It’s Good to be Bugged…Sometimes

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

Mention the word “insect” and the first thought that comes to mind is of flies, ants that raid your cupboard, creepy-looking Parktown Prawns or moths. An entire industry has been built around developing products that rid our homes of various creepy crawlies but often, we should welcome rather chase these bugs away. Many insects that we readily poison can benefit your garden.

A common casualty of insecticides is the common Ladybug. Though most homeowners won’t go out of their way to rid their gardens of these marvelously coloured bugs, they are often inadvertent victims. Ladybugs keep aphids in check as they lay eggs directly onto aphid colonies. Not only do they keep aphids in check, but Ladybugs are also know to keep mite populations down.

Perhaps they are best know for eating mates during mating season (a terrible way to end a romantic encounter), but for years there have been Old Wive’s Tales about the praying mantis. Many believe them to bring luck, which is not entirely untrue, provided you need a bit of good fortune in the garden. Their diet consists of common pests such as fruit flies and moths. They are predators whose camouflage and ability to lie still ensure that they trap many unwary garden pests.

Though they don’t occur in all areas as they tend to live close to water, dragonflies can be invaluable assistants on controlling pests. Their biggest benefit is that they feed on mosquitoes. Ironically, pesticides produced to kill mosquitoes kill dragonflies too. If you do spot them in your garden its best to ease off on the chemicals as they will reduce pest populations in time.

Though their venom is largely harmless to humans, rain spiders are without a shadow of a doubt, the most imposing creatures to find in ones garden. They are among the largest non-tarantula spiders on the planet and seem to have a fondness for being indoors, something that doesn’t sit well with many homeowners. Despite being able to drive fear and panic into the burliest of men, rain spiders are useful allies to have. They feed on insects, though some of their prey would include useful creatures such as ladybugs. Despite their ability to control pests, it is difficult to convince people not to get rid of these fierce-looking spiders.

Perhaps the most useful, though under certain circumstances deadly, garden insect is the bee. They are pivotal players when it comes to pollination and it is believed that entire ecosystems would eventually collapse without bees. If you are allergic or unwittingly disturb a hive the effects can have fatal consequences.

There has been a shift in recent times towards biological pest control and creating sustainable ecosystems within a garden. The creatures mentioned above all have a part to play and many homeowners are actively encouraging certain species of plants, fungi, insects and birds to settle in their gardens. The result, barring erratic weather conditions or diseases that affects any species, is an organic garden in which the homeowner will have to use no toxic chemicals to keep pests at bay.

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