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Beneficial Predators for a Healthy Garden

Written by Emily Morton

If pests have been getting the better of your garden this growing season, there may be a handy alternative to harsh chemical treatments.  Do you have pests in your garden? Biological pest control may be the most sustainable decision as well as the most long-term solution for managing pests. Bioagents, as they are more formally known, are species that get introduced to an area to control invasive species with negative impacts.  They offer a long-term resolution and are proven to be more cost-effective.  One natural predator, or bioagent, can target many pests at one time.  Once the negative impacts of the invasive species have been reduced, your desired flora and fauna can begin to flourish.

One of the most effective bioagents is the Ladybug. They target some of the most common garden pests and will stay for generations if provided with enough food, i.e. pests!

Ladybug in all her glory!

Ladybugs will:

-Target aphids, spider mites, mealy bugs

– Attack Aphids which are most commonly found on tomatoes, hydrangea, and a wide variety of annuals and herbs

Ladybug munching on an aphid

-Munch on little green aphid bugs that turn leaves yellow and moldy (can eat up to 5,000 aphids in a lifetime!)

-Flock to blossoming flowers and herbs or can be bought at the local garden center

Praying Mantids are another common bioagent used by Midwest gardeners. Unlike ladybugs, however, they are generalist bioagents which means they will eat the harmful pests but also beneficial bugs.

Mantis close-up

-Generalist predators will eat anything but prefer larger pests such as flies, grasshoppers, moths, and crickets

Mantids can take on bigger pests in your garden

-Hunt at all times of day

– Are attracted to blossoming flowers and herbs or can be bought at the local garden center

Pests will always be a natural part of the garden ecosystem. So instead of clobbering them and your plants with layers of hazardous chemicals, consider introducing natural predators to your garden! It could be this summer’s fun new science experiment that keeps your yard looking healthier than ever.

For more information on the broad benefits of bioagents, the MDA has great information:

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