Vegetable gardens around the world attract many different kinds of insects. Believe it or not, contrary to popular belief, some are very beneficial to your garden and some can be harmful. As Winter slowly turns into Spring no matter where you live you start to notice wide variety of insects starting to come out of their dormancy. Insects share a place in this ecosystem and have been around for about 300 million years so. Like them or not they are not going anywhere and some of them even serve a purpose to keep your garden vegetables safe.
As a side note about three years ago I was growing several different containers of upside down tomatoes on a clothesline about six feet off the ground. They came out okay and just so you know the smaller variety of tomatoes called the heirloom or patio tomatoes work best for upside down containers. About half-way through the season I noticed a 3″ caterpillar chewing on one of the leaves. My first thought was to stop him, which I did. I picked him up and moved him to a different part of the yard. Then I got to thinking that how did that caterpillar know from the ground that there was something for him to eat up there? Another question is how did he get up there? Unless he grew wings and flew then he must of climbed up there which would have taken a while and a lot of determination.
Good Garden Insects
Let’s start with a list of vegetable garden insects that are very beneficial to your garden since the help maintain the bad bug population.
The mantis gets its name from the enlarged front legs it has that are used to grab and hold its prey. They have adapted themselves to live in all temperate and tropical climates around the world. They are strictly carnivorous and will feed on almost all insects. Known as an ambush predator, which means they wait in total stillness, until their prey is within striking range. As a benefit to your garden they are a ferocious predator that will catch and consume several different types of pests including crickets, grasshoppers and a wide variety of beetles. As a matter of fact they will also work at night to catch moths. Another insect they are good at catching and eating are aphids. Aphids are one of the most despised insects for your garden because they love to suck the fluids out of the leaves, stems and flowers of your plants. There are several websites online, including Amazon, that sell praying mantis egg cases. Each case contains approximately 50 to 200 nymphs and have about a two to six weeks incubation period in warmer weather. It is really interesting to watch them hatch. Dozens of 1/4″ long mantises scurrying out to find a home in your garden.
Also known as the lady beetle and besides being one of the most beautiful insects in your backyard they also provide a needed service for your vegetable garden. Their diet consists of several different types of bugs that are harmful to your plants. These include mites, leaf hoppers, mealy bugs and any other soft-bodied insect. The main usefulness of the ladybug in their control of aphids. They are capable of consuming 50 to 60 aphids per day with a lifetime consumption rate of about 5,000 aphids. Ladybugs are also available online form several different sites.
There are two other insects that are good for controlling aphids. The Aphid Parasite which is a type of wasp that lays its eggs inside of the aphid causing them to die and the Aphid Predator whose main diet is the aphid.
Another good insect for controlling your garden pests is the green lacewing. They are only about 1/2 to 3/4 inches long and look very delicate but love to eat a number of bad insects. Including but not limited to aphids, caterpillars, leaf hoppers and mealy bugs. Despite their small size they have a gluttonous appetite and can consume around 200 insects a week. And guess what these can also be purchased online.
I have picked out the top three helpful insects. There are many more beneficial vegetable garden insects including but not limited to the hover flies, ground beetles, parasitic wasps and spiders. Even honeybees and bumblebees who spread pollen and help propagate the plants are advantageous for your garden. Not only are all these insects favorable for and outdoor garden but also work great in a greenhouse too. Now onto the bad bugs.
As you have probably guessed by now aphids are one of the despised pests you can have in your garden. They multiply very fast and easily. One female produces 50 to 100 offspring and those offspring will start reproducing within a week. Just As mentioned above they have long snouts that will suck the plant juices out of different parts of your plants which will eventually kill the plant. They can also transmit viruses to certain plants. They also can produce something called gall which is a swelling of the part of the leaves of some plants. Aphids use these both as a food source and home. The gall provides them with edible plant matter and also protection from predators because it causes leaves to curl.
Caterpillars do turn into butterflies and moths and in this regard if you find one on your favorite vegetable plant I think the best thing you can do is pick it up and move it to a different part of your yard. They have a voracious appetite and use the fuel to bulk up and get ready for their transformation. Having said that if you have ever seen what one of them can do to a plant over the course of a day or night you can see why they are considered a pest for your garden.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, they do have natural enemies. Spiders and birds do eat moths and caterpillars and certain kinds of wasps use caterpillars to lay their eggs in.
The leaf hopper is another insect that likes to suck the juices out of a plant by puncturing the underside of leaves and they are not particular about what type of plant they will attack. While only being a 1/4″ long their saliva is toxic to plants and they also can transmit viruses to your plants. They have adapted themselves to be able to live in country and city environments. While they will feast on almost any plant their favorites are potatoes, beets, beans and lettuce.
Spider mites are another bug that likes to suck the juices out of your plants. They are very small and like to live on the underside of plant leaves which will make them hard to spot. They are also not picky about which kind of plant they feed on and their diet contains several hundred species.
The above four are main culprits in your fight against insects that want to eat your plants but there are more with some of them being specific to what you are growing. Now onto the best ways you can use to get rid of them.
Commercial insecticides are used to kill insects when they are in a larva or egg stage however they are not specie specific, which means their toxins will work on all types of flora and fauna. Developed in the mid 20th century they have worked well by increasing the food supply for humans.
Unfortunately the side effects of using commercially developed insecticides or any kind of pesticides on humans can produce sickness and sometimes death. Different pesticides and the amount you are exposed to will produce different symptoms at different rates. Exposure can start out subtle and tends to attack the central nervous system of both insects and humans. It can cause several different types of neurological damage. Other things to watch out for is asthma, allergies, restricted fetal development and cancer.
Since insects are smaller, commercial insecticides, work on their nervous system faster. The same is true with humans, the smaller the person, like children, the faster the toxins will go to work on them.
While commercial pesticides and insecticides have helped mankind increase their crop production to try to keep up with the ever growing human population there is more and more evidence what these chemicals can do to the human body. To control vegetable garden insects in your backyard there is a more natural method with no toxic side effects for humans.