Oftentimes, gardeners fret when they find bugs on their plants. Finding insects in the garden doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem. In fact, finding certain insects in the garden can be a good thing.
According to Columbia County Extension Agent Tripp Williams, it’s important to properly identify bugs found in the garden to determine if they are good or bad.
“Knowing what insect you have and its life cycle will help you in controlling the pest. It will also let you know if you need to control the insect; it could be beneficial,” said Williams.
One insect that is beneficial to have in the garden is the assassin bug. While the name implies a sinister-type bug, assassin bugs eat other insects that may be problematic.
Assassin bugs prey on aphids, bean beetles, sawflies and sometimes lady beetles.
A member of the assassin-bug family, wheel bugs are also good to have in the garden. According to Walter Reeves, aka the Georgia Gardener, the saliva of the wheel bug “contains a poison that kills its insect victims, but their mouth is big enough to inflict a painful bite on human skin, too.”
But, not all bugs are good. Local gardeners are finding leaf-footed bugs on their tomato plants. A member of the stink bug family, leaf-footed bugs will pierce the tomato, causing them to rot.
“They are extremely hard to kill,” said Richmond County Extension Agent Sid Mullis. “Sevin (carbaryl), bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, esfenvalerate and lambda-cyhalothrin are insecticides to use, but I won’t kid you, they are very hard to kill. One might be better off picking them off, if that is practical. Other things that help are keeping weeds/grass areas closely mowed.”
A publication by Alabama A&M and Auburn universities notes that not all insects are bad. “Your garden and surroundings contain many insects that are actually beneficial because they feed on harmful insects. Therefore, as a gardener, you should be able to identify garden insects and determine whether they are harmful or beneficial. Many organic gardening books provide pictures of the most common beneficial and pest insects and information on how to encourage populations of beneficial insects.”
Williams said proper identification is key to determining if a bug is good or bad.
“Remember, when doing Internet research to find out what problem you have, include ‘edu’ in the search engine you are using,” he said. “This will ensure that only researched-based information is displayed. You can’t rely on all the information out there.”