Originally Published: August 18, 2017 6:03 a.m.
Although it’s virtually impossible to count them, insects are the most diverse group of organisms on the planet. Nine hundred thousand different kinds of insects are known to exist. At any given time, it is estimated that there are around 10 quintillion individual insects living.
Gardeners grow frustrated when seeing their gardens infested with insects. In an effort to restore their gardens, homeowners might be tempted to eradicate any bug that moves in their yards. But gardeners would be wise to first learn which insects are hurting their gardens and which can actually help gardens in the long run.
Certain insects can be dangerous to animals and plants. The following are a handful of insects that can threaten the vitality of gardens.
Aphids: These insects suck on the juice needed to sustain plants, particularly when they congregate.
Bald-faced hornet: Hornets tend to be an aggressive species that can sting repeatedly. Should you find a nest near an entertaining space or garden, it can cause trouble.
Carpenter ants: These ants will burrow into wood causing damage. They may compromise any wooden structure in and around a home.
Locusts: Various species of locust can damage plants and crops due to their voracious appetites.
Treehoppers: These small, green insects mimic the look of leaves, and their appetites can affect crops and gardens.
Red pavement ant: As they feed on all manner of human food, these ants can quickly overtake areas with their staggering numbers and deliver painful bites.
Grasshoppers: Certain grasshoppers, like the red-legged grasshopper, can decimate food crops and transfer parasites to birds when eaten as prey.
Caterpillars: Many caterpillars, the precursor to adult moths, will feed constantly on leaves, stems and other parts of plants. The tobacco hornworm moth caterpillar can damage potato and tomato plants.
Plants depend on insects to transfer pollen as they forage, and many insects are quite beneficial to have around. While some pollinate, others are predators of other pests.
Antlion: A foe of ants, they’ll help eat and control ant populations and pollinate flowers. They pose no threat to humans, either.
Big dipper firefly: These colorful insects feast on earthworms, slugs and snails during the larval stage. Fireflies add drama to evening gardens with their twinkling lights.
Garden spiders: Although some spiders can be venomous, many are quite handy to have around the garden. They’ll help control pest populations that can damage plants and crops.
Dragonflies: These arial artists that zip around the yard are consuming smaller insects that would otherwise pester plants and humans.
Blue-winged wasp: This wasp attacks the larvae of Japanese beetles, helping to control beetle populations.
Bees and butterflies: Butterflies and bees are some of the best pollinators out there, and each can add whimsy to gardens.
— Metro Creative Services