Good vs. Bad Garden Bugs: How to Know the Difference

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By simple classification, Good garden bugs are the varieties of animals, insects, and other organisms that would help your plants grow directly or indirectly. Therefore, by contrast, bad garden bugs are those animals, insects, or other organisms that can directly or indirectly impede your plants’ development.

This article will help to demystify some of the misconceptions about the garden bug, highlight some of the best ways to recognize the good from the nasty bugs and give tips on balancing your garden bug population.

Good vs. Bad Garden Bugs; What exactly is the difference?

You need to understand the direct and indirect impact a specific garden bug might have on your plants. A praying Mantis, for instance, is a carnivorous bug that would eat any insect put in its way, even another praying mantis.

This might be good for controlling the population of some of the nasty bugs in your garden. Therefore, the praying Mantis, in this context, is a good bug.

Nature is my church. The wind in the trees and the bugs and the frogs. All those things are comfort to me.

Sissy Spacek

However, if you need lots of bees to help propagate the Growth of your flowers in your flower garden, a praying mantis would be considered a lousy garden bug. A praying mantis would prey on the bees in your garden.

With these analogies and making things easy for you, many bugs discussed in this article will be generally bad and good garden bugs.

Identifying the Good and Bad Buds in Your Garden

Most humans’ instinct is to immediately squash any bug found in their garden or farm, but that is not quite advisable. It would help if you learned to recognize the good from the nasty bugs to control the bug population on your farm or garden effectively.

Out of the 1.5 million known species of insects globally, 97% are beneficial to farms and gardens, meaning that only about 3% are destructive to your garden.

Some of the critical animals and insects you need in your garden include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and even flies, as they help to pollinate plants.

Other insects help eat insects, such as the famous ladybird beetle and green lacewings.

Here is a simple table of generally accepted good and bad garden bugs.

Good BugsBad Bugs
BeesTermites and Ants
Spined Soldier BugAphids (nasty)
NematodeWorms: Apple worm, Cutworms, Wireworms
LadybugBettles: Bean Beetle, Click beetles, and Ladybugs with 26 and 28 spots
Syrphid flyMoths: Cabbage moth, Hornworm caterpillars
Green lacewingAmphibians: Cane Toads
EarthwormInsects: Cockroaches, Earwigs, Grasshoppers
Praying Mantis (most cases)Mollusks: Slugs and snails
Braconid-WaspButterfly (not the insect itself but the eggs they lay are harmful to plants)
Ground beetleOthers: Carrot flies and Slaters

Please note that these bugs in this article are specific to regions like Europe and Northern America. Therefore, some bugs might not be found in your location.

The process of identifying a new or strange insect in your garden

Whenever you discover a new insect or bug in your garden, and you are not sure what it is, here are a few steps to help you identify your visitor:

Observation of the bug in question

Observe the insect closely to see what it is doing to your plant. Then take a close photograph of the new bug. If the bug eats your plant, it is likely a nasty bug (pest). Also, note whether or not the new bug or insect is present in a large number.

Many new insects in your garden could also mean that you have an infestation problem.

Identification of the bug

Compare the photograph of the new bug you found to any previous bugs you have killed or exterminated. You can also check other expert sites for new bugs posted to compare with your new visitors, like the Agricultural Research Service Image Gallery and The Bugwood Insect Images.

If you can confirm that you have an invasive pest, you must take steps to prevent the spread.

Controlling the bug problem

The best way to control the spread of a new pest is to use high-quality pest control products. You can easily find one in your local store or order one online from a certified vendor.

Ensure that your pest control product is certified not to kill the good bugs in your garden.

An Overview of Bad Bugs Found in the Garden.

Here is a general overview of the nasty bugs that can be found in your garden. This will help you identify and mitigate the propagation of these pests in your garden or farm.

Stink Bugs are nasty bugs that, fortunately, have many predators

Stink bugs are considered nasty garden pests that can wreak havoc on plants in your garden. Stink bugs prey on many predators, such as spiders, toads, praying mantes, parasitic wasps, and birds.

Ants may be usually good insects but can be a nasty bug to plants

Ants can be good bugs in some cases, but for simplicity, ants are nasty in this article. Ants are considered bad bugs because even though they hunt for aphids, they can leave your plant covered in black spots. Also, they can eventually reduce the lifespan of your plant.

