorganic material widely used as a nutritional supplement — keeps slugs at bay.

In addition to the many “do it yourself” pest remedies, you can purchase organic pest control products that work on just about anything lurking around the garden or home.

Beneficial Insects

Lady beetles, green lacewings and praying mantis are but a few of the beneficial insects that will prey on the garden pests you don’t want. These “good” bugs can be lured into the garden with attractive habitat (food, shelter and water) or they can be purchased and released into the garden — you’ll still need a healthy habitat for them to survive.

There are many reasons to introduce beneficial bugs into your garden. Over the long term, they are safer and more effective than chemicals, but you’ll need to do a little research first to determine what your specific pest problem is and which beneficial insects to enlist to help. Luckily, the Internet provides a wealth of resources, as does your local extension service.

Biological Pest Control

Naturally occurring insect diseases caused by protozoa, bacteria, fungi and viruses, biological pest controls are effective against their target insects but are nontoxic to humans, pets, wildlife and beneficial insects. They are also less likely to build pest resistance than chemical pesticides and they break down quickly in the environment.


Approved for organic gardening, Monterey Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a naturally occurring soil bacteria ideal for controlling cabbageworm, tent caterpillars, gypsy moth, tomato hornworm and other leaf eating caterpillars. Will NOT harm people, pets, birds, honeybees or beneficial insects.

One of the better-known biological pesticides is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is often used against leaf and needle feeding caterpillars. This bacterium is found naturally in soils around the world and paralyzes the digestive tracts of the insects that eat it.

Spinosad is an insecticide derived from the bacteria Saccharopolyspora spinosa and can be used as an alternative to malathion sprays. Spinosad has been found to kill medflies, but not the predators that eat them, and it is approved for use on food crops. It also helps control thrips, caterpillars, leafminers, fruit flies, borers, and much more.

A third (of many) biological pest controls is milky spore powder which targets the white grubs of Japanese beetles. When the grubs come to the surface of the lawn to feed (usually July or August) they ingest the bacteria. These milky spores germinate and multiply inside the grub, killing it.

Home Pest Control

Inside the home is probably where most people are concerned about what sort of pest control they use. Choosing an organic way to get rid of fleas, roaches, mice and other creatures will help keep your family and pets healthy and safe.

Boric acid powder acts as a stomach poison to insects and can be used to control cockroaches, ants, termites, and many other household pests. When these insects walk through it, the boric acid sticks to their legs and is carried back to the colony. The fine powder is ingested as the insects groom each other. Boric acid is less toxic to humans and pets than table salt.

Tip: Make your own ant bait by mixing 2 Tbsp boric acid powder with one 8 oz. jar of mint jelly. Place the bait on small cardboard squares and position these “bait stations” in areas where pests are noticed.

Mice can be caught in either live or snap traps. It is best to set these along the edge of a wall (not in the middle of the room) where the rodents are likely to travel. If you choose a live or humane mouse trap, be sure not to contact the mouse and take it far from your home — and not near someone else’s!

To get rid of fleas you’ll need to treat the host (your cat or dog), the house and the yard. Here’s how:

  1. A citrus repellent can be made by boiling lemons and letting it sit overnight. The next day, spray your pet down.
  2. For the home, sprinkle regular table salt or boric acid (test for color fastness) over the carpet, let sit overnight and vacuum the next day. Wash all pet bedding in hot water, adding eucalyptus oil to the final rinse.
  3. In the yard, diatomaceous earth can be applied to all pet resting areas or wherever fleas are suspected.


Kills insects FAST! Safer® Diatomaceous Earth (aka Ant & Crawling Insect Killer) is made from the fossilized remains of tiny freshwater algae-like creatures called diatoms. A mild abrasive, it kills insects within 48 hours of contact… indoors or out!

Traps & Lures

Everyone is familiar with the common mouse trap — the one with the big hunk of cheese that shows up in cartoons. But, traps can be used to catch insects as well as mammals.

Traps use visual lures, pheromones or food to attract pests and capture them, without hurting other insects, animals or the environment.

Traps can either be used to monitor or control a population. When monitoring a population, insect traps can help determine when the insect emerges, how many there are and other information important in deciding what to do about a specific pest.

Traps used to control a population do just that — they capture insects or rodents and (usually) kill them. Sometimes traps alone can take care of your pest problem, other times they are best used in conjunction with another pest management tool. For example, fly traps work well to attract and trap adult filth flies while fly parasites attack and kill immature fly pupae.

Natural Pesticides

Natural insecticides are generally botanical, meaning they are derived from plants that have insecticidal properties. Compared to chemical pesticides they have fewer toxic effects and break down much more quickly in the environment. However, they are still poisons so only indulge as a last resort.

