As gardeners, it is easy to become obsessed with keeping our landscapes as perfect as possible. In Florida, this can become a real challenge when warm weather rolls around and brings out swarms of bugs. The gut reaction of many people is to try to mitigate this infestation with chemical controls. These controls may help in the short term, but all chemicals will wear off eventually and stop providing protection for your plants. Many chemicals are also non-selective in the bugs that they kill, and will hurt populations of beneficial insects.
Instead of using pesticides as a go-to for pest control in the garden, it can be quite effective to let natural predatory bugs do the pest control for you! There are a bunch of predatory bugs that will proliferate in your garden if conditions are good for them. Simply having diversity in your landscape and providing good habitats for these critters is a great way to start.
Some of the best predatory bugs to have in the garden include: spiders, parasitic wasps, assassin beetles, ladybugs, lacewings and praying mantids. Many of these good bugs will show up in your garden on their own if there is food for them to eat. Next time you notice aphids on your plant, look around the plant and you will almost always find a ladybug scoping out the feast! But if you think you would like to bring more of these pest-eating powerhouses to your landscape, there are some that you can introduce into the garden yourself.
This article was written by Kaelin Riché.
(Tallahassee Nurseries Garden Showplace Manager, FNGLA Florida Certified Horticulture Professional)