The Most Hardworking Bugs: Garden-Friendly Insects

| June/July 1996

There are hundreds of species of beneficial insects that feed on garden pests. Meet a few of the most common ones.

Lady Beetles
• Family: Coccinellidae

Although scores of species of lady beetles (ladybugs) exist, the adults of all species are round or oval; many are brightly colored and spotted.

Females periodically lay masses of orange-yellow eggs that hatch in about five days. The larvae are elongated, usually dark in color, and flecked with orange or yellow. They can crawl rapidly over plants, searching for food. Lady beetles reproduce rapidly during the summer and can complete a generation in less than four weeks under favorable conditions. As a result, they often overtake a pest outbreak before it becomes a real problem.

The adults feed on aphids and other small, soft-bodied pests as well as insect eggs. In addition, adults feed on nectar and particularly pollen to sustain them when their prey are not available. The larvae feed on a great many insects, particularly aphids, scales, small beetle larvae, caterpillars, and insect eggs. Almost all species of lady beetles feed on insects and mites.

Unfortunately, lady beetles are slow to arrive in the spring and often leave the garden by late summer. To encourage them, try to tolerate a few pest insects, enough to provide for their ­increase, and plant a variety of nectar and pollen sources.

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