Botanical Insecticide Use Against
Neem caterpillars, gypsy moth, leaf miner, loopers, mealybug, thrips, whitefly
Nicotine Sulfate aphids, spider mites, thrips and other sucking insects
Pyrethrum aphid, cabbageworm, flea beetle, flies, harlequin bug, leafhopper, Mexican bean beetle, spider mite, squash bug
Rotenone aphid, cabbage worm, carpenter ant, Colorado potato beetle, cucumber beetle, flea beetle, fleas, Japanese beetle, loopers, Mexican bean beetle, mites, spittlebug
Ryania aphid, codling moth, corn earworm, oriental fruit moth, thrips
Sabadilla armyworm, blister beetle, cabbage looper, cucumber beetle, harlequin bug, leafhopper, stink bug

As mentioned above, you’ll need to do a little research before selecting an insecticide so you know specifically which one to choose. Apply all these pesticides locally — do not blanket spray the whole garden — to minimize their risk.

If you are trying to get or keep organic certification be sure to check the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) or the National Organic Program (NOP) for a list of materials approved for organic use in the United States. Planet Natural also maintains a list of organic products — all OMRI Listed — offered on their website.

Soaps and Oils

Insecticidal soaps and oils are most effective on soft-bodied, sucking insects such as aphids, spider mites, whitefly and mealybugs. While less effective against many hard-shelled, adult insects (such as beetles), they can be used to control their immature larval stages and eggs. As a result, timing the application is an important factor when using these natural insecticides.

The fatty acids in Insecticidal Soap (this is not the same thing as dish soap) penetrate the insect’s outer covering and cause the cells to collapse, thereby killing the pest. It must be applied directly to the insect and will not be effective once it is dry. Insecticidal soap is considered a least-toxic pesticide and will not harm beneficial insects such as praying mantis and ladybugs.


100% organic. Safer® Insecticidal Soap is made from naturally occurring plant oils and animal fats. Penetrates the protective outer shell of soft bodied insect pests and causes dehydration and death within hours.

Horticultural oil is a highly refined paraffinic oil, that once mixed with water is sprayed on plant foliage. It works by coating and suffocating insect pests and their eggs and can be used throughout the year as both a dormant and growing season spray.

d-Limonene, made from the oil extracted from citrus rind, is a relatively new organic insecticide that works by destroying the waxy coating of an insect’s respiratory system. Ideal for use in the kitchen and around the home, d-Limonene can be used to combat fleas, ants and cockroaches. In a recent study, d-Limonene (found in Orange Guard) was shown to reduce cockroach populations more effectively than Dursban, the toxic ingredient in Raid®.

Note: d-Limonene is approved by the FDA as a food additive, and is found in products such as fruit cakes, cleaners, air fresheners and pet shampoos.


Often plant diseases can be avoided by ensuring good draining soil and adequate air movement. But, when that doesn’t work and your plants start to show signs of rust, moldy coatings, blotches, wilting, scabs and rotted tissue it’s time to apply a fungicide.

Tip: Visit our page on Plant Diseases for help identifying some of the more common disease fungi affecting vegetables, flowers, trees and turf. Chock-full of information, we provide pictures and descriptions, plus a complete list of earth-friendly remedies for combatting them.

Sulfur and copper are two broad spectrum organic fungicides that have low toxicity to animals, including humans. However, you still need to exercise caution and read the instructions before applying them. It’s also important to respect their temperature limitations.

Copper fungicide can be used on vegetables, roses, fruits and turf. For best results it should be applied before the disease is visible or when it is first noticed on the plant. Liquid Copper Fungicide is effective against peach leaf curl, powdery mildew, black spot, rust, anthracnose, fire blight and bacterial leaf spot and is approved for organic gardening. Spray all plant parts thoroughly, and repeat every 7-10 days.

Sulfur Fungicide is a finely ground wettable powder that can be used on fruits, vegetables and flowers. The extremely fine particle size provides better coverage and adhesion over fruit and leaf surfaces, resulting in greater efficiency. Sulfur Plant Fungicide is effective against powdery mildew, rust, scab, brown rot and much more. Do NOT apply during periods of high temperature or within two weeks of an oil spray as burning may occur.

A new broad spectrum bio-fungicide that is approved for use in organic production is known as Serenade Garden Disease Control. Containing a strain of Bacillus subtilis, it provides protection against many of the most common fungal and bacterial diseases, including bacterial leaf blight, botrytis, early blight, fire blight, late blight, powdery mildew and scab. For best results, treat prior to disease development or at the first sign of disease infection. Repeat at 7-day intervals or as needed.

How to Get Rid of Bugs in Your Garden

Insects are our friends AND our enemies in the garden. Today’s gardeners know that some chemicals that eliminate bugs in your garden can also be bad for people, pets, and the environment. They’re expensive, and they take time to apply.

To safely get rid of bad bugs in your garden, start with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to control threats to your flowers, trees, shrubs, and vegetables.

IPM combines cultural, physical, biological, and chemical tools to manage the garden. Begin by starting with the least toxic method, then work your way through six steps.

Learn how to identify and treat 10 common garden pests.

Using IPM to Get Rid of Bugs

The levels of Integrated Pest Management, in order of use, are:

  1. Establish acceptable pest levels.
  2. Take preventive cultural measures.
  3. Monitor pests.
  4. Add physical controls.
  5. Use biological controls.
  6. Apply chemical controls.

Follow these steps on an individual basis with each type of garden bug, then proceed in order until you reach the control level that’s right for you.

