Good Bugs: Helpers for Your Backyard Habitat
As a familiar warmth welcomes us into the summer season, humans delight in the colorful sightings of butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. But what does it take to cultivate a thriving habitat that attracts these species to begin with? While pollinators benefit the ecosystems that thrive on blooming and fruiting plants, at the bottom of it all is the health of the ground that's needed to provide a rich flora. Here's the scoop on what's below the surface, and more helpful bugs you’ll want to keep around.
Loved by gardeners and fisherman alike, earthworms are a fantastic friend to have in your soil. Worms are an important part of the food chain, existing near the very bottom and helping to make conditions better for plants (primary producers) to thrive. Their favorite feast is decaying organic matter, and they are great composters. In addition to speeding up the composting process, their droppings (called “castings”) are a highly effective fertilizer. Larger worms prefer to live deeper underground, and while you won’t see them nearly as often, their movement helps to aerate the soil which promotes stronger root growth in nearby plants.
Daddy Long Legs
We’ve all seen these in a garage or shed at one time or another, but while they’re considered a pest indoors, they should be a welcomed guest in your garden. While technically arachnids, not insects, daddy long legs are great at helping you keep pests at bay. They eat a variety of live insects, decaying plant matter, and will even help you keep things clean by feasting on bird droppings.
With over 2,500 types of ground beetles ranging in size and shape, you’re sure to find some hanging around in your area. These nocturnal beetles love to feast on some of the worst of the garden pests, including slugs, snails, and cutworms. Some ground beetles have even been known to eat weed seeds before they even get a chance to sprout!
Despite their cutesy names and innocuous appearance, these little guys are ferocious predators! A single ladybug larvae can feast on up to 40 aphids per hour, while ladybugs need to consume hundreds per day to keep themselves sustained. Though aphids are the preferred dish, they also feed on other plant eating bugs that put your veggies in peril such as mites, thrits, and white flies.