Saturday, February 2, 2019

Bugs - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Not all bugs in the garden are bad. 
Some bugs are beneficial. such as parasites and predators. The are looking for pests to consume. Two well-known good guys are preying mantis and lady bird beetles; spiders are also good predators.  Biological control can work very well. As an example, in California when certain species of whitefly came into a new area, both citrus  and some vegetable crops were damaged or completely destroyed. Yet within a number of years, their natural enemies were established, and for the most part, the pest became inconsequential.  Pollinating insect can also be categorized as beneficial.

Some bugs may be found on a plant, but are not feeding and therefore cause no damage. The bug may simply be resting or perhaps searching for nectar or another source of food.                                                                                                   
Some insects of course are known pests, but cause little damage. A bite may be taken from a leaf here and there,  or a little juice sucked from a stem, but overall, the plant is not harmed. 
On the other hand, some bugs do inflict damage, but it is only cosmetic. That is, the leaves or fruit may be scared or misshapen, but there is no real loss of yield.  In many cases, cosmetic damage should be tolerated. This type of damage on citrus fruit is caused by thrips and does not affect the internal quality.    
Above Photos: University of California IPM Program

And finally, if there is an infestation of an insect pest which will cause yields to be significantly lowered, the gardener will have to decide whether to wait a bit and see if biological control will work. If a parasite or predator can control the pest population, no intervention is needed. Yet if spraying is the choice, consider first a bio-rational pesticide, such as soap, oil, Bt or sulfur. These are less injurious to the environment, and may not harm the predator or parasite populations. 

And, the Ugly
Colorized image of a flower beetle
Arizona State University