Establish acceptable pest levels. What is the acceptable level of aphids in your garden? Some people cannot accept any while others think they’ll do relatively little overall damage and tolerate them. Leaf miners leave white squiggly lines in plant leaves; the most effective control is to simply pluck off and dispose of the affected leaves.

Learn how to control aphids.

Explore ways to stop leaf miners.

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Take preventive cultural measures. If you have cabbage loopers, consider not growing plants such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale for a season. If you have grasshoppers, plant marigolds, calendula, or sunflowers nearby to attract robber flies, which attack grasshoppers.

Get rid of cabbage loopers.

Check out other ways to control grasshoppers.

Monitor pests. Pay attention to the garden. Look for the presence of pests such as cucumber beetles or other bugs you want to get rid of. There’s no point in taking curative measures if the pest isn’t present.

Figure out how to manage cucumber beetles.

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Add physical controls. If you find Japanese beetles or tomato hornworms, for example, knock them off your plants into a bucket of soapy water. Wear gloves to minimize the “ick” factor. Webworms, fall-prowling caterpillars that make large nests that look like webs in the leaves of trees and shrubs, can easily be dealt with by removing the webbing with a long-handle tool, such as a rake. Once the webbing is gone, birds will find and snap up the caterpillars.

Stop Japanese beetles.

Eliminate tomato hornworms.

Beat webworms.

Use biological controls. Biological controls can take a variety of forms. Sawflies, for example, respond to a natural spray containing spinosad. You can also use “good bug” predators against some insects. Try beneficial nematodes — microscopic worms that live in the soil — to combat a grub problem.

Get sawflies under control.

Stop grubs.

Apply chemical controls. The last resort is always to use an insecticide. For example, you can use a variety of IPM controls to control squash bugs such as protecting plants with floating row covers, picking them off by hand, and planting marigolds, calendula, sunflower, daisy, alyssum, or dill to attract beneficial insect predators. But you may still end up needing an insecticide product containing carbaryl or permethrin.

Get rid of squash bugs.

If you’re unsure which IPM measure to take, begin by researching the bug you want to get rid of. There are many natural and nontoxic ways to control garden pests.

Discover other nontoxic controls for garden pests.

Finally, remember that many bugs — bees, lady beetles, green lacewings, and praying mantis, to name a few — are beneficial. You want them in your yard. Don’t eliminate a bug just because it’s a bug!

Learn other ways to stop garden pests.

  • By Deb Wiley

02 May Naturals Ways to Get Rid of Pests and Insects

Posted at 08:00h in Insect & Pest Control by kellogggarden

While oddball bugs pop up in the garden from time to time, there’s a short list of usual suspects that most gardeners intimately know. They seem to be sitting on the sidelines, ready and waiting for their chance to decimate your roses, damage your squash, and devour your tomatoes. Here are the Top 5 garden pests — and how to control them organically!

As always, cultivating strong and healthy plants goes a long way to deterring unwanted and damaging garden pests — start with healthy soil and ensure adequate sunlight and water, but consider this bug-by-bug strategy if things start to get out of hand.

  1. Aphids — Raise your hand if you have never had an aphid problem in your garden. Aphids are one of the most common and destructive garden pests, sucking the sap from veggies, fruits, flowers, and even shade trees. These tiny bugs are pear shaped with two long antennae and two black “tubes” that project rearward from their abdomens. When you see them, use a hard spray of water from your hose to dislodge them. Encourage natural predators like lacewings, lady beetles (aka ladybugs), and aphid midges.
  1. Scale — Scale looks very different depending upon the stage of development, but all of them suck your plant’s sap. Adult females look like hard bumps on leaves, stems, or fruit, while males are tiny flying insects. Larvae are tiny and soft crawling insects with threadlike mouthparts. Encourage native predators, and prune off infested parts of the plant or gently scrub them off with soapy water. Neem oil or dormant oil sprays are also good alternatives.

  1. Cutworms — These destructive pests are about 1” long, fat, and gray or black colored. Mostly active at night, they damage young veggie and flower transplants by chewing through the stems at ground level. Use cutworm collars to protect tender stems, and hand-pick these beasts off when you see them.
  1. Slugs — Slugs are slimy creatures that look like snails without shells, and they do a number on the young, tender leaves of veggies, flowers, and ornamental plants. Hand pick them off when you see them, use iron phosphate baits, diatomaceous earth, or beer traps. Some gardeners report success with spreading crushed eggshells around the base of their plants. If you’re interested in a little urban farming, ducks are a great natural slug control.
  1. Squash bugs — Both summer and winter squash are susceptible to squash bug damage, but the good news is that because they are so easy to spot due to their size and veggie preference that control is fairly easy. Simply pick them off your plants and feed them to your chickens or ducks if you have them. Clean up winter squash at the end of the season to interrupt their life cycle, and consider delaying your summer squash planting to a bit — this tactic allows native predators to become more numerous. Row covers are another good idea — if they can’t see it, they won’t come.

How To Control Aphids Organically

Aphids, family name Aphididae, are a common pest to gardeners, commercial growers and greenhouses due to their wide species diversity and rapid reproductive cycle. There are some 1,351 species of aphids currently recorded in the US and Canada, of which about 80 species are pests of food crops and ornamental plants. Most get their names from the plants they attack, i.e. the green peach aphid, the cabbage aphid, or the rose aphid.

