Your lawn is a diverse habitat for thousands of insects. These insects may live their entire life cycle in your lawn or garden space without you even noticing or thinking about them.
However, some of them are bad for your trees, shrubs, garden, and lawn, while others are beneficial and actually help to manage other pests. When you find or catch one, how do you know whether it’s a beneficial bug or a pest?
This article will introduce you to five beneficial predators and five beneficial parasites that are probably already present in your lawn or garden. If you live in North Texas then you are probably already aware of the common pests you can find in your garden.
The Predators: Ladybugs
Although best known as ladybugs, they are also referred to as lady beetles or ladybirds and they are a champion of the garden world. They are a common sight in both spring and summer and there are several kinds including the seven-spotted ladybug. Why are they beneficial?
Well, a major problem for lawn owners and gardeners are aphids. Aphids are small bugs that can damage grass and plants if left untreated.
Ladybugs eat aphids as well as other pests like mites and mealybugs. And they eat them in large quantities – potentially 60 in a day and over 5,000 in their short lifetime. In addition, ladybugs don’t harm the plants in your garden or the grass in your lawn.
The Predators: Spined Soldier Bugs
The spined soldier bug is ruthless in sucking out the juices of its prey. They specialize in hunting some of the worst pests including the very problematic and invasive Colorado Potato Beetle and the Mexican Bean Beetle.
Two important things to note are that they do drink from plants so it’s a good idea to keep everything well watered and secondly they are a type of stink bug, but are not the problematic kind and can be distinguished by the spines on their legs. They are voracious eaters and enormously beneficial to every gardener.
The Predators: Green Lacewings
Green lacewing larvae are predators, but the adult green lacewings focus on eating nectar.
The adults are frequently a greenish color and their wings are distinct in that they are see-through.
The larvae will demolish aphids, pest moth eggs, mealybugs, and spider mites.
Each green lacewing larvae can consume about 200 aphids over seven days and the larvae stage lasts two to three weeks, allowing them to control aphid populations more efficiently.
The Predators: Assassin Bugs
Assassin bugs are similar in appearance to squash bugs, a notorious pest, but are actually beneficial to have around your lawn.
They will eat caterpillars as well as spider mites by spearing them with their sharp mouths, called a proboscis, and sucking up the bugs insides.
Unlike some of the other insects on this list, assassin bugs will often have a lifespan of several years, allowing them to establish themselves in your garden or lawn and provide continuing pest management benefits.
The Predators: Praying Mantis
The praying mantis is the top predator in the garden and lawn. They will eat beetles, moths, and caterpillars as well as anything else that is small enough including beneficial insects.
Praying mantises are some of the most recognizable insects because of their body shape and their curved front legs. They come in colors ranging from green to brown to yellow or purple.
The Parasites: Braconid Wasps
Braconid wasps are hunters of garden pests not just to eat, but because it is where they lay their eggs. Some varieties will lay their eggs in beetles and stink bugs, while others will lay their eggs on the backs of tomato hornworms.
The adults will also eat aphids, beetles, flies, and caterpillars.
One particular braconid, known as the aphidius coleman wasp, primarily targets aphids and puts a single egg into each aphid.
The aphids die and provide the nutrients necessary for the young larvae to grow. All varieties of braconid wasps are small, usually less than half an inch long, and do not pose a threat of stinging people.
The Parasites: Tachinid Fly
The tachinid fly, often smaller in size than a small housefly, lays their eggs in a variety of pests that regularly cause gardeners and lawn owners huge headaches.
A brief list of tachinid fly hosts includes Japanese beetles, tent caterpillars, armyworms, and cutworms along with many others. The larvae will hatch inside of the host bug and then eat it from the inside out.
One additional benefit of the tachinid fly is its ability to help pollinate flowers and garden plants.
The Parasites: Trichogramma Wasps
Trichogramma wasps are extremely tiny, almost microscopic insects that lay their eggs within the eggs of other species.
The female trichogramma wasp can parasitize up to 10 eggs a day and the host egg will turn black as the wasp larva grows. These eggs hatch and the young emerge to continue the cycle of destroying pests.
The Parasites: Mealybug Parasite
The mealybug parasite is a type of solitary wasp. It feeds on a wide variety of mealybugs including the citrus mealybug and the grape mealybug. One adult wasp can lay up to fifty eggs in their life and they reproduce quickly.
The Parasites: Nematode
Nematode’s are quite fascinating. They are microscopic so chances are you’ve never seen one. However, they are effective hunters of over 200 species of pests found in gardens and lawns.
They are soil based predators, meaning they move through the soil searching for pupae or eggs to consume.
Nematode’s are beneficial to the soil as well as the plants and shrubs and trees above them because of how effectively they consume pests.
The soil will need to be moist to allow them to move more easily through the soil and sunlight will kill them.
Lawn Pest Control the Gecko Green Way
Gaining knowledge about the insects common in gardens and on lawns is an enormous benefit to every homeowner because many of them are helpful.
If the pests are overwhelming, Gecko Green provides pest management services! Call today to have an expert assess the situation and take care of the problem.