Aphids are rather famous nasty bugs for plants.

Aphids are pretty famous for being nasty bugs in a garden. Aphids love to feed on the tips of the new Growth of plants. Aphis attacks plants by sucking the soft green stems, buds, and leaves of plants like roses, citrus, hibiscus, and hydrangea. Aphids are suitable prey for ants to feed on.

You can quickly eliminate aphids by spraying them with soap and water. Also, hosing down a plant with plain water can help control aphids.

Mealybugs and their colonies are seen as nasty bugs for plants

Mealybugs usually appear as fluffs of white that then turn to cotton-looking masses on plants overnight. Mealybugs typically gather in large colonies on the stems and leaves of plants that they attack. Mealybugs generally segregate themselves by age. Therefore, mealybugs of different sizes will be seen in packs.

Mealybugs usually suck plant saps and weaken the tissue, which then causes the plant to become spotted, discolored, stunted, and distorted.

When mealybugs congregate in large numbers, they can cause the premature drop of leaves and fruits of a plant. They are also known to attack houseplants and greenhouses usually.

How to control mealybugs infestation

Mealybugs can be controlled by isolating infected plants and wiping off mealybugs with a soft wet sponge, cloth, or soft material dipped in alcohol.

If the plants are outdoors, you can spray their plants with a mixture of water and insecticidal soap.

Squash Bugs, thankfully, are nasty bugs that can be easily repelled in your garden.

Squash bugs usually start as small shiny coppery orbs that then hatch into little gray nymphs that mature into squash bugs that destroy plants.

You can easily control Squash Bug by planting marigolds around your garden to help repel squash bugs.

Cabbage Worms are rather nasty bad bugs that may be present in your garden

Cabbage worms are quite destructive and are found on the undersides of leaves. Once they start eating, they never really stop eating. They are known for putting holes in kale, cabbage, radish, broccoli, turnip, and cauliflower leaves.

There are two major signs that cabbage worms have infested your plants: the worn holes in your plants’ leaves and tiny black spots on the leaves they excrete.

Chicken and ducks are known to prey on these worms. However, this might not be an option if you have a significant infestation.

The best method for you would be to spray citrus oil on the infected plants or sprinkle cornmeal around the plants. These two methods would cause the worms to bloat and eventually die.

Grasshoppers, or at least a select of them, are nasty bugs to plants

It is estimated that out of the 600 species of grasshoppers found in the United States, 30 cause severe plant damage. Therefore, grasshoppers are considered garden pests.

Grasshoppers are chewing insects, and when they infect a farm or a garden in large numbers, they can seriously damage a farm or garden.

Crops that grasshoppers often feed on and signs of their damage

Some of the crops that grasshoppers feed on include the following:

corncotton
ricetomato leaves
lettucealfalfa
carrotssmall grains
soybeansgrass

Grasshoppers usually feed on plants’ stems and leaves; grasshopper damage signs include holes in plants and ragged plant edges.

Since grasshoppers are pretty mobile, they can be hard to eliminate from your garden, but here are a few tips to get you started.

Best ways to control the grasshopper population in your garden

We will discuss ways to combat the growing population of grasshoppers in your garden by doing some extra gardening work and tasks, using household items to keep them at bay, and even calling on predators of this insect.

Doing extra gardening work to eliminate grasshopper infestation

Female grasshoppers lay their eggs in the soil, leaving the eggs to overwinter in the soil before hatching in the spring.

Till your soil in mid-to-late summer to prevent the grasshoppers from laying any eggs, then till your soil in late fall to early spring to destroy any egg laid during the previous summer.

Another way to combat the infestation is by hitting two birds with one stone for your garden. Strive to remove the weeds around your garden. This act will effectively eliminate any alternative food source that grasshoppers might have.

Using household items to keep grasshoppers at bay

You can either cover up the plant itself with cheesecloth or crop cover, which is a direct way to keep these insects from eating your plant.

But you can also look into making a garlic spray because this solution will prevent grasshoppers from feeding on your plants. To prepare a garlic spray, mix two cups of garlic with ten cups of water, boil it, and cool overnight.

Mix the boiled solution of garlic and water with three parts water in a spray bottle. This solution would also repel other plant-eating insects.