Identification & Appearance:

Aphids are slow moving and come in shades of green, red, brown, black and yellow. Their oblong bodies have two small tubes, called cornicles, projecting from their rear that are unique to them. These allow aphids to get rid of excess sugar in the form of honeydew. They have needlelike mouthparts which they use to suck juices out of plants. Aphids do not chew. If you notice chewing damage on a plant, look to identify a different culprit.

Aphid Damage:

Each plant reacts differently to aphid attacks. Some show no adverse response to aphids, while others react with twisted, curled or swollen leaves and/or stems. Symptoms of aphid damage include decreased growth rates, mottled leaves, leaf yellowing, stunted growth, browning, wilting, low yields and death. Due to the way they feed, aphids can vector bacterial and viral diseases, which can be much more difficult to control than the aphid population. For instance, the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) is a vector for more than 110 plant viruses.

One of the most common annoyances caused by aphids is their excessive waste production, called “honeydew”. This sticky substance drips onto plant leaves and stems and can harbor fungal diseases like Powdery Mildew and Black Sooty Mold. These can leave plants with unsightly patches and limit growth potential. Once the aphids are eliminated, the foliar fungal diseases often dry up and die.

5-Step Aphid Control:

1.) Trap & Monitor

  • Yellow Sticky Traps work well for outdoor and potted plants where localized monitoring is desired.
  • Ribbon Traps are best for row crops and greenhouse settings. They save time and energy while giving thorough coverage.

2.) Repellent Sprays

  • Broadcast spray Garlic Barrier for small or large scale applications. It gives broad spectrum insect repellent action with limited contact effects.

3.) General Predators

  • Effective releases of Green Lacewing limit aphid population growth and can control moderate pest issues in a garden or farm. For severe infestations, consider an aphid parasite (listed below).
  • Ladybugs control most common garden pests, but only work with temperatures 62-88°F.
  • Assassin Bugs are less affected by heat than ladybugs and are effective aphid predators. Like other predators & parasites, release assassin bugs at the first sighting of aphids.
  • If you need a fast-feeding beneficial, Minute Pirate Bugs are best. They continue to control insects after feeding making them reliable for curbing population growth.

4.) Knockdown Sprays

  • Insecticidal Soap sprays should be used early in the season before high aphid numbers are spotted. Minimize impacts on existing beneficials with these residue-free sprays. Low risk to beneficial insects when sprayed carefully.
  • Neem Oil acts as a growth and feeding inhibitor while preventing respiration. Use as a contact insecticide for moderate infestations. High risk to beneficial insects in the growing area.
  • BotaniGard 22WP should be applied to affected crop area to control ongoing aphid issues. It uses Beauveria bassiana to infect aphids, spreading White Muscardine disease throughout the pest populations. Provides longer term control than chemical sprays. Low risk to beneficial insects.

5.) Aphid Parasites

  • Aphidius colemani are most effective between 70° – 77°F. They require two weeks for development and up to 200-300 aphids are attacked by each female. Fertilized eggs develop into females and non-fertilized eggs develop into males. The female has a pointed abdomen, while the male’s abdomen is round-shaped.
  • Aphelinus abdominalis like temperatures beginning at 68°F. They are very versatile because they parasitize a wide range of aphid species and work effectively in fields and greenhouses.
  • Aphidius ervi consume larger aphids and prefer temperatures between 65° to 77°F with relative humidity of 60-80%. They work at higher temperatures but show a decline in activity at temperatures above 86°F.
  • Aphidoletes aphidimyza controls aphids including the green peach aphid as well as the hemlock wooly adelgid. A. aphidimyza prefers greenhouse and indoor environments with temperatures 60-77° with relative humidity of 70%.

Hugh Dingle, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey) Yes, they will!

Milkweed bugs gained the nickname of “seed eaters” for primarily eating the seeds of milkweed.

Actually, they are opportunistic and generalists, says Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.

They will eat monarch eggs and larvae (milkweed is the host plant of monarchs), as well as the oleander aphids that infest the milkweed.

We recently watched a large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) munch oleander aphids on a narrow-leafed milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. Between the milkweed bugs and the lady beetles, aka ladybugs), they absolutely cleaned off all the aphids, the first time in years.

Milkweed without aphids? Unbelievable! That’s like macaroni without cheese, a pencil without paper, or a hammer without a nail. It’s a “given” that if you grow milkweed, you’ll get aphids. Some monarch butterfly enthusiasts kill the aphids with a soapy water mixture (which we’ve done in the past), but this year, we let biocontrol reign.

It worked wonderfully!

“Milkweed bugs will get protein from wherever they can find it,” says Dingle, an insect migration biologist and author of the textbook, Animal Migration: the Biology of Life on the Move. They’ve been known to feed on insects trapped in the sticky pollen of the showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa). And on nectar.

Dingle served as a professor at UC Davis Department of Entomology from 1982 to 2002, achieving emeritus status in 2003. National Geographic featured him in its cover story on “Great Migrations” in November 2010. LiveScience interviewed him for its November 2010 piece on“Why Do Animals Migrate?”

