Good Insects in Fall Gardens

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Now is the time to be planting fall gardens. That means cabbage, collards and broccoli. There are a few insects that will feed on these crops, but there are also beneficial insects that help control the pest population. One of the biggest pests in the garden is the aphid. Did you know there are lots of beneficial insects that feed on aphids in the garden?

Lady beetles or ladybugs feed on aphids both as adults and as larvae. The larva looks like a black and red or black and orange six-legged alligators crawling around on the leaves looking for aphids to feed on. Lady beetle larvae may feed on as many as 5,000 aphids. That’s a lot of benefit from one little insect. I say we keep these around as much as possible.

Green lacewing larvae are another insect that is good to have around to feed on aphids in the garden. Often called aphid lions, the larvae of the green lacewing will eat as many as 150 aphids a week. These larvae also look similar to an alligator as they are long and skinny but they have sickle shaped mouth parts that help them hold onto the aphid while they feed on it. The adults often feed on nectar or pollen from nearby flowers, but lay their eggs on or near leaves that have aphid populations for the larvae to feed on.

One more beneficial insect that feeds on pests that can be found in the vegetable garden is the parasitic wasps. These wasps are generally really small, not much larger than an aphid. There are a wide variety of them and they will lay their eggs in aphids, or caterpillars, depending on the species of wasp. The egg hatches and feeds on the prey, killing it from the inside out. After the larvae has finished feeding on the pest it will either pupate inside the skin of the insect (usually done this way with aphids) or it may crawl outside the host and spin a silken case to pupate in on the outside of the insect (the white bags on tomato hornworms are an example).