Beneficial insects that lend us gardeners a hand

Insects that are beneficial for the garden

These feed on pests, help plants reproduce, and give the soil better structure. Beneficial insects really give us a real hand in the garden!

Aside from bees, discover these 5 insects that are excellent companions in the garden.

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The Ladybug

Known by all is the helpful ladybugPossibly the most famous of all beneficial insects. The ladybug is famous for eating aphids! Whether it bears a single dot or more, every ladybug eats up to 50 aphids a day. They’ll do a quick job of controlling those pesky rose tree and tomato pests.

To attract them to your garden, let a few wild grasses grow, such as nettle, borage and centaury. They’re also very much attracted to nasturtium, rose trees and fennel. Another option is to purchase ladybug larvae which you can then set free near the infestation.


Hoverfly in a garden flowerThe hoverfly is a fly disguised as a wasp: it bears yellow and black stripes. Wasps have two sets of wings, whereas the hoverfly only has a single. An additional difference is that a wasp has a very thin “waist”, the place where the thorax connects to the abdomen. For a hoverfly, this isn’t the case.

Whatever: this look-alike is actually very useful! It has a voracious appetite for aphids, even more so than ladybugs: it gobbles down over 300 sap-suckers in a single day! Moreover, this pollinator flies from flower to flower, thus helping a great many plant species to reproduce. Remember that nearly 9 out of 10 plants depend at least partly on pollination by insects. And a full 35% of everything we eat comes directly from plant species that need insects to reproduce.

To attract the hoverfly, select plants that bloom as soon as Winter ends, and those that keep flowering deep into Fall. Also set a spot where decaying organic matter is freely available, like a compost: hoverflies also feed on that.


Earwig, with pinchers at the rear, eating aphidsAre those pinchers dangerous? Ah, the name of this one is is fun! And behind the curious word that scores lots of points at Scrabble, there’s an eminently helpful ally for the gardener. This small insect is instantly recognizable thanks to the claws located at the tip of its abdomen.

An earwig feeds on larvae, caterpillars, aphids and psyllids, so it’s a big help in the vegetable patch! However, one drawback is that it also loves sampling ripe fruit of the peach, apricot and plum family. A common technique to lure it away from those fruits is to hang an upside-down terra-cotta pot filled with straw on the peach tree. The insect will hide there, and then it’s easy to transfer it to another tree that might be infected by other insect pests, such as a pear tree, a fig tree or an olive tree.

The earthworm

Earthworm, a useful garden insectWith its underground burrowing, the earthworm actively contributes to the quality of the soil. This animal constantly travels up and down the different soil layers, thus bringing topsoil nutrients deep down underground. Every day, an earthworm will digest about 30 times its own weight in soil!

Their “poo” makes for extremely soft, rich and well-structured soil mix. Roots weave through it very easily, soil has a higher nutrient content, is stabler and resists erosion. This true “soilsmith” guarantees soft, rich soil that is ideal for cultivating any crop. A few species are even used in vermicomposting to recycle organic matter into an excellent soil mix.


A paper wasp building a nest feeds on garden pestsThese have a bad reputation, but actually most species are peace-loving and won’t ever hurt us. The paper wasp is the one often harassing us as we eat lunch outside in the summertime. However, though they’re a hassle to us, they’re an even greater threat to all sorts of evil caterpillars: adults feed these to their larvae in their nest. So if ever you notice a wasp nest in your garden, let it be!

This particular species lives as a community, and will clear your vegetable patch of a whole battalion of garden pests. If they’ve got enough to eat in the garden, they won’t come bother you as you eat.

Other wasp species are usually predator wasps. These eat aphids and are completely harmless for us.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: @ S@ndrine, Alfie Ianni, James Johnstone, Anna Nicola Chapman
CC BY-SA 2.0: Sarah Gould