Archives by Tag 'aphid'

Beneficial Bugs

By Bryan Hutzler - Last updated: Saturday, April 26, 2014

Spring is here! The trees and bushes at the orchard are starting to grow and bugs are starting to appear with the warm weather.  Naturally some of the bugs are mildly harmful and some are majorly harmful but others are beneficial.  I would like to concentrate on a couple beneficial beetles: the ladybug and the soldier beetle.

The Ladybug.  Most people are aware that the ladybug or ladybird bug is a beneficial beetle which feasts on aphids, mites,

and scale.  In addition to the common red with black spots, they can be orange and yellow with black spots or even black with red spots.  Don’t confuse black lady bugs with the smaller brassy willow beetle.  The brassy willow beetle is a harmful beetle which eats leaves and has a distinctive brassy shine.

It is also important to learn what the ladybug larvae looks like.  These scary looking critters eat hundreds of aphids before they grow up to be ladybugs so don’t kill them!

You can buy ladybugs from the internet and release them to help clean your garden.  If you do this, remember that they will follow the food and water so keep the plants moist and don’t be surprised if they leave once the aphids are gone.

The Soldier Beetle.  Also called the leatherback beetle and the leather wing beetle, the soldier beetle eats aphids, mites, and even caterpillars.  They are long, grey and black with red, orange or yellow color and are thin, sometimes resembling fireflies but without the luminescence.  They are often found on flowering plants eating pollen or lying in wait to ambush other bugs.

The soldier beetle larvae are dark worm like creatures often found in the soil, under dead bark, or in dead leaves.  They eat the eggs and larvae of grasshoppers and moths.

I am not aware of soldier beetles being for sale, they just show up in swarms some years.  They are currently swarming the peach trees and blackberry bushes at Love Creek Orchards.

It is important to know these beneficial insects.  Using pesticides to kill aphids can kill the beneficial bugs feeding on the aphids.  If the aphids are too much for the labybugs or soldier beetles to control, a strong stream of water can kill aphids without hurting the beneficial bugs.  In fact, the ladybugs will appreciate the water on the leaves for them to drink.

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