Beneficial Insects of Our Farm: An Overview

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What Do Ladybugs Eat?

Lady beetle larvae and adults eat aphids, small caterpillars, mites and random insect eggs. A few species specialize by feeding on scale insects, mealybugs, mites and even powdery mildew. Adult lady beetles also eat insect honeydew, flower nectar and pollen.

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How to Attract Ladybugs ?

Tolerate light aphid outbreaks in spring, because they are an important food source for lady beetles, which emerge earlier in the season compared with hoverflies or lacewings. Do not use pesticides of any kind when lady beetles larvae are active. Grow a diversity of plants to provide pollen and nectar for lady beetles. Early-blooming mustard flowers attract adults in search of food.

Types of Beneficial Lady Bird Beetles

a. Two Spotted Lady beetle. (Adalia bipunctata)

 

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Adalia bipunctata

b. Seven Spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata)

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Coccinella septempunctata

c. Nine spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella novempunctata)

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Coccinella novempunctata

d. Thirteen spotted Lady Beetle (Hippodamia tredicimpunctata)

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Hippodamia tredicimpunctata

e. Red Lady Beetle (Cycloneda munda)

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Cycloneda munda

f. Vedalia Beetle (Rodolia cardinalis)

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Rodolia cardinalis

2. Preying Mantis (Mantis spp.)(Mantidae)

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Preying mantis

One of the largest and most visible insects in the late summer garden, adult praying mantids (the accepted plural of mantis) can grow to 5 inches long. Both native and imported species may be present in the garden, or you may encounter them in shrubs. The praying mantis has excellent eyesight and is a good flier, so this beneficial easily locates plants being fed upon by smaller insects. As the season progresses and mantids grow larger, they pursue larger prey.

In the spring, a female praying mantis produces eggs inside a foam-like hard case attached to branches. Dozens or hundreds of little mantids hatch and disperse into nearby bushes. Later in summer, after they have grown to 2 inches long, you will start noticing them in the vegetable garden.

What Does a Praying Mantis Eat?

The praying mantis diet consists exclusively of other insects until late in the season, when mature mantids have been known to capture rodents, frogs and hummingbirds. Grasshoppers are more typical fare, but a praying mantis will eat anything it can catch. This includes beneficial insects, so too many mantids may not be good in a balanced organic garden.

3. Hover Flies (Syrphidae)

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Hoverfly identification is easy if you know what to look for. Black-and-yellow-striped adult hoverflies (also called syrphid flies) resemble little yellow jackets, but they have only two wings and big compound eyes. Size varies with species, with most hoverflies maturing to less than 5/8 inch long, with yellowish markings that help them resemble wasps (thus deterring predation). Attracted by gases given off by warm, sweaty bodies, hoverflies occasionally land on people to lick salty sweat. Be gentle blowing them off, because hoverflies can neither bite nor sting, and are major beneficials in the garden.

Hoverfly larvae are aphid-eating machines, though they are so small you will need a magnifying glass to see them. Adult hoverflies lay scattered eggs on leaves being fed upon by small, soft-bodied insects such as aphids. Upon hatching, the hoverfly larvae scour the leaf surface for food. After a few weeks of feeding, the hoverfly larvae pupate into adults. In warm climates several generations are common.

What Do Hoverflies Eat?

Hoverfly larvae eat aphids, small caterpillars including cabbage worms, as well as thrips, scale, and tiny mites. Adult hoverflies feed primarily on flower nectar, and help pollinate some crops.

4. Tiger Beetles (Cicindela sexguttata)(Cicindelidae)

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Six Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)

Many species of tiger beetles are bright colored and metallic with various patterns of cream-colored markings or spots; other tiger beetles have camouflage.  The six-spotted tiger beetle has a green-blue metallic color and can have anywhere from 4 to 6 spots or none at all. Most tiger beetles are active during sunny days; however some beetles are nocturnal. They can be found near bodies of water or in habitats with sandy to clay soil.  Tiger beetles predominantly live in the burrow they hatched from or near that area.  The female tiger beetle digs a tiny hole in which she lays a single egg.  After hatching, the larva enlarges the crevice that the female created during egg-laying and develops a burrow.

