Common Garden Pests – The Good Guys and the Bad Guys


In a perfect world you might dream of a garden that is pest free but the reality is quite different. No garden can ever be totally pest free nor should it be. There are good insects and bad insects and learning to identify the ones that are pests and the ones that are not is very important for successfully managing your garden. Before you rush to zap them it is best to know the ones that can be useful for your garden because plants need insects for pollination purposes.

In this article we take one example each from the good and the bad to demonstrate the importance of knowing what insects are good and the ones that are not.

Good insects: Lady Beetle or Ladybug Nymphs

To most gardeners the Ladybug is very welcome; it is an avid aphid eater and one of the good insects very necessary for a garden. You have to learn to recognize them because in the nymph stage they are quite unrecognizable and gardeners tend to get rid of them. It is very important to know all the stages of growth of an insect that is beneficial to your garden; this will prevent you from getting rid of the good insects along with the bad by mistake.

The Ladybug in the mature stage is quite distinctive and even a non gardening person will easily recognize them for what they are. However, in the baby stage they look more like tiny alligators, half inch in length with orange, red or white markings on them. Gardeners are alarmed by these strange looking creatures on their plants and immediately reach for the pesticide. You would be wise to take the time to check first!

Ladybugs make their appearance when spring begins; during winter they hide in tree bark, shingles and even the attic to stay dry and protected. Once springtime rolls round they start feeding and laying their eggs. One ladybug lays about a 1000 eggs and the babies start to feed as soon as they emerge from the eggs.

Here’s an interesting fact, one Ladybug (nymph) can gobble up as many as 350-400 aphids in a 3 week period. Think how useful that is to your garden. They don’t just eat aphids; they eat small scale, whitefly pupa, spider mite and thrips as well, whenever they are available. A good insect for sure!

Bad insects: Leaf Miners

Leaf miners are larva from a variety of insects and can be identified by the squiggle lines running through the leaves of the plant. Eggs laid on the leaves hatch and then the larva dig themselves into the leaf tissue and start feeding right through the leaf. These little things can do much damage to your plant and it is best to get rid of them as soon as you spot them.

The damage done to a plant by Leaf miners is seldom enough to kill the plant but if they attack the spinach in your vegetable garden that’s a loss of crop for you. It is not advisable to use insecticides to get rid of these pests. Simply remove the leaf itself. In very severe cases there are insecticides sold for Leaf miners specifically which you can use.