Of the more than one million types of insects in the world, less than 5 percent are harmful. Some insects can be nuisances, but don’t cause plant damage. Beneficial insects are important tools for managing insect pests in your yard. Almost every insect pest has one or more natural enemies that reduce its population when it gets out of control.
Beneficial insects kill or reduce the numbers of bad insects in your yard. Learn to recognize them. See University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s photo gallery at www.manageNVpest.info. These good guys will hang around your yard, if you treat them well. The balance between good and bad insects is critical to a healthy landscape. A change in weather patterns, use of a pesticide or even removal of a shrub that provides cover can disrupt the balance between good and bad insects. You can minimize this imbalance by keeping your plants vigorous and healthy throughout the year.
Insect management does not mean killing every pest insect in your yard. Eliminating all pest insects reduces your population of beneficial insects. Pest insects attract the good insects that eat them. The key is to find a level you can tolerate and let nature take its course.
Beneficial insects are available commercially for release into your yard. You must follow label directions carefully for good results. Insects released in your garden may not stick around if they find food, shelter or water elsewhere.
Here are tips to boost populations of good insects:
Plant more flowers to provide nectar and shelter for good insects.
Use lures to attract good insects. Many use chemicals that emit the scent of a specific pest insect.
Use insecticides only as a last resort. They can kill your good insects.
Accept a level of pest insects that will attract more good insects. Good insects need something to eat.
Identify the insect before you take action so you don’t do more harm than good.
Provide a fresh water source such as a bird bath.
For more information on beneficial insects and other pest management topics go to www.manageNVpest.info.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 887-2252.