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Beneficial Bugs

Lady bird beetle and aphids.  Photo:  Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS

Lady bird beetle and aphids. Photo: Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS

 

The most numerous animals on the planet are insects and although less than 1% cause damage to our landscapes, most are viewed as pests.  Many insects perform clean up tasks that keep our environment from being littered with carcasses and trash while others actually attack and feed upon insects that are direct pests to plants.

It is important to recognize that all insects are not pests and take the time to get to know a few that might actually be performing a beneficial job in your landscape.   Probably the most easily recognized beneficial bug family in Florida landscapes are the ladybird beetles (Coccinellidae).  There are several species of ladybird beetles with different food preferences including mildews, mites, whiteflies, scale insects, and aphids.

Another group of insects that include some predatory species is the stink bugs.  Some stink bugs do eat plants, but there are also many that are beneficial such as Florida predatory stink bug (Euthyrhynchus floridanus).  The Florida predatory stink bug preys on velvetbean caterpillar, okra caterpillar, alfalfa weevil, and flatid planthopper.  One of the distinguishable characteristics between plant feeding and insect feeding stinkbugs are the shape of their shoulders.  Plant feeders have rounded shoulders and predatory have points on their shoulders.

The next time you are disturbed by a bug in your garden, take a moment to watch what it is eating and try to identify it before assuming it is a pest.  After all, there are many beneficial bugs that help to balance out the “bad bugs.”