What do they eat ?

They feed on the bugs of the rice field. Especially they are well known for feeding on Stink bug of the rice field.

5. Dragon Flies and Damsel Flies(Odonata) :

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Damselfly

Damselfly

 

Dragonflies are large and heavy-bodied insects. They usually hold their wings open and flat when when they are perched on something, just like the dragonfly in the picture above. Their eyes are close together, often touching.

Damselflies are delicate, weak-flying insects. An adult damselfly has a long slender body, which is green, blue, red, yellow, black, or brown and often brightly colored. The color of some species will change with a variety of environments, fading from bright blue to dull purple responding to cool temperatures or light.

 

 

What do Dragon Flies and Damsel Flies eat ?

As Nymphs, the dragonflies eat mosquito larvae, other aquatic insects and worms, and for a little variety even small aquatic vertebrates like tadpoles and small fish. The adult dragonfly likes to eat gnats, mayflies, flies, mosquitoes and other small flying insects. They sometimes eat butterflies, moths and bees too.

The adult dragonfly is a formidable hunting insect. It uses the basket formed by its legs to catch insects while they are flying. Adult dragonflies and damselflies eat other flying insects, particularly midges and mosquitoes. They also eat mayflies, butterflies, moths, bees, bugs and smaller dragonflies and one Asian species even feeds on spiders from their webs.

6. Green Lace wings ( Chrysopidae):

Green Lace wing

Green Lace wing

Lacewing larvae are sometimes called “aphid lions” due to their hooked jaw and ferocious aphid appetite.
Adult lacewing flies have light green or brown bodies one-half to 1 inch long, with finely veined transparent wings. Adult lacewings take to the air in the evening, seeking out scents given off by aphid honeydew or caterpillar frass. Female lacewings lay individual eggs near aphid colonies, or on leaves well-populated with other soft-bodied insects. Each egg is raised from the leaf surface by a slender stalk. Females can lay more than 400 eggs. Lacewing larvae feed for about a month, consuming about 600 aphids in that time. Because of their powerful hooked mandibles, lacewing larvae are often called aphid lions.

What Do Lacewings Eat?

The green lacewing larvae are a voracious feeder and can consume up to 200 aphids or other prey per week.In addition to aphids, it will eat mites and a wide variety of soft-bodied insects, including insect eggs, thrips, mealybugs, immature whiteflies, and small caterpillars. Aphid lions will also consume each other if no other prey is available.

7. Assassin Bugs (Reduviidae)

Assassin bug

Assassin bug

Most assassin bugs are brown, green, or black; a few species display brighter colors. They have broad bodies, elongated heads, and long, spindly legs. Females lay eggs in cracks and crevices. After hatching, the insects pass through several nymphal stages before fully maturing. Assassins can overwinter as nymphs or adults.

Adults measure ½ to 1 inch long (13 to 25 mm), and have a cone-shaped head and wide curving beak.Like all insects, they have 6 jointed legs, two antennae, and an exoskeleton made of chitin (a material that also forms our hair and fingernails). Their three-part body consists of a head (with the mouthparts, eyes, and antennae), thorax (where the legs and wings  attach), and the abdomen (with the reproductive, and most digestive organs). Females lay eggs in cracks, under rocks or in other sheltered spots in summer, and these eggs reach adult size around the following June. There is only one generation of Assassin bugs per year.

What do Assassin Bugs eat ?

Common prey includes garden pests such as hornworms, bean beetles, Colorado potato beetles, leafhoppers, cucumber beetles, lygus bugs, aphids, and caterpillars of all sorts. These predators aren’t overly discriminating and will capture a beneficial lady beetle or two along the way, but overall they’re on the right team, working to control pests in any landscape that isn’t regularly blanketed with chemical pesticides.

