Not All Bugs Are Bad Guys

In every war there’s a side that you’re on and one that you’re not. The “enemies” are simply soldiers. If they’re anything like us, the troops are simply trying to do their jobs. The battle is won when the army with the most dedicated workers, using the latest gizmos and better plans plainly are more successful at the situation in which they find themselves.

So, let’s make-believe that the garden in the backyard is a battlefield. The bounty is solid bite of your cukes, a vicious gnawing of the leaves on your prized hydrangea and setting-up a command post on the high-ground – the silk of your corn.

Little did you know, there are some surveillance drones in bug form that are on your side. Some have more power than that can of poisonous spritz. The cavalry is advancing from the east. The good guys and gals are about to come to your rescue before you need to put an index finger on the button. They’ve got your back.

The Allies

In the thresh of war there are battalions of troops – beneficial insects – that you can draft into your fight against the baddies. The problem is their uniforms are so small; it’s occasionally tough to tell who’s on whose side. Let’s help you with that:

  • Syrphid Flies.
    Believe you’ve just been overtaken by some new yellow-orange and black bees? Chill. There’s a bug called Syrphid flies and you can tell them from a bee because they have only two wings. Why should you like these soldiers? They eat aphids. And if that advantage isn’t enough, as they buzz around flowers, they pollinate the buds.
  • Assassin Bugs.
    This “Seal Team” is something you don’t want to mess with. They’ll bite you. Read: They’ll chomp a piece of your body just as well as everything from caterpillars to beetles. They are hard-core killers that will don a disguise or tap-out a trick to get the mission accomplished.
  • Damsel Bugs.
    Sounds like a sweet lady, but don’t be deceived. They don’t care if it’s crawling or its about to hatch. On the Damsel’s menu are thrips, aphids, leafhoppers, caterpillars – basically any kind of soft-bodied insect. They look a lot like the assassin bugs, but they’re a little smaller.
  • Green Lacewings.
    When they grow-up, they’re mostly vegans. It’s the babies you need to watch-out for. Those little monsters are best known as “aphid lions.”
  • Lady Beetles.
    Talk about a beneficial insect, the ladybug longs for a meal of scale insects, aphids, mealybugs, thrips and mites. In some climates, they’ll retreat to your indoors. Don’t go crazy if this happens. They are harmless to us and pretty cute.
  • Predatory Stink Bugs.
    Mixed feelings about this soldier. On one hand, when smashed, they stink. But there’s a certain draftee called the spined soldier bug. While they make a meal from sawfly larvae, grubs and caterpillars, they might also dine on those harmless ladybugs.
  • Praying Mantis or Mantids.
    Looking for a master of disguise? This 007 of the bug brigade can feast on some of the bigger critters in your garden. But like the stink bugs, they don’t care what’s on the plate. They will just as soon eat beneficial bugs as bad actors. By the way, dispel this myth: It is not against the law to kill a mantis. But ask yourself, if that thought comes to mind: Why would you do that to such a neat insect?
  • Ground Beetles.
    These tanks are all over the garden. It’s not mom and pop that does the dirty work. It’s the larvae. As they mature in the soil, they’ll eat cutworms, slugs, root maggots and most anything that sticks close to the ground.

Not everything that looks like it came from another planet should be cast in a Sigourney Weaver flick. In a way, it’s like the old saw that was used during two World Wars. Longtime enemies Britain and France uniting against Germany during World War I. The Western capitalist democracies aiding the Soviet Union following the Nazi invasion during World War II. And more recently the U.S. support for anti-Communist dictatorships during the Cold War. The operative phrase soldier is this:

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

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