A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Animal Behavior Society, Dingle has done research throughout the world, including the UK, Kenya, Thailand, Panama, Germany and Australia.

Dingle is a former secretary of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology and past president of the Animal Behavior Society. He received the Edward A. Dickson Professional Award in 2014 to do research on “Monarchs in the Pacific: Is Contemporary Evolution Occurring on Island Islands? (See news story on Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)

Not all bugs are bad. Insects get labeled as “pests” when they start causing harm to people or the things we care about, like plants, animals, and buildings. Out of nearly one million known insect species, only about one to three percent are ever considered pests. What about the rest of them? Some insects actually help us by keeping the pests in check.

If we let them do their jobs, many types of insects can actually help us out:

  • By preying on pest insects.
    Spiders are predators of insects. So are some types of beetles, flies, true bugs, and lacewings.
  • By parasitizing pest insects.
    Parasitic insects, like some small wasps, lay their eggs inside insects or their eggs. This can help drive the pest population down.
  • By pollinating plants.
    Insects like native bees, honeybees, butterflies, and moths can provide this service, helping plants bear fruit.
  • Don’t forget about non-insect beneficial animals!
    Birds and bats are examples of animals that can feed on pest insects.

Think about it this way: your backyard ecosystem is a cafeteria for all sorts of insects. The balance of that system depends on whether you cater to the “pest” insects or to the “beneficial” ones.

What can you do to cater to beneficial insects?

  1. Attract them to your yard, garden, or other landscape.
    • Include a variety of native plants to provide a variety of food sources (like nectar).
    • Provide shelter for them. Include a mixture of features like ground cover plants, dead leaves or other plant material, and some areas of bare soil.
  2. Protect them so that they can help you in return.
    • Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
      • Identify the pest – make sure it’s not actually a beneficial insect!
      • Decide how many of the pest insects are tolerable. Remember, some pests are necessary to feed the beneficial insects and some plant damage is natural for any ecosystem.
      • Think about using alternative control methods while you wait for the beneficial insects to take over for you. Be patient, it can sometimes take several days for them to make a difference.
      • If you choose to use a pesticide, consider selecting one that will target your pest specifically, rather than a broad-spectrum product.
  3. Keep your lawn and other plants healthy. Give them appropriate amounts of nutrients, water, sunlight, and do regular upkeep. A healthy ecosystem will have fewer pest outbreaks.

Learn about attracting and protecting beneficial insects by digging deeper:

Beneficial Insects:

Beneficial Insects:

Beneficial Insects:

Natural Enemies
Quick List

Additional Resources:

  • Finding Pollinator Attractive Plants – Rutgers University
  • Conservation of Beneficial Insects: Strengths and Gaps in Resources – 2016 National Conference on Urban Entomology (NCUE) Presentation
  • Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden Using Native Plants – US Forest Service
  • Beneficial Insects and Spiders – University of Maine
  • Beneficial Landscaping: Insects – US EPA Region 10
  • Natural Enemy Releases for Biological Control of Crop Pests – University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Natural Pest Control: Using Beneficial Insects to Control Landscape Pests – Rutgers Cooperative Extension
  • Encouraging Beneficial Insects on Your Farm – Penn State Extension

Pictures of Beneficial Insects:

Last updated August 26, 2019

Beneficial Insect

Beneficial insects are predatory and parasitic in nature and are often used as a pest control mechanism in organic farming and gardening or in integrated pest management (IPM). Such insects can be manually introduced into a garden habitat or they can be attracted naturally by growing pollen and nectar plants nearby. Some of these attractive plants include rose, cilantro, marigold, milkweed, and dandelion.

Beneficial insects also require adequate protection so that they can thrive and combat the garden pests. The most common and beneficial of these insects include ladybugs, lacewings, earwigs, assassin bugs, ground beetles, and tachinid flies.

Horticulturalists can buy these insects from companies that specialize in biological pest control. Beneficial insects are most effective in enclosed plant-growing areas, such as greenhouses and indoor gardens and plant nurseries.

The IPM program aims to use beneficial bugs for pest control in the early stages of pest development and use insecticides as a last resort. Beneficial insects have greater success rates when they are released while the pest populations are low to medium. They do not work as fast as pesticides or insecticides, so it takes time for beneficial insects to combat pests.

Garden Ladybugs

The Garden Variety

Two bags of 1500 Ladybugs, and 1,000 Green lacewing eggs.

Garden Deluxe Variety

Two bags of 1500 Ladybugs, 1,000 Green lacewing eggs, and 5 Mil. HB & SC Nematodes mixed.

Ladybugs will feed on other pests, but are best known to eliminate aphid populations, and are one of the most active predators. They search all day from dawn to dusk for food. Ladybugs are shipped in the adult stage and is one of the most effective economically important insect predator known.

When you buy ladybugs from almost any other source they have been hauled all around the United States from 2 to 3 different companies. It is best to order fresh healthy ladybugs and have them delivered directly to you from a reliable source. This stresses out the ladybugs, robbing them of their vigor, aphid eating and reproduction capabilities. Other ladybugs may travel an extra 900 to 4,000 miles over 3 to 5 days or more before they reach you! Our ladybugs are shipped FedEx next day delivery or FedEx second day delivery, your choice.

