Give bugs a break

Toxomerus sp. "Hoverfly"
Toxomerus sp. “Hoverfly”

The warm days of summer bring out insects.  Lots and lots of insects.  And for many people, the knee jerk reaction to the sight of any insect is to kill it.  Gardeners are no exception and might be the worst of all when bugs are spotted on or near their precious plants.

There are certainly insects that are bad news in the garden, but they are a small minority compared the ones that are harmless or even beneficial.  The tiny Hoverfly above looks like a bee, but it isn’t.  It’s a fly.  It can’t sting or bite you, and is an important pollinator.  The larvae are voracious eaters of scale, thrips and aphids.

This carpenter ant is collecting pollen and nectar. No harm is being done to the plant -- in fact it may be providing pollination services.
This carpenter ant is collecting pollen and nectar. No harm is being done to the plant — in fact it may be providing pollination services.

So when you see a strange insect, apply your brakes.  They probably aren’t doing any harm and they might be helping you.  Be patient and observe.  Can you go to a site like BugGuide.net or WhatsThatBug.com and identify it?  Is the insect actually harming the plant?  Even if the bug is potentially harmful, is it causing enough damage to warrant intervention?  Can you remove harmful insects without harming the pollinators and predators that you also need?

Remember, your beneficial animals, reptiles, arachnids and insects need prey in order to thrive.  You won’t have ladybugs unless there are some aphids to eat.  So give bugs a break.  A healthy garden has a vibrant ecosystem, including a lot of insects.

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