Insects! How many times in our lifetime have we encountered insects of one type or another? Some are beautiful; some are ugly, some are helpful, some are hurtful, all belong to a species with a head, eyes (compound and simple) six legs, abdomen, thorax, a mandible (mouth), antenna, and sometimes wings. They can come in every color of the rainbow, and in shapes, even a sculptor would be challenged to reproduce. Some are as tiny as a dot while others are the length of a human hand. All in all, according to scientific study and research, there are over 900,000 insect species identified in the world with, entomologists suggesting there are between 2 and 30 million species of insects yet to be discovered and identified. In fact, it is estimated that at any time there are 10 quintillions (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive. (These facts are published by Terry Erwin from the Smithsonian Institution’s Department of Entomology in Latin American forest canopies) Of these species, 91,000 have been described in the United States with an estimated 73,000 species still to be described. WOW
The above information seems almost unbelievable. Yet it is well known and experienced that all of us have encountered a lot of insects as we move through life. And, many of the insects we encounter center around a garden. A garden is where insects thrive as here is where they can find food and a place to reproduce. Here is also where it can be determined if an insect is good or bad. In this first blog, we will look at some of the good, or in other words, helpful insects found in and around a garden.
Bees: Probably the most common and known of the “good” insects are bees. Though they have a stinger to watch out for, a bee’s part in helping a garden be healthy and productive, be it flowers, vegetables, or fruit, is well known. Pollination, that is the transferring of pollen to a plant or flower to allow fertilization, would not be possible without the help of bees. While there are other insects including wasps, butterflies, hummingbird moths, gnats, and flies, bees provide the majority of pollination activity. And of course, bees production of honey for us to enjoy is an additional reason to place bees in the “good” category.
Predator insects: Many gardeners are unaware of the many insects who, by a variety of means, destroy bad insects which do harm to a garden. Predator insects destroy by drawing out a bad insect’s body fluids, devouring the bad insect, injecting enzymes that destroy internal issues, or killing an insect’s eggs. There a number of predator insects, some of the most common being briefly, digger wasp, lady beetle, mud dauber, dragonfly, hornet, walking stick, the wheel bug, yellow jacket, water bug, and toad bug.
Parasites: These insects accomplish the same results of destruction by placing their eggs on a host insect which, when the eggs hatch will be eaten by the baby insect. Grasshopper maggot, braconid wasp, conopid fly, and tachinid fly are examples of garden parasites.
If you plan to have a successful and thriving garden, it is essential you find out about what species of insects may use your garden for their home. Some you will want to eliminate while, as you have read above, some you will want to try to keep. In part 2 of this series, you will learn about the “bad” insects, in part 3 the “bad” insects in Florida, and in part 4 how to eliminate the “bad” insects while hopefully not eliminating the “good” ones.