Did you know there are over a million different species of insects? No wonder you see bugs everywhere! Fewer than ten percent of insects are considered harmful. Most insects do good things or are harmless.
Here in North Carolina we have plenty of both kinds. Everyone knows that mosquitos bite and flies can carry diseases, but what about other common bugs? Some are so small you can barely see them. One of the biggest we have is a praying mantis about 4-5 inches long.
Let’s talk about destructive bugs. These are referred to as non-beneficial. One of the smallest is the aphid. It is less than 1/8 inch. Aphids live in groups and suck sap from plants. This causes the leaf and sometimes the whole plant to die.
Other destructive bugs are cutworms, Japanese beetles, leafminers, slugs and snails. Later in the summer your garden may have squash bugs, tomato hornworms and cucumber beetles. All these bugs can harm plants and flowers.
Good bugs to the rescue! Most of these bugs eat or destroy the “bad” bugs. Like Superman they fly in and wipe out bugs we don’t want. Praying mantis, assassin bugs, lady beetles, ground beetles and parasitic wasps all help keep your gardens green and healthy. These beneficial bugs do a good job if left alone.
One day this summer when you need something fun to do, get a magnifying glass and paper and pencil to see how many different kinds of insects live in your back yard. You should be able to find at least twenty or thirty. Look under the leaves of plants where they feed. Draw or take pictures of the bugs you see.
Other beneficial bugs are bees and butterflies. They carry pollen on their feet which allows the fruit and vegetables to grow. Without them dinner would be very boring!!Written by Nancy Good, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.