They are fostering Chickens and maybe even Predators of grasshoppers to keep them at bay.

Introduce some of the natural predators of grasshoppers to help eliminate any existing population of grasshoppers in your garden. Some predators include birds like a swallow, praying Mantis, and toads.

However, if you are also looking into getting into the poultry business, now is the perfect time to care for you, then chickens in your garden will help eat your grasshoppers. However, it would be best to be careful not to plant crops that chickens can feed on.

How to protect your garden against Bad bugs, the natural way

We will look into natural ways to combat lousy bug infestations in the following sections, spanning from growing select plants to fighting specific invasive species and trying to attract destructive bug predators into your garden to do their job while also getting their food happily.

Nasty bug Repelling plants to aid with protecting your plants

There are several ways of protecting your plants from nasty bugs found in your garden, and one of them is by growing plants that repel them.

Below is a list of some plants you can grow and the bugs they repel.

Bad BugRepelling Plants
AphidChives, tobacco, nasturtiums
Wooly AphidClover, Chives
Carrot FlyParsley
Cabbage Moth/ ButterflyTomato, peppermint
BorerTansy, Lavender
GrasshopperHorehound, larkspur
Japanese beetleRue, Garlic, Larkspur
Harlequin bugRadish, Onion, Turnips
MosquitoLavender, Santolina, Fleabane, Balm of Gilead
Bean BeetleOnions, Potatoes, Marigolds
Codling MothCommon Oleander
Cucumber BeetleTansy, Radish
MothRosemary
Stink BugRadish, Jerusalem artichoke

If there is a lack of space or any other factors in your garden that won’t allow you to grow these plants, look into the animals and insects that may be thriving in your area, which also attack these pests.

Well-hired assassins for nasty bugs.

Depending on your area, there may be ways to attract the likes of bats and birds. These animals are well known for gobbling up nasty bugs. More common good hired assassins that you can look into, though, would be centipedes, dragonflies, and frogs.

However, again, everything is best in moderation. Take care to attract these animals and insects moderately and not cause more problems for your garden.

Overview of Good Bugs Found in the Garden.

With all this negativity on nasty bugs and their characteristics, let us shift to brighter things like good bugs in the garden. You should look into attracting these bugs into your garden to flourish and be healthier.

Ladybirds (ladybugs), except for specific ones, are outstanding good bugs

A list of the good bugs for your garden would be incomplete without the ladybug. Ladybugs are known for being very effective at keeping aphids under control.

However, watch out for ladybugs with over 26 and 28 spots, as these are aggressive plant-eaters.

Ladybugs are so beneficial to controlling garden aphids that they are grown and sold commercially to garden owners and greenhouses.

Lacewings are outstanding good bugs to keep aphids at bay

Lacewings are also very beneficial to gardens for a lot of reasons. First, the adult lacewing feeds on pollen and honeydew at night and, therefore, aids in pollination. However, the larvae of lacewings feed on aphids, mealybugs, whitefly, mites, thrip eggs, and scale.

Lacewings are also considered an effective means of controlling aphids’ population in a garden sold commercially.

Bees are good bugs

Bees are generally considered beneficial to the garden because they help with pollination and never bother any other insects on the farm or garden.

Regardless of the type of bee you find in your garden, honey bees, mason bees, and bumblebees help pollinate flowers and trees.

Ground Beetles/ Bombardier Beetles are good bugs that help eliminate other pests.

Ground and Bombardier’s beetles benefit the garden’s ecology as they help eliminate many garden pests. Some prey of these beetles includes larvae and adult caterpillars, cutworms, march flies, slugs, thrips, snails, aphids, ants, termites, and grasshopper eggs.

Hoverflies are god bugs that attack pests.

Hoverflies are a critical, good bug in your garden because they attack pests well. Hoverflies usually feed on aphids, beetles, and caterpillars.

They lay their eggs in aphids, so their offspring will always have food to eat.

One essential feature of hoverflies is their ability to help pollinate plants since they feed on nectar and pollen grains.

Several other good bugs can be found in your garden, and usually, the rule of thumb is that slow-moving insects are generally bad for your garden, while fast-moving ones are typically good.

