When you’re deciding how to manage pests in your garden and landscape, keep this in mind: First, do no harm. The vast majority of garden visitors are either helpful or harmless.


Learn to identify ladybug larvae, right. They are major aphid eaters.

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Read Most Bugs are Good Bugs for more detail and photos of beneficial creatures.

As you make your first visits to the garden this year, you’re sure to see a few bugs. Keep in mind that the majority of garden visitors are either helpful or harmless. Get on a first-name basis with as many of them as possible. Here are some of the “good guys” that you should know:

  • Ladybugs: The familiar ladybug is a well-known aphid eater. Plus, it’s cute. Although ladybug larvae are far from cute, they eat even more aphids.
  • Lacewings: Another aphid-eater. The lacebug larvae won’t win any beauty contests either, but they rival ladybug larvae in the aphid-eating department.
  • Caterpillars: Not all caterpillars are pests. If you like butterflies, take time to learn to identify pest caterpillars and good caterpillars, including their eggs.
  • Pest eaters: In addition to ladybugs, other beneficial insects that help control pest insects include dragonflies; parasitic (non-stinging) wasps; tachinid and syrphid flies; and the colorfully named damsel, assassin and big-eyed bugs.
  • Decomposers: Centipedes, sowbugs and ground beetles break down organic matter, helping release the nutrients to garden plants.
  • Pollinators: Bees, moths, butterflies, wasps and beetles all play a role in pollination, ensuring that crops are fruitful.
  • Toads: You’ll have fewer slugs if toads are in residence.
  • Spiders: Spiders control aphids, caterpillars and other insect pests.
  • Bats: Most species consume huge numbers of insects every day, and others are important pollinators.
  • Birds: Most backyard birds eat a combination of seeds, berries and insects. But in late spring and early summer, birds are busy filling the mouths of their hatchlings, and baby birds like nothing better than freshly caught bugs.