8. Rove Beetles (Staphylinidae):

Rove Beetles

Rove Beetles

Rove beetles are very common insects that usually go unnoticed. They are slender, elongate beetles with the distinctive characteristic of having wing covers (elytra) that are much shorter than the abdomen. The result is that over half of the top surface of the abdomen is exposed. Most rove beetles are black or brown. One common species has grayish markings on the wings and abdomen.

Most rove beetles are medium sized beetles though a few species are up to 1 inch long. Rove beetles are very active fliers or runners. When they run they often raise the tip of the abdomen.

What do Rove Beetles eat ?

Predatory rove beetles, depending on the species, may consume root maggot eggs and larvae, mites, small soil insects, insect eggs, or small insects on foliage. Some feed on the eggs and maggots of filth flies. Several occur in agricultural soils where they probably feed on a variety of types of prey. A few species can be found in vegetation where they feed on many types of small insects and mites.

 Platydracus is a voracious predator of armyworms in cornfields.

 Stenus feeds on springtails.

 Tachinus attacks fly maggots;

 Paederus is a generalist predator.

9. Fireflies (Lampyridae):

A firefly at night with its abdomen lifted up

A firefly at night with its abdomen lifted up

Fire fly

Fire fly

Lightning Bugs are winged beetles. Adults are 7/16 to 9/16 inch long, elongate and very soft-bodied, with the pronotum extending forward over the head, resulting in the head being largely or entirely concealed when viewed from above. The pronotum is reddish-yellow with a black spot in the center. Brownish-black wing covers have a light yellowish area entirely around them except in front.

The luminous lower end of a male Firefly’s abdomen is yellowish-green, whereas the female has a smaller splotch. It is these “taillight” segments where living light is produced. Eggs secreted in the earth may show a touch of luminescence.

What do fireflies prey upon ?

Most people don’t realize it, but the firefly is a beneficial insect, too. The larvae, which don’t fly, consume snails, slugs, and the larvae of various beetles and caterpillars.

10. Ground Beetles (Carabidae):

Ground Beetles

Ground Beetles

Most of the 2,500 ground beetle species are one-eighth to 1 1/2 inches long, dark, shiny and hard-shelled. Shape and color varies among species, with most being brown to black while others have metallic backs. Ground beetles live in the soil beneath mulches, around compost piles, or in the sheltered areas around perennials plants. Some of these beneficial garden insects create vertical tunnels that they use to ambush and trap prey, but most ground beetles wander about feeding at night. Compared with other garden insects, ground beetles are long-lived and may inhabit the garden for more than a year, overwintering as adults.

What do Ground Beetles feed on ?

Ground beetles will try to eat almost anything that moves, including asparagus beetlescabbage wormsColorado potato beetlescorn earworms, cutworms and slugs. Some are also important consumers of weed seeds. Ground beetles also eat earthworms, but their benefits outweigh this small flaw. Ground beetles cannot climb, so their foraging range is limited to the soil’s surface and top few inches of moist soil.
One species (Passimachus depressus) devours the larvae of Army worms and cut worms. Another species (Genus Cychrus) feeds upon snails.

11. Checkered beetles (Cleridae):

Checkered Beetle

Checkered Beetle

Checkered beetle

Checkered beetle

Checkered beetle feeding on the bark beetle.

Checkered beetle feeding on the bark beetle.

The checkered beetles (Family Cleridae), are small insects found primarily in woodlands. The name “checkered beetle” refers to the conspicuous colorful bands across the back of the adults. Their rounded bodies are often covered with dense, short hairs (pubescence). Common species are between 10-15mm. The adults are fairly long-lived and can be seen for several months during the summer.Both life stages are exceptionally good at eating insects like weevils, borer beetles and bark beetles. The adult feeds on other species of adult beetle. They can be found resting on the flowers,maybe even drinking the nectar when they are there. The checkered beetle larvae are immature, but still effective predators themselves.

   12. Some Wasps:

Yellow jacketed wasp

Yellow jacketed wasp

Paper wasp

Paper wasp

Yellow wasps feed on a wide variety of food sources. Carbohydrates are obtained from nectar, honeydew secreted by aphids, scale insects and other insects, and from various fruits. Larvae and adults of various insects provide most of the protein requirements of yellow jackets. Many larvae of insect pests are killed by wasps feeding on them.

