For some people, the mere sight of an insect is enough to cause a major cringe. If you happen to be one of those individuals and you like to garden outdoors, too, it's inevitable that you'll be faced with the "to squish or not to squish" decision quite regularly. While it can be tempting to strive for a bug-free garden, this isn't always wise—some bugs are quite beneficial, while others may be quite dangerous. This short guide will help you to detect the difference.
Status: Beneficial; do not squish unless indoors or in overwhelming numbers.
These brightly-colored bugs most commonly present as red with black spots, but they also come in a number of other color variations, too. White with black spots, goldish-yellow with white spots, and even several different variations of black, gray, pink, and blue. Generally speaking, however, almost all ladybug variations will feature a rounded, bisected shell that opens up to expose small, translucent wings.
If you find ladybugs in your garden, leave them alone—they eat aphids and spider mites and thus will protect your plant if an infestation occurs. If you happen to see a ladybug swarm, have no fear; swarms are a temporary occurrence, and most will move on in just a day or two if outside.
General consensus: Do not kill these beneficial bugs unless it's absolutely necessary. If you must, an all-purpose insecticide spray will work for minor infestations. In the event of a major infestation, or if a swarm takes up residence within your home, contact a pest control specialist; he or she may even be able to relocate the swarm without killing them.
Status: Often an annoyance; somewhat beneficial to wildlife. Squish if necessary.
Nothing is quite as fearsome to many as the ugly but totally harmless June bug. Most people recognize them first by the noise they make when flying—the loud, bothersome buzzing can be heard in both the spring and early summer, especially at night, and almost inevitably if you leave the outdoor light on.
The term "June bug" is actually used for more than just one type of bug, and may include a number of insects found in the sub-families Melolonthinae or Cetoniinae. This includes varieties like the green June beetle, the figeater beetle, the summer chafer, the 10-lined beetle, and the May beetle.
Each of these has its own unique characteristics, but almost all beetles within the group feature a characteristically large size and smooth, gently-rounded shell. They tend to be longer than they are wide, and are notoriously clumsy both in the air and on the ground. Most hatch out of the earth once temperatures and humidity reach the right levels.
June bugs can actually cause damage to your garden and lawn, so it's okay to kill them if you feel inspired to do so. Though it's the eggs and larvae that do the most damage—mostly because eggs are laid in the soil, where larvae then tunnel their way out—it's the adults you'll want to target most.
General consensus: Kill if necessary. Keep in mind that June bugs make an excellent snack for everything from birds to small mammals like raccoons, and they certainly aren't dangerous to you, even if they are annoying. Try using milky spore or nematodes in your lawn once in early spring before they arrive; both substances can and will kill the adults and the larvae that remain in the soil.
To lessen the impact of June bugs on your patio, keep your patio light turned off whenever possible. They are highly attracted to light. A bug zapper is also quite effective if placed near your front door.
Bees (Almost Any Variety)
Status: Beneficial; protect whenever possible. Do not squish, especially if in large numbers!
The world of bees is staggering; scientists estimate that the United States may very well be home to as many as 4,000 different species of bees at any given time. Some of these are beneficial, like the honeybee, while others live solitary lives and do little more than eat dead insect carcasses.
Almost all species present as a small, fat, and fuzzy insect with two elongated wings, black and yellow stripes, and two antennae in the front. These are not to be confused with yellowjackets, wasps, or hornets; these predator insects do share similarities in color and striping, but are far thinner and not very fuzzy or furred.
Because all bees tend to have the ability to sting, many people experience a knee-jerk reaction that tells them to kill the insects immediately on sight. However, this approach tends to be overblown. The most common bee, the American honeybee, actually dies immediately after it stings; most aren't aggressive unless their hive is disturbed or threatened.
The importance of protecting most species of bees cannot be understated. These extremely beneficial pollinators help to spread pollen, giving many plants the opportunity to multiply; without them, many of these plants would simply cease to exist.
Consider for a moment that the very foods we eat are included under this umbrella. Grapes, elderberries, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and even the incredibly diverse soybean are all pollinated by bees.
Add to this the fact that the scientists are now suggesting that American bee populations are declining rapidly, and you have an excellent case for their protection in all situations.
General consensus: Killing the odd bee that finds its way inside your home likely isn't a problem and may even be necessary if you have a household member who is allergic. A can of insect spray is usually more than enough to do the job. Bees found on your flowers should be left alone; they directly benefit them by providing cross-pollination.
If you encounter a hive or swarm,or you find bees on your property in increasing numbers, do not attempt to remove the insects on your own. When numbers grow large, a can of insecticide will do little more than kill a few insects and madden the rest.
Though it's rare, a high number of stings can sometimes be fatal. In this instance, a bee removal service is your best bet; these talented pest control individuals can come in, smoke out the hive, and possibly even relocate the bees to a safe location.
While the best way to deal with any insect is to simply leave it alone to live out its life, this isn't always wise, feasible, or possible. As a homeowner, you have a wealth of options available to you, some of which may include extermination, relocation, or even the introduction of direct predator insects as a method of population management. If you find yourself struggling with insects this spring, be sure to call and schedule a consultation with a pest control professional for one-on-one advice.