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Embracing Beneficial Bugs in Our Gardens

By: Anni Jack, Adult Education Coordinator | 08/09/2021

Gross, grody, ewww, skivvy, icky, creepy, heebee jeebees…  all terms that I have heard describing bugs, often directly before or after the bug’s demise.  It happens… our instinctual response takes over.  My hope is that we can give these insects a little more thought, resist the urge to fight or take flight, and become fascinated with their unique and often beautiful qualities as well as their vast benefits to our gardens and beyond.
Buggy benefits

🌱 Food source and production
Bugs play a huge role in our food chain and without them a variety of wildlife would go hungry, such as mammals, amphibians, fish, and birds.  Let’s not forget that they are a sustainable source of protein for humans too – a large portion of the planet partakes in bugs for nutrition.   

They can also be key to the production industry.  Silk is an ancient fabric woven from silk worm fiber and honeybees produce our honey, beeswax, as well as pollinate the majority of our almond crop.

🌱 Pollination
Bugs pollinate our food and plant-based industrial crops!  They also pollinate in nature which in turn leads to cleaner air, purer water, and less erosion.  Yes, please!

🌱 Decomposition
Thankfully this group of bugs stops us from being surrounded by rotting food and dead things… Thank you, decomposers!

🌱 Prey on the baddies
The larvae of both predators (bug eaters) and parasitoids (parasites that lay eggs in or near their bug host) are seriously hungry and can devour colonies of baddies quickly.  The adults can do a pretty good job too.


As we meander through our gardens, how do we identify the problematic bugs from those awesome ones described above? 

🌱 Observe
Are they causing prolific damage?  Is there a whole heck of a lot of them?

🌱 ID it with an image
– Try identifying it through the Picture Insect App
– Do some research comparing images on websites like insectimages.org
– Seek professional id help. You can make an insect identification request through the University of Idaho extension here: https://www.uidaho.edu/extension/insect-id/form
– Join buggy communities in your neck of the woods such as garden Facebook groups. Chances are you are not alone in your concerns and there are seasoned folks who could be of help.

Lastly, how do we promote those beneficial bugs in our garden?

🌱 Plant diverse flowering plants with overlapping bloom periods early spring through late fall. Planting food sources will help beneficial bugs survive when the prey is low.

🌱 Create shelter in beds, with crops, or with mulch

🌱 Offer water sources

🌱 Protect from broad-spectrum insecticides. Use soaps, oils, or natural techniques that affect only the unwanted pests.

Stay tuned for the sequel: a spotlight highlighting five beneficial bugs found in our very own backyard…Questions about gardening? Call our Horticulture Helpline at 208-275-8614 or e-mail us at info@idahobotanicalgarden.org.