Friday, August 18, 2006

Garden Insects: The Good The Bad and The Ugly

When it comes to insects in the garden, some are good, some are bad, and they're all ugly! Even still, I find them fascinating. My research last week about the tomato hornworm and braconid wasps got me very interested in how some insects are beneficial to the garden. Finding the Hornworm made me want to explore the garden to find out what other creatures I could find, so my daughter and I set out on a Bug Photo Safari! I knew we would find a lot of insects since we use no insecticides on the garden. Even still, I was surprised at how many different ones we discovered in just one day. We carefully photographed each one and then went inside to research what they are. Here are the ones we found only in tomatoes!


The Western Yellowstriped Army Worm. Look how much of that leaf he already ate.


Blister Beetle. These guys are doing more damage to my tomatoes than any other bug. They eat a lot of leaves, and deposit nasty droppings all over the place. I plan to post later about them only.


Field Cricket and Grasshopper. Both have chewing mouthparts but the Grasshopper is much worse.


Aphids! I think. They are very small and are found on the underside of the tomato leaves like aphids but they seem to have longer legs than aphids. I really don't know. I only found a few of them.

Bad and Good!

Tomato Hornworm and Braconid Wasps. The Hornworm can eat ALL of the leaves off of a tomato branch. It would probably be the worst garden pest of all if it weren't for the parasitic Braconid Wasps that kill them. See my recent post Tomato Hornworm or Space Alien? for more details.


Spined Soldier Bug. The Soldier is beneficial because it eats armyworms, beetles and cabbage loopers (which were in my garden too). The Soldier Beetle is said to be so beneficial that there was a big article in Organic Gardening Magazine about how to trap them in the wild in order to release them in your garden. Read the article HERE. Notice there is another little bug on his back. I don't know his story.


A small spider. Spiders eat many insects.


I know what you're thinking, a toad is not an insect. You are right, but we found him on our safari and he is very beneficial to the garden since he also eats insects.

There is one more insect to show you, and I can not figure out what it is. I don't know if it is good or bad. I have seen these bugs sitting on tomatoes all season long. They don't seem to do anything or hurt anything. It is shaped like a very small stink bug, but is the wrong color. Look at the bright red color on part of its back. Also notice how small they are compared to my daughter's thumb. There are usually several together and they move pretty fast when disturbed - very difficult to photograph.

If you know what this is, please comment or email me.

Well there you have it. All of these were found in one evening in the tomato portion of the garden. It took a bit of searching to find them, but they were all there hiding amongst the many leaves, happily living their lives to the fullest. Some are bad but some are good. Overall things are balanced out and I still get much production from the garden. That’s why I believe in complete organic gardening. I say we should leave things as natural as possible.



Your mysterious bug looks like a twice-stabbed stink bug....aka:

Cosmopepla lintneriana

Hope this helps!


.. also called harlequin bug. Very destructive!!

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