Ladybug eggs are football-shaped and orange in color and laid in circular clusters of 3-20 on the underside of leaves. Each female can lay 10-50 eggs daily. The larve consume up to 400 aphids at a rate of 50-60 aphids a day in later stages. If food supplies are short they will cannibalize each other. Larvae live for three weeks before pupating.

After 2-5 days adults emerge and continue to feed. Pollen and nectar are necessary for maturation of newly emerged lady bug adults, particularly before a winter hibernation season. Adults can survive on pollen and nectar for limited periods, but a supply of aphids or other prey is necessary for egg production.

Pests Attacked

Most lady beetles found on crops and in gardens are aphid predators. Some species prefer only certain aphid species while others will attack many aphid species on a variety of crops. Some prefer mite or scale species. If aphids are scarce, lady beetle adults and larvae may feed on the eggs of moths and beetles, and mites, thrips, and other small insects, as well as pollen and nectar. They may also be cannibalistic. Because of their ability to survive on other prey when aphids are in short supply, lady beetles are particularly valuable natural enemies.

Life Cycle

Within a year, there can be as many as 5-6 generations of ladybugs as the average time from egg to adult only takes about 3-4 weeks. In the spring, adults find food and then the females lay anywhere from 50-300 eggs. The tiny eggs are yellow & oval shaped and are usually found in clusters of 10-50, near aphid colonies. The eggs take 3-5 days to hatch and the larvae voraciously feed on aphids for 2-3 weeks before they pupate into adults.

In the fall, adults hibernate in plant refuse and crevices. They often do this in mass where several hundred adults will gather at the base of a tree, along a fence row or under a rock. They especially like areas where leaves protect them from cold winter temperatures. Like all beetles, the lady beetles have a complete metamorphosis with distinct egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. Adults of one common species, the Convergent Lady Beetle (Hippodamia convergens), spend the winter in protected hiding places such as logs, buiIdings, ground covering vegetation, and the like, where many hundreds of individuals may cluster together. With the onset of spring the adults leave their winter homes and fly to fields and yards where mating takes place. The females deposit the eggs in clusters of up to a dozen per mass. The larvae hatch from the eggs in about a week and immediately start to consume aphids or other appropriate food. In a little less than a month they pupate and the pupal period lasts only about one week. When the adults emerge they too feed on aphids, but as fall approaches they may eat some pollen which supplies fat for winter hibernation.

Attracting Ladybugs in the Garden

Apart from aphids, ladybugs also require a source of pollen for food and are attracted to specific types of plants. The most popular ones have umbrella shaped flowers such as fennel, dill, cilantro, caraway, angelica, tansy, wild carrot & yarrow. Other plants that also attract ladybugs include cosmos (especially the white ones), coreopsis, and scented geraniums, dandelions.

When you are home, put the bag in a cool place (refrigerator) until late in the day or early morning. Do not release the ladybugs during the heat of the day or while the sun is shining. Sprinkle or irrigate the area before releasing, so the ladybugs will have a drink of water after their journey.

Being wild creatures, ladybugs will leave if they don’t like their new home. You may have to experiment to provide the right environment for them. As I mention above, it is important to release the ladybugs in the evening or later because they will not fly at night and need a settling down period after being handled.

When releasing, gently scatter or spread them out so each ladybug can find food immediately. To help ensure the success of your program, there are many ways you can improve the habitat for beneficial insects. One of these is to keep moisture levels high, as many beneficials require high humidity or ready access to free water droplets. High humidity is more easily maintained by having plants close together. The garden or field should have various lowering plants to provide nectar and pollen for adult beneficial insects. In general, a mixture of closely-growing plants and flowers will greatly benefit both native and beneficial insects. This should result in higher productivity for your organic garden or farm.

Ladybugs are also called lady beetles or ladybird beetles, are natural enemies of many insect pests and it has been demonstrated that a single lady beetle may consume as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.

Apart from planting attractive plants in the garden, you can also promote ladybug populations by elimination of spraying insecticides. Not only are ladybugs sensitive to most synthetic insecticides, but if the majority of their food source is gone, they won’t lay their eggs in your garden. As difficult as it may be, allowing aphids to live on certain plants is necessary to ensure that there is enough food for ladybugs. In addition, resist the urge to squish bugs & eggs in the garden, unless you’re certain that they are not beneficial.


  • When you are home, put the bag in a cool place (refrigerator) until late in the day or early morning. Do not release the ladybugs during the heat of the day or while the sun is shining. Sprinkle or irrigate the area before releasing, so the ladybugs will have a drink of water after their journey.
  • Being wild creatures, ladybugs will leave if they don’t like their new home. You may have to experiment to provide the right environment for them. As I mention above, it is important to release the ladybugs in the evening or later because they will not fly at night and need a settling down period after being handled.
  • When releasing, gently scatter or spread them out so each ladybug can find food immediately. To help ensure the success of your program, there are many ways you can improve the habitat for beneficial insects. One of these is to keep moisture levels high, as many beneficials require high humidity or ready access to free water droplets. High humidity is more easily maintained by having plants close together. The garden or field should have various lowering plants to provide nectar and pollen for adult beneficial insects. In general, a mixture of closely-growing plants and flowers will greatly benefit both native and beneficial insects. This should result in higher productivity for your organic garden or farm.
  • Ladybugs are also called lady beetles or ladybird beetles, are natural enemies of many insect pests and it has been demonstrated that a single lady beetle may consume as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.

