Not all bugs in the garden are ‘pests’

I garden for the enjoyment of watching things grow. There is a wonder and anticipation every time after I plant something. I have also quite an interest in the insects that live with or near my plants. So many of the insects that live in my garden and flower beds are beneficial. Did you know that pesticides are used for controlling, destroying and repelling pests’ Of the total number of insects that we live with only three percent are really pests. Insects and mites are among the oldest, most plentiful creatures on the earth. It is estimated that over a 100,000 different species live here on earth with us. Insects do cause some problems for us, but it is important that we recognize that the vast majority are beneficial. Insects have an ability to be useful: many insects pollinate our fruits and vegetables; and they also provide food for birds and fish. They provide products that are useful to us such as honey, wax, shellac and silk. A good deterrent to kill or rid insects is using “that soapy water all of us Master Gardeners have been telling you about.” It actually smooths the spiracles on the insects and cuts off their oxygen. The soapy water is a good method of organic control and it will deter the insects off their host plant but not actually kill the eggs that they have laid on the plant. Commercial pesticides should be a last resort, although there are so many products to use, make sure you read the instructions and follow them. Your key components on insecticide labels are the active ingredients or AI’s. These will tell you the hazard category, the approved uses and acute toxicity. Insecticides that are derived from plants are called “Pyrethrins” or “Pyrethroids.” The pyrethrins are composed of plant compounds. These will aid in controlling insects that damage our plants. Many insects help control other insects that damage the plant life around us. The law of nature takes care of many harmful insects such as the red hornet which is beneficial in eating the mosquito larvas. Many large spiders feed on spider mites and aphids which are insects that kill healthy plants. We all know how wonderful the ladybug beetle is. So the next you see a bug, try to remember that they are beneficial to our plants and our environment. Think of those beautiful bugs as our friends. If you have planting questions on herbs, vegetables or any plant topic, remember to call the McCulloch County Extension Office at 597-1295 every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Just ask for a master gardener. If you would like to become a master gardener and would like more information, please contact Pat Summer at 597-0378.

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