Beneficial bugs are any of a number of species of insects or arthropods that perform valued services like pollination and pest control. The concept of “beneficial” is the desired outcome from a human perspective. In farming and agriculture, where the goal is to raise selected crops, bugs that hinder the production process are classified as pests, while bugs that assist production are considered beneficial.
Encouraging beneficial bugs by providing suitable living conditions, is a pest control strategy, often used in organic farming, organic gardening or Integrated Pest Management. Using this type of pest control eliminates dangers that come with using chemical pesticides.
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Hoverflies, sometimes called flower flies or syrphid flies, make up the insect family Syrphidae. As their common name suggests, they are often seen hovering at flowers; the adults of many species feed mainly on nectar and pollen, while the larvae (maggots) eat a wide range of foods. In some species, the larvae are saprotrophs, eating decaying plant and animal matter in the soil or in ponds and streams. In other species, the larvae are insectivores and prey on aphids, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects.
Aphids alone cause tens of millions of dollars of damage to crops worldwide every year; because of this, aphidophagous hoverflies are being recognized as important natural enemies of pests, and potential agents for use in biological control. Some adult syrphid flies are important pollinators.
About 6,000 species in 200 genera have been described. Hoverflies are common throughout the world and can be found on all continents except Antarctica. Hoverflies are harmless to most other animals despite their mimicry of more dangerous wasps and bees, which serves to ward off predators.
The Carolina mantis, Stagmomantis carolina, is a praying mantis, one of six found in North America.The Carolina mantis has a dusty brown, gray, or green color useful as camouflage in certain environments. The Carolina mantis' color varies because the nymphs are able to adjust their color, to match the environment they are in, at the time of molting.
Most mantises are exclusively predatory. Insects form their primary prey, but the diet of a mantid changes as it grows larger. In its first developmental stage or instar, a mantid will eat small insects such as tiny flies or even its own siblings. In later instars it does not or cannot profitably pursue such small prey. In the final instar as a rule the diet of the praying mantis still includes more insects than anything else, but large species of mantis have been known to prey on small scorpions, lizards, frogs, birds, snakes, fish, and even rodents; they will feed on any species small enough for them to capture, but large enough to engage their attention.
"A female Catolaccus grandis wasp homes in on a boll weevil larva. This 3/8 inch parasitic wasp, a native of Mexico, inserts her ovipositor through the plastic film covering the individual rearing cell and immobilizes the larva. From the larva she withdraws nourishment sufficient to complete development of her eggs. Later, she or another female will revisit the boll weevil larva and deposit an egg next to it. The larva soon becomes an easy meal for a newly-hatched wasp larva." USDA In the late 19th century, the boll weevil had infested all US cotton growing areas and by the 1920's it devasted the industry and the people working in the south.
Podisus maculiventris, the spined soldier bug is a species of insect common in North America. They are predators of gypsy moth caterpillars and the larvae of beetles such as the Colorado potato beetle and the Mexican bean beetle. Since the Mexican bean beetle is widely regarded as a notorious agricultural pest in North America, soldier bugs are generally considered useful garden insects.
This insect is a generalist predator with a broad host range, reportedly attacking 90 insect species, which includes several important economic pests. Reported prey include the larvae of Mexican bean beetle, European corn borer, diamondback moth, corn earworm, beet armyworm, fall armyworm, cabbage looper, imported cabbageworm, Colorado potato beetle, velvetbean caterpillar, and flea beetles.
Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly
"Swallowtail caterpillars are beneficial insects. If you want to attrack them to your garden, planting parsley will call them to the dinner table. Caterpillars forage heavily on their host plants, like parsley, but they also serve as a food source for birds and other wildlife. After their metamorphosis into butterflies, they become pollinators. Pollinators are very beneficial because without them, most farm products would not survive. In addition, butterflies are beneficial to humans because the are beautiful to see. Many species are brightly colored, and their flight so light and airy, that it pleases our spirits.
The Orb Spider
In North America, the golden silk orb-weaver spider, Nephila clavipes, are sometimes referred to as writing spiders due to occasional zigzag patterns built into their webs, and sometimes called banana spiders.
“The banana spider preys on a wide variety of small to medium sized flying insects, which include mosquitoes, grasshoppers, stinkbugs, leaf-footed bugs, bees, butterflies, flies, small moths and wasps. Banana spiders have even been seen feeding on beetles and dragonflies. These spiders are rarely found in row crops, because of lack of web support, but they are one of the two most common orb-weavers in citrus and pecan groves. Oddly, some banana spiders are reported to display an almost manic fear of cockroaches. It is thought the cockroach’s fast movements and large, dark shape cause some of the species to run from or ignore a perfectly good meal.
Orb spiders are really wonderful creatures. Their dragline thread (the silk) is of particular benefit to us as they weave strong webs compared to some other spiders. Currently, there are tests being done on their silk as it surpasses the strength of “Kevlar,” a fiber used in bulletproof vests.” Candice Hawkinson
Orius insidiosus prey on plant-eating (phytophagous) mites and their eggs, various insect eggs, and other soft-bodied arthropods such as thrips, spider mites, and small caterpillars. They also feed on the eggs and new larvae of the bollworm, spotted tobacco aphids, corn earworm, European corn borers (Ostrinia nubilalis), corn leaf aphids (Rhopalosiphum maidis), potato aphids (Macrosiphum euphorbiae), and potato leafhopper (Empoasca fabae) nymphs. They are used in orchards to help control the European red mite (Panonychus ulmi), the twospotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae), and most species of aphids. Orius insidiosus can also feed on plants and pollen.