While we give this rule of thumb, do take the time to research the specific bug in your garden further and check its category and such if you are unsure.

Other animals also help keep nasty bugs at bay.

While discussing the numerous bugs and insects in the garden that can keep nasty bugs at bay, let us also go into the multiple animals to help. Conveniently, these may be more common than specific bug species, so looking into them is a definite must.

Good animals to have in your gardens are Lizards and Frogs

Lizards benefit gardens because they effectively eat a wide range of insect pests.

If your garden is close to a pond, you will likely have frogs in your garden. Frogs are very efficient hired assassins for gardens. Some of their prey include moths, flies, grasshoppers, and cockroaches.

Birds

Birds consume many bugs and can help a lot with controlling destructive insects. Ensure your garden does not contain fruit trees that birds can prey on.

Here are some birds and the insects they feed on:

Type of birdsWhat they feed on
SwallowsBeetles, grasshoppers, moths
Woodpeckersbeetles, weevils, borers, larvae
SparrowsCaterpillars, cutworms, beetles
BluebirdsCrickets, larvae, moths, grasshoppers
OrioleCaterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, larvae

Again, taking this time to remind you that everything is best in moderation. Look into attracting these birds and take care not to have their whole flock into your area and cause more problems.

Using Good Bug-Attracting Plants to Promote the Growth of your plants

You might grow some plants to keep nasty bugs away, but several plants can be developed to help attract good bugs.

Growing insect-friendly plants in your garden is important because while it is a feast for your eyes, it is also a feast for the creatures that coexist in your garden (source).

Good BugAttracting Plants
WaspsDandelion, Anise, Celery
Hoverflies, WaspsMarigold, Chamomile, Hyssop
Ground beetlesClover
Wasps, housefliesIvy
Many good bugsStinging nettle
Lacewings, waspsSunflower
Strawberry leaf bugs, oriental fruit moth larvaeRagweed
Oriental Fruit moth larvaeStrawberry
Ladybirds, waspsYarrow
ladybugsTansy, Sweet fennel, Angelica, Cosmos, Dill, Goldenrod
Wide range of parasitesMustard
Ground and Bombardier beetlesAmaranth
HoverfliesPoinsettia flowers

Planting specific species, especially those that can bear fruits and crops, is a great way to get two positives out of a situation to attract good bugs. You learn about the plant and harvest its product while attracting good bugs while ensuring your garden stays healthy.

FAQs on Good vs. Bad Garden Bugs: How to Know the Difference

What is a better way to get rid of slugs?
A common way of getting rid of slugs is using a beer trap. However, this method involves a waste of good beer. Another easy method to dispose of slugs is using old newspapers. Dampen them and leave them crumpled in your garden. The slugs will naturally come to them.

What is a cheap way to prevent cabbage worms?
Cabbage worms are usually produced when a butterfly lays these eggs on a plant. Those eggs start as white moss but eventually turn into cabbage worms. To solve this, BT (bacillus thuringiensis) or net the area with insect mesh.

Can you use a clay flowerpot to attract bugs?
Clay flower pots have been used in Europe for a very long time to attract bugs. They are hung upside down on long sticks in several spots in a garden. They attract bugs due to their ability to absorb moisture and be damp come nighttime. Check them and separate the bad and good bugs in the morning.

Why are Earthworms beneficial to my garden?
By roaming through the soil, earthworms help till the soil and stabilize its structure. They also feed on leaves and grass; their excrement, called vermicast, acts as an organic fertilizer. Vermicast is rich in humus, Potassium nitrate, soil microbes, and micronutrients.

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Beneficial to My Garden?
Hydrogen Peroxide is beneficial to the garden in diluted form because it aerates and rinses pests from the soil and cleans the water. However, you should avoid using it too often; it may cause a rapid decline in good bugs. Use it only when infection or rot is confirmed.

Conclusion on Good vs. Bad Garden Bugs

It is also essential for you to understand that the goal is not to completely eradicate bed bugs from your garden or overpopulate it with good bugs. Life is all about balance, and balance is exactly what your garden needs to thrive. Good bugs sometimes need nasty bugs to survive.

Therefore, removing them ultimately might be detrimental to your garden’s ecology. Hopefully, this article has served its purpose and informed you about which bugs to attract and keep at bay.

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