Ladybug Benefits

Known as lady beetles or even ladybird beetles, these familiar round little beetles are well known in children’s nursery rhymes and picture books.

The larvae do not look anything like their parents. They look somewhat like alligators with their long narrowed dark bodies and spiked projections!

Extremely beneficial to gardeners and their gardens, the adults and larvae will prey on aphids, spider mites and mealy bugs.

So…What’s a Ladybug?

Ladybugs are also known as lady beetles or even ladybird beetles. In European countries they are referred to as “ladybirds.” Adult lady beetles are round beetles measuring no more than 3/8″ in length. They can be red, orange, or black in color with or without spots.

Larvae are said to look somewhat like an alligator in its shape with tiny spiked projections and orange striping on its blue or black body. Ladybug eggs are yellowish or whitish, oval-shaped and laying in clusters.

Prey of the Ladybug

The favorite foods of ladybugs include aphids, spider mites and mealybugs. They will also prey on eggs of some insects, particularly the European Corn Borer and the Colorado Potato Beetle.

Ladybugs in both the larval and adult stages feast on these insects. Interestingly, a ladybug will devour thousands of aphids in its lifetime!

Ladybug’s Habitat

Many species of ladybugs are found throughout the United States, although one, the Asian lady beetle, was more recently introduced into the United States. Ladybugs are generally found in agricultural fields, orchards and gardens where their favorite foods, aphids, insects and mealybugs can be found.

In the Fall, ladybugs will gather in large numbers in places where they will spend the winter – usually under rocks, leaves, old fallen trees and any other location sheltered from the weather.

They will sometimes aggregate on the outside of a house in the warmth. If they venture onto or into homes, they may appear to be somewhat of a pest to homeowners, but do not harm them, since they are so beneficial. Take them outside when you find them inside of your home. You may want to seal or caulk cracks and around windows to prevent them from entering your home.


Ladybugs, or lady beetles, are considered a beneficial bug which helps rid an area of crop-damaging aphids, mealybugs and other destructive insect pests.

The adult ladybugs feed on these insects. They also lay their eggs among the aphids or other prey so the emerging larvae can feed on the insects, too.

The only time they are considered to be “pests” to people is in the fall when the weather gets cooler, and the Asian lady beetles enter homes and other buildings in large numbers in search of a warm place to overwinter.

Vacuuming these beetles and discarding the bag may be the most effective method of removing these insects from your home. Remember, we don’t want to remove them from fields, orchards or gardens since they are so beneficial.

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by Sandy Swegel

There’s yet another reason not to try to kill off aphids outside, even with “safe” organic treatments like soapy water. If you kill the aphids, the aphid-eating wasps, another of those native beneficial insects, won’t have anything to eat and they’ll leave your garden.

Aphids are eaten by so many beneficial insects that it’s rather amazing that we see any aphids at all. Yet there are so many aphids on our plants sometimes. This week I’m seeing thousands on the new growth of roses. And while my first instinct is to kill the aphids in some way, I have finally learned to just watch them. I know what I am seeing is a mini population explosion of aphids that will usually be followed in a week or so by mini-population explosions of predators that eat aphids. If we try to kill off the aphids which are the bottom of the beneficial insect food chain, then the beneficials will fly away to another garden.

I knew about many of the predators of aphids like ladybugs and lacewings, but I learned yesterday that tiny native aphid-eating wasps eat a LOT of aphids. In addition to wasps that just eat the aphids, there are the parasitic wasps that lay their eggs inside the aphids. When the eggs hatch the tiny larvae eat their way out of the aphid. A bit gory, but effective guaranteeing enough food for baby wasps.

So I challenge you to a two-week experiment. Leave the aphids be when they show up and just watch the plants for a few days. See who shows up to dine on your aphids. Some possibilities include wasps, both large and small, hoverflies, ladybugs and lacewings. It will be a fascinating discovery of how many small beings live in your garden, there to help you keep everything in balance.

Let them eat aphids

You may never spot some of the most efficient natural pest controllers: tiny larvae that prey on soft-bodied insects, mites and insect eggs. Lacewing larvae look like miniature greenish-grey alligators and not only dispose of aphids but also attack caterpillars and insect larvae, piercing their prey and sucking out their juices. One larva can get through more than 100 aphids in an hour.

Brownish-green hoverfly larvae do severe damage to aphid colonies, and tiny greyish ladybird larvae are also voracious – and then the adults continue the killing . . .

Plants for the good guys

Every garden needs a variety of flowering plants because regular visits from bees and other pollinators will help it to thrive.

