- Author: Elaine Lander
Beneficial insects can provide a lot of support in the garden. Natural enemies, which include predators, parasites, and pathogens, reduce pest populations and can help prevent damage to plants. Pollinators such as honeybees, native bees, butterflies, beetles, and other insects are essential for many vegetables you may be growing.
You may not have noticed many of these parasites, pathogens, and predators that help control pests in the garden, but they are there! Lady beetles (ladybugs), lacewings, and predaceous ground beetles are some common predators that you may find in your garden or landscape. These natural enemies eat soft-bodied insects including aphids, whiteflies, mites, and thrips. Parasites are organisms that live and feed inside a larger host. In the garden, these include small parasitic wasps that feed on aphids, whiteflies, and caterpillars. Some parasites attack eggs while others attack insects.
Our Pest Notes: Biological Control and Natural Enemies of Invertebrates and the natural enemies gallery on the UC IPM website has more information. For a handy photo guide, you can also download our Beneficial Predators and Parasites of Insect Pests Quick Tips cards in English or Spanish.
Honeybees get a lot of attention as pollinators but did you know there are many other pollinating insects? Bumble bees, native bees such as the squash bee, butterflies, moths, beetles, and even earwigs can help pollinate flowers in your gardens and landscapes.
To maintain healthy populations of beneficial insects, be sure to practice integrated pest management. See these resources on our website to protect natural enemies and pollinators. And as you relax this Labor Day weekend, we hope you'll take time to notice the beneficial insects laboring in the garden.