CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Not all bugs in the garden are bad bugs.
Some of the beneficial insects include aphid midges, braconid wasps, dragonflies, ground beetles, lacywings, lady bugs, wasps, rove beetles and several varieties of flies. Good bugs eat bad bugs, so you don't need to spray to kill the destructive ones.
To help you identify bugs you want to welcome and the ones you want to chase away, the National Gardening Association publishes photos and general information about bugs. Visit www.garden.org.
Another place for insect identification is www.eartheasy.com/grow_nat_pest_cntrl.htm. The information on natural garden pest control here is good, with photos and tips for natural prevention, as well as nontoxic homemade remedies.
The National Gardening Association lists these four ways to attract beneficial bugs:
1. Provide an accessible source of water. A birdbath with some stones that stick up out of the water to provide easy access for tiny beneficial insects or a periodic sprinkling will work great.
2. Plant flowers to provide pollen for beneficial adults to feed upon. Species such as syrphid flies and parasitic wasps need this for an energy source. Among the better pollen food sources are plants that have umbrella-shaped bloom heads, such as dill, yarrow, tansy and fennel. Other plants to include are those with small daisylike flowers (such as chamomile and feverfew), and other blooming herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary). If you plant root vegetables, leave a few to go to seed (carrots, radishes, turnips), as their blooms are also favorites of some beneficial insects.
3. Allow some pests to remain as a food source for beneficial insects. Zero pest populations are not sustainable and will leave beneficial bugs with no reason to stay in your garden area. Lady beetles are our friends but they are not philanthropic! They lay eggs on plants with pests present so their babies can have food. No pests ... they move on. Mexican (or tropical) milkweed and gaura are good plants to support a few aphids. The aphid species that these plants attract are not pests of most of our garden and landscape plants. Just remember that it's good to have a few pests around.