Paper wasps are ¾ to 1 inch long. Their colors vary with different species. They should not be confused with hornets or yellow jackets. The paper wasp is sometimes called the “umbrella wasp” because their nests consist of a single exposed comb suspended by a narrow stalk. The adult wasps typically prey on caterpillars, flies, crickets and other pests. However, they will sting to defend their nests.

13. Braconid wasp (Aphidius spp)

Braconid wasp feeding on a caterpillar

Braconid wasp feeding on a caterpillar

Braconid wasp

Braconid wasp

Species within Aphidius tend to be black or brown, with a wasp’s typical narrow waist and transparent wings with some dark venation.Aphidius spp. are aphid elimination specialists. The adult female starts the process by laying a single egg in an aphid nymph. The nymph continues its nymph business until the egg hatches. Then, the wasp larva goes to work. It is an endoparasite which means it kills its prey by consuming it from the inside.

These braconid wasps are so in tune with aphid elimination that even their movements may help destroy them! While the adult wasps walk around looking for mates and aphids, they knock some of the aphids off the plant, thereby causing them to starve to death.

14. Ichneumonid wasps :

Ichneumon wasp

Ichneumon wasp

All ichneumonids are parasitoids and they parasitize a lot of insect groups, though most species attack a fairly narrow range of hosts as species are host-specific. Most ichneumonids are internal parasitoids at the immature stage of the host. They develop in or on a single host from eggs or larvae deposited by an adult female. Upon hatching, the larvae feed either externally or internally, killing the host as they are ready to pupate. Common hosts are the larvae and pupae of Coleoptera (beetles), Hymenoptera (bees & wasps), and Lepidoptera (moths & butterflies).

 

15. Chalcids (Chalcidoidea):

Chalcid

Chalcid

Chalcid wasp

Chalcid wasp

Chalcids are typically wasplike in appearance and have elbowed (jointed and bent) antennae resembling those of ants. They differ dramatically from other wasps in size, averaging only two to three millimeters in length (though some reach 12 mm or more), as well as in the fact that their wings are practically veinless. Many chalcids have dark bodies and yellow legs, but some are brightly colored with a gorgeous metallic sheen.
Despite the chalcids’ diminutive size, these garden helpers are death on the eggs and larvae of some of the most destructive varieties of insect pests, including two-winged flies, beetles, moths and butterflies, aphids, leafhoppers, scale insects, and whiteflies.

16. Tachinid Flies:

Tachinid fly

Tachinid fly

Many Tachinid Flies are parasites of important pests of agricultural crops or forest trees. Some of them are used as parasitoids in integrated control programs. A small number of species have successfully been used as biological control agents.

Tachinid fly larvae help rid your garden of: Caterpillar of many kinds (including cabbage worms and Gypsy moth), Colorado potato beetles, corn ear worms, cucumber beetles, cutworms, earwigs, four lined plant bugs, Japanese beetles, Mexican bean beetles, sawfly larvae, squash bugs, and tobacco budworms.

References:

Anchors, D. (?). Predators in the garden- Beneficial Insects. Agricultural Document Library. University of Hertfordshire.

Beneficials in the Garden and Landscape. Texas Master Gardener. (website: http://www.aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/index.html) retrieved on 2nd April, 2014.

Iowa Insect Information Notes. (website: http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/iiin/brovebee.html). Retrieved on 1st April, 2014.

Know Your Friend Rove Beetles. (website: http://www.entomology.wisc.edu/mbcn/kyf404.html). Retrieved on 2nd April, 2014.

Neupane, F.P.(2010). Some Predator and Parasitic Insects. Crop Pests and Their Management. (Pp 78-82)

Organic Pest Control Series: Beneficial insects. (website: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/beneficil-insects). Retrieved on 31st March, 2014.

Top 10 Beneficial Garden Insects. (website: http://www.insects.about.com/od/insectpests/tp/top10beneficialinsects.html). Retrieved on 31st March, 2014.

 

 

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