Admit it! Most of us, either by the inclination to be "freaked out" in the presence of insects or having been taught by the chemical companies that all insects are bad, see it as our function in the garden to kill every insect we see.
It is quite possible that this is not the most beneficial attitude: it surely harms the insects and, here is the most important part - it is bad for the garden. The garden needs insects, a huge, varied, and active population. They form a natural best control in which beneficial insects patrol the garden in piursuit of their next meal ...other insects.
We forget that almost all insects are beneficial: that is, they inflict little if any damage in the garden. The eat each other which keeps the various insect populations in check. They are a crucial, primary food for almost all of the summer birds.
But it is the fact that many insects hunt, kill and consume others that there is benefit in knowing the natural enemy insects. These are the good guys, our buddies, our partners in the garden. The easiest way to make them welcome is obvious: recognize them and let them live.
The Great Lakes Vegetable Working Group developed a superb Natural Enemy Field Guide which can be downloaded. (Explore all the information available at the Great Lakes Vegetable Working Group site.)
To demonstrate that that these insects are natural enemies of some of the bad guys and friendly partners with the good guys (that's us), here is a brief summary of the information.
Lady Beetles Coccinellidae -say: cock-sin ELL-ih-dee, also known as ladybugs. They feed on aphids, mites, caterpillars and other soft bodied garden pests. The variation in dots helps to identify the various species. Learn what the lady bug larva looks like. Both adult and larva are shown in the photo on the left.
Ground Beetles Carabidae - say:care-a-BEE-dee-eye are predatory as both adults and larvae. The laravae are underground. Most adults forage at the soil surface, although they will sometimes climb a plant looking for prey. They feed on eggs and larvae of root maggots, aphids, caterpillars, beetle larvae, snails, slugs, and weed seeds. They are typically dark and shiny with fine, thread-like antenae. Most are dark brown, black, or metallic. The wing covers, their "back" look grooved. They are easy to see since most adults are from 1/2 to 1 inch long. Ground beetles can be quite beautifully colored.
The wonderful world of helpful, yes helpful spiders. Spiders are insect relatives and the common garden spiders are a gardener's best friend. Some of the common ones are:
Wolf spiders Lycodisae - say: lye-COE-sih-die. are wonderful grey, brown or black large (sometimes larger than a quarter) spiders that live and hunt on the ground. They do not make webs and can often be found in piles of old wood or woodchips. The female carries her egg sack with her.
Another spider that is a gardener's helper is the Crab spider, Thomisidae -say: toe-MISS-ih-die pictured on the right which is very common in the garden. Crab spiders can walk sideways, as a crab, and they use those legs to grasp prey. They forage widely on the ground, in flowers and on stems and leaves. They are often found nestled deep into a flower bloom. Let them be.
Orb Weavers Araneidae -say: aran-NEE-ih-die are a large family of often very large garden spiders. They build large beautiful orb-shaped webs. They tend to be visible in their webs in the evening.
A fascinating fact about orb spiders is this: researchers in Costa Rica have been studying how these spiders can move across their webs without getting stuck in or on them. According to a report on the BBC they identified three factors that combined to stop the spiders from sticking: leg hairs that decreased the surface area available to stick; a chemical coating on the hairs that reduced the adhesion and the delicate way the spiders move their legs.
"Spiders reduce their adhesion to the sticky lines in their webs by moving their legs carefully so as to allow the sticky lines to slide off easily," Dr. Eberhard told BBC Nature.
Under the microscope, the researchers saw that when a spider made contact with a sticky line the adhesive droplets were transferred to its leg hairs.
Then, as the spider withdrew its leg from the web, the droplets slid down these non-stick hairs and dripped off the fine point at the end.
Predatory Flies -Hover Flies Syrphidae - say: SURF-eh-die. It is worth being able to recognize the difference between these and the common house fly.
Hover Flies are pollinators as adults and predatory as larvae. Adults resemble bees or wasps but have only two wings.
Female hover flies lay their eggs in aphid colonies and the sluge-like eyeless maggots are an effective aphid predator.
Lacewings. Green Lacewing Chrysopidae - say: Kree-SOF-ee-die. Lacewing adults (the green or the brown) have long (one inch or more) slender bodies, long antenaw, and two pairs of large, net-veined wings. As adults, some species are predatory, some feed on pollen and nectar and some do not feed (having reached adulthood only to mate, lay eggs and die).
Green lacewing larvae are gray to brown and alligator-like. They are voracious predators, piercing their prey with large sickle-shaped jaws. They then feed on the bodily fluids.