Nettles: if you can bear to, leave a patch of stinging nettles somewhere in the garden. It will attract a species of greenfly that provides food for early ladybird and hoverfly larvae. These then move on to feast on other insect pests.

Early flowers for food: aphids tend to stick to one type of plant, but their predators are not so fussy. To kickstart pest control, make sure you have some early flowering scented plants, such as wallflowers, to attract early pollinators.

Herbs: all helpful insects like aromatic herbs, so plant borage, hyssop, sages, lavender and mint in pots. A few lavender plants among your roses can make all the difference, and a hyssop hedge makes an attractive edging to vegetables or flowers. It will also deter cabbage butterflies.

In the border: tall (3ft-4ft), slightly scruffy, red-flowered buckwheat Fagopyron esculentum is irresistible to hoverflies and sits well at the back of a border, perhaps with the equally effective blue-flowered Phacelia tanacetiifolia.

The non-invasive Convolvulus tricolor Prince’s feather and other amaranths are a magnet for ladybirds, shield bugs (which gorge on mites), parasitic wasps and even slug-hungry ground-beetles. They look dramatic in a border or in a block in the vegetable garden.

Containers of plants work just as well as those planted in the ground, and any garden has room for a few tubs of clipped euonymus or some lavender balls.

Parsley and other umbellifers These attract lacewings, so include fennel, dill or angelica in your borders, or plant sweet cicely and cow parsley in shadier areas.

Parasitic wasps and hoverflies are also drawn to flowering heads of dill and fennel, and you could further encourage them by letting some parsley plants go to seed.

Annuals: some of the most cheerful annuals are as popular with friendly insects as they are with gardeners. The yellow and white flowers of the poached egg plant, Limnanthes douglasii, buzz with insects all day long, so sow it under herbaceous plants, shrubs and soft fruit. Both baby blue eyes, Nemophila menziesii, and candytuft, Iberis umbellata, are hoverfly favourites.

Feed the birds

Birds are sometimes seen as garden pests, but if you net fruit and cover seedlings, they become welcome visitors. Robins adore caterpillars and grubs, especially cutworms; starlings help to control gypsy moth and wireworm populations; tits and finches devour bud-frequenting insects; woodpeckers search out cranefly larvae; and thrushes adore snails.

A bird-friendly garden needs to provide shelter, water and food over a long season. Blackberry bushes are wildlife sanctuaries, the middle of the bushes providing a dry place for birds to nest or slug-eating hedgehogs to hibernate. Their late flowers feed insects when food is getting short, and the fruit then feeds birds until winter. Shrubs such as pyracantha are useful for winter cover as well as berries, and Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is good for its flowers.

Pond life

Any garden can have a pond. Toads, frogs and dragonflies are helpful predators and the way they appear from nowhere is amazing. I dug a pond last year and this spring it was heaving with frogs, which will help keep slugs down if they mature.

Surround the pond with plants such as Alchemilla mollis and hostas that give cool, moist shade for ground beetles and slow worms, the other great slug predators.

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Using Nature instead of Pesticides

The use of chemicals to get rid of bugs is sometimes a necessary evil, particularly when they invade your home or appear near food preparation areas. Insects in your home are a nuisance and the sooner you rid the problem, before infestation becomes out of control, the easier to terminate them with fewer applications. But when it comes to dealing with the garden and lawn, is using a pesticide considered overkill?

Using pesticides on food sources or in garden areas can cause concern especially if you prove allergic to the pesticides or it increases food allergies. The easiest solution to getting rid of critters that ravage your flowers or vegetation is to use nature, or beneficial insects.

Beneficial Insects: Ladybird Beetle (Ladybugs) and the Wasp

Beneficial insects are insects that help gardeners kill some of the worst vegetation assailants alive: the aphid and caterpillars. Aphids are also known as plant lice which suck the sap out of plants. More specifically, they feed on over fertilized vegetation. Two of the best known beneficial insects are ladybugs and wasps, because they prey on aphids and caterpillars.

Ladybugs, also known as Ladybird Beetles, rid these types of pests by laying eggs near them so that their larvae devour the aphids. The good news is that it’s easy to order ladybugs through the mail. Once they arrive, make sure to follow the specific instructions for how and when to release them for optimal results.

Wasps are beneficial because they prey on these pests as well. They also bring the groceries to their own nests, such as caterpillars and leaf beetles, so that their larvae can feed and grow. So if you’ve ever discovered a wasp nest near your garden and got rid of them, you probably noticed your garden leaves developing holes from the pests the wasps left behind.

Unfortunately, getting rid of wasps can be a painful experience, so using them as a replacement for a pesticide may not be ideal, especially if you’re allergic to their stings. Also, wasps and ladybugs don’t hang out nicely together because wasps are driven away by the smelly feet of ladybugs. Wasps tend to parasitically lay eggs in aphids, which is how they kill them, and the ladybug will eat the aphids with wasps’ eggs still inside. So in order to avoid this, wasps will leave when the pretty ladybug shows up with her smelly feet.

If you’re not sure what to do to create a healthier garden, then contact your Preventive Pest Control Houston for help. They can also help with lawn and weed control issues as well as getting rid of these nasty pests.

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