Predatory insects vs insect pests in the garden

Not all predatory insects live above ground like ladybugs and wasps. Many spend much of their lifetime underground.While weeding my onions, I had a chance to see a life and death struggle between a predatory insect and its prey — a cutworm larva.

Normally, cutworms  stay underground during the daytime but, my weeding disrupted the soil and brought it to the surface. A species of ground beetle noticed the cutworm too. I stayed very still so not to scare away the beetle. Sure enough, it attacked the cutworm. A major battle was underway that lasted several minutes. You can probably guess who I was rooting for.

The cutworm successfully fought off the ground beetle by a lot squirming and biting.
The cutworm successfully fought off the ground beetle by a lot squirming and biting.

The sun was very bright and was taking its toll on the beetle — he eventually gave up. The cutworm  crawled away as fast as it could to find shelter.

My idea was to pick up the worm and toss it to the chickens as a snack. But just before the cutworm ducked under some leave litter, a tiny insect — not much more than one-sixteenth of an inch long  — flew in out of nowhere. In a split second, it lightly landed on the cutworm then just as quickly flew away.

It was a predatory wasp that stung the worm and laid a clutch of eggs under the cutworm’s skin.

Those wasp eggs will immediately hatch and the wasp larvae will begin feeding on the innards of the cutworm.

I let the worm go so that the wasps could complete their life-cycle.

In the struggle between predator and prey insects, the cutworm may have won the battle but it lost the war.

Bob

Young ladybugs in the garden

Ladybugs are the most well-known beneficial insects in our gardens.  With their spotted  orange body, adult ladybugs are immediately recognized by everyone, even young children.

It’s the adult stage of the beetle that we usually see. But, if you look closer sometimes you can find the larval stage. The larvae are not as attractive as the shiny adults. Some people say they look like little alligators.

 

Ladybug larva on peony bud looking for aphids to eat.

 

Beginning gardeners get concerned when they see these insects. Not realizing that they are young ladybugs, they reach for the insecticide to kill them, “just in case”.

The larval stage eats as many insect pests as do the adults.  As a matter of fact,they’re out there roaming the garden right now looking for harmful insects to eat.

Keep in mind that insecticides — even organic ones — will kill all insects, both good and bad. So, keep an eye out for these garden helpers before you decide to spray.

Bob