The Big Eyed Bug Geocoris punctipes
Big-eyed bugs are considered an important predator in many agricultural systems and feed on mites, insect eggs, and small insects such as pink bollworm, cabbage loopers and whiteflies.
Lady Bug Hippodainia convergens
The Lady Bug, a beetle, is known for aphid control, but also dines on chinch bugs, corn lice, asparagus beetle larvae, Colorado potato beetle, mites and white fly. The Lady Bug is beneficial on farms and in greenhouses, and will attack pests not only in adult stages, but also in the larvae stage. One Lady Bug can eat over 1000 aphids in its lifetime.
Hogna carolinensis, also known as the Carolina wolf spider, is usually regarded as the largest of the wolf spiders found in North America. The body length of females is typically 25 millimetres, almost one inch long, and the body length of males is typically around 19 mm (0.75 in). Members of this species are known to live in burrows that they dig.
While the appearance of these spiders may seem rather forbidding, they are not inclined to bite. They flee anything larger than themselves, and generally will bite humans only if they feel threatened and are unable to escape. They do have large fangs that can create mechanical injury to other creatures, but their venom is not regarded as medically significant. A bite by one of them is sometimes described as about as painful as the sting of a bee or wasp.
These spiders are large enough to easily capture grasshoppers, crickets, and other such large agricultural pests. They are ambush predators that may wander about after dark in search of prey. They are poor climbers, so that in nature they generally remain on the ground, hidden under natural shelters such as the edges of rocks, or in their own burrows. When they enter human habitations, usually with the onset of cooler weather in autumn, they usually remain on the floor. The safe way to remove these spiders and return them to the wild is to put something like an inverted plastic bowl over them and then slide a cookie sheet or stiff paper under the bowl. The whole thing can be carried outdoors where the spider can be released to continue hunting or to find a natural shelter for itself.
In 2000, the Carolina wolf spider was declared the official state spider of South Carolina.
Phorid flies represent a new and hopeful means by which to control fire ant populations in the southern US, where fire ants were accidentally introduced in the 1930s. The genus Pseudacteon, or ant-decapitating fly, of which 110 species have been documented, is a parasitoid of the ant in South America. Pseudacteon species reproduce by laying eggs in the thorax of the ant. The first instar larvae migrate to the head. The larvae develop by feeding on the hemolymph, muscle tissue, and nervous tissue in the head. Eventually, the larvae completely devour the ant's brain, causing it to do nothing but wander aimlessly for approximately two weeks. After about two to four weeks, they cause the ant's head to fall off by releasing an enzyme that dissolves the membrane attaching the ant's head to its body. The fly pupates in the detached head capsule, requiring a further two weeks before emerging. Various species of Phoridae have been introduced throughout the southeast United States in several Counties in Texas, as well as Alabama where the ants first entered North America.
This bee, Osmia ribifloris (on a barberry flower), is an effective pollinator of commercial blueberries and is one of several relatives of the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria. Similar in appearance, the blue orchard bee is also a successful commercial pollinator that is now being evaluated for use in a wider range of crops.
"Damselflies are considered beneficial bugs because they eat other, more harmful, bugs. They are among the most ancient bugs that we know about. Fossils that were formed about 325 million years ago have been found in Europe. They are also one of the most beautiful insects that ever roamed Earth, and they have always been completely harmless to humans.
They do not sting or bite.
Damselflies are related to Dragonflies. They are both beneficial in the same way - they are predators that eat other harmful insects and they keep populations of those other insects from getting too large. Damselfly nymphs (young damselflies) live in the water, but they like to climb up plants looking for other insects to eat. The larvae particularly enjoy eating hopper nymphs that are harmful to rice crops. They are also extremely good at picking aphids off plants.
Damselflies hunt in groups where ever they find large numbers of termites together, when they find an ant colony, or near swarms of mayflies and gnats. Damselflies especially love eating flies of all kinds. Damselflies do not mind hunting in colder temperatures. They are one of the few bugs that can be observed hunting during cold weather. Males are territorial - they have an area that they consider to be their own, and they patrol that area looking for prey many for hours at a time." Linda Mensing Triplett
"Sowbugs are considered beneficial because they are effective decomposers. Sowbugs like to live in compost and eat dead vegetation, including rotting wood. They feed primarily on dead plant and animal matter and this is what makes them beneficial in nature. They are very effective decomposers and can be one of the most important parts of a compost heap." Linda Mensing Triplett
Braconid Wasp, Aleiodes indiscretus, parasitizing a gypsy moth caterpillar.
"A natural predator of the tomato hornworm is a tiny beneficial insect called the braconid wasp. This wasp lays its eggs inside the hornworm caterpillar where they hatch into larvae that feed on the hornworm's muscle tissues, while leaving its heart and other essential organs intact until the larvae mature. This largely paralyzes the hornworm, which becomes merely a living fresh food vessel that sustains the wasp larvae. Once the braconid larvae mature, which takes about a week, they then exit through a hole they make in the hornworm's skin and build a silken cocoon on the outside within which, like butterflies, they transform into adult braconid wasps that then fly off to infect other tomato hornworms. Different species of braconid wasps parasitize aphids and many other harmful insects.
Of course, those tomato hornworm caterpillars that survive produce the magnificent Sphinx moths, one of our largest and most beautiful geometrids, so completely eradicating them is not entirely desirable for aesthetic reasons, and braconid wasps provide an ecologically sound method of keeping the population of tomato hornworms under control without leading to the complete loss of this wonderful lepidopteran." LLoyd Davidson