CAPTION: Dragonflies feast on many garden pests, such as aphids and mosquitoes. ATTRIBUTION: Bahman Farzad (Flickr)

CAPTION: Dragonflies feast on many garden pests, such as aphids and mosquitoes. ATTRIBUTION: Bahman Farzad (Flickr)

Gardens are full of bugs, some good, some bad. In a previous post, we reviewed the worst insects found in gardens and how to rid your landscaping of these pesky pests. Today, we’re going to talk about the best bugs to have in a garden. One of the best ways to control garden pests is to have beneficial bugs that keep the bad bugs at bay. Encourage the following “good” bugs to frequent your garden.


Ladybugs, also referred to as lady beetles or ladybird beetles, are the natural enemies of many insects, including sap feeders like aphids. They will also eat small, soft-bodied insect eggs, insect larvae, and mites. Attract ladybugs to your garden by providing plants from which they like to eat pollen, such as fennel, angelica, marigold, chives, and caraway.

Green Lacewing

Green lacewing larvae consume various soft-bodied insect pests while in egg and immature stages. When green lacewings are present, you can expect them to rid your garden of unwelcome spider mites, aphids, whiteflies, thrips, caterpillars, and mealybugs. Remove row covers from plants during the evening hours to encourage green lacewings to hunt for pests. Also grow a diversity of plants to provide shelter.


During the larvae stage, dragonflies will prey on mosquito larvae. When dragonflies reach maturity, they consume mosquitoes, gnats, and midges that fly through the air. Dragonflies tend to stay close to ponds, streams, or wetlands. It may be necessary to build a small pond to attract these flying insects to your yard.

Assassin Bug

There are more than 100 species of assassin bugs found across North America. Adults can be three-quarters of an inch or more in length with a curved, sharp mouth and bristly front legs that they use to ambush and capture prey. Assassin bugs eat a variety of garden pests, including hornworms, leafhoppers, lygus bugs, and Mexican bean beetles. Attract these bugs to your garden with smaller flowers that are easy to reach into, like daisy varieties, Queen Anne’s Lace, alfalfa, fennel, and goldenrod.

Parasitic Wasp

Parasitic wasps may be tiny, but they have the ability to attack, paralyze, and kill many types of garden pests. They also reproduce quickly, allowing large populations of wasps to control insect pest infestations. Plants that attract parasitic wasps include common yarrow, dill, lemon balm, parsley, pennyroyal, and marigold.

Minute Pirate Bug

Minute pirate bugs are general predators that consume a wide variety of pests, including aphids, mites, thrips, and small caterpillars. Each adult pirate bug can eat as many as 20 thrip larvae a day. Several plants that attract these good bugs include alfalfa, goldenrod, caraway, cosmos, spearmint, and fennel.

Syrphid Fly

Syrphid flies resemble small wasps with yellow and black or white striped abdomens. The larvae are excellent at ridding gardens of aphids, mealybugs, young cabbage worms, and various types of small caterpillars. Syrphid flies are attracted to carpet bugleweed, lavender globe lily, purple poppy mallow, masterwort, and statice.

Praying Mantis

The praying mantis uses its back and middle legs to grasp a stem or twig, as it uses its spiny front legs to strike its enemy in a blink of an eye. Mantises have huge appetites, eating aphids, mosquitoes, leafhoppers, caterpillars, and various other soft-bodied insects. Praying mantises prefer organically grown gardens with plants within the rose and raspberry family as well as tall grasses that offer shelter.

Soldier Beetle

Soldier beetles are predators to a multitude of bad bugs, including cucumber beetles, caterpillars, beetle larvae, grasshopper eggs, and other insects and eggs. Adults supplement their diet with pollen from plants, making them efficient pollinators. Soldier beetles can often be found around herbs as well as single-flowered marigolds and goldenrods.

Ground Beetle

The hefty diet of a ground beetle can help control slugs, caterpillars, asparagus beetles, corn earworms, and tobacco budworms in your garden. There are more than 2,500 species of ground beetles that may inhibit gardens for more than a year. Ground beetles like to hide beneath rocks, woody debris, and leaf litter. Add a thick layer of wood chips or shredded leaves to your garden beds to provide a habitat for ground beetles.


Bees provide a useful service to plants, including the pollination of many ornamental, fruit, and vegetable plants. These bugs are necessary to cross-pollinate plants to obtain viable seeds and mature fruits. Bees are most attracted to single-petal blossoms, as these offer more pollen than double blossoms. Honeybees also find purple, blue, and yellow flowers most appealing.