Attracting Beneficial Insects and Critters

At first glance, some creatures and critters of the world seem horrifying, but some are not what they seem. At first glance, they may seem they are not beneficial at all, but most are simply misunderstood or improperly introduced or handled. Some of these feared animals and insects are beneficial to the garden.

Snakes

While most snakes don't have a universal appeal as being beneficial, they are just that. Even poisonous snakes have a use in a garden so long as care is taken around areas where they are known to roam and hunt.

Some snakes keep the number of pesky insects in check, especially smaller snakes like garter snakes and ribbon snakes. Many bigger snakes keep the populations of rodents like rabbits, squirrels and even groundhogs and gophers to a minimum, thus reducing the damage sometimes done to gardens by these animals.

Teach your kids to respect the space around snakes as most snakes, whether they are poisonous or not, will strike if distrubed or harassed. Snakes are truly beneficial and very interesting to watch.

Ladybugs

Those cute little red and black insects crawl along our plants searching for food. A main source of food for them is aphids. Aphids are damaging to many plants, and a healthy population of ladybugs acts as a natural pesitcide.

Praying Mantis

She slowly stalks the grasshopper. The grasshopper won't even know she is there because the grasshopper won't be able to see her. She is a praying mantis and she can match her surroundings very well with the adaptations that she has.

The praying mantis feeds mainly on damaging insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and moths. Some species of praying mantis have also been known to even eat frogs and small nesting birds.

Bees and Wasps

There's that buzzing noise again. Could it be the vibration of a car? No, it's not cars in the garden. It's the bees and wasps.

Bees and wasps are beneficial because they help pollinate garden plants. Bees fly from flower to flower gathering pollen and nectar for the hive. On each stop, some of the gathered pollen falls off into other flowers of the same type. This pollinates the flowers so that they can become fruit or vegetables.

Some wasps are parasitic, attacking other insects that could damage plants in the garden. There are some wasps that will lay their eggs inside a caterpillar that could easily damage your garden plants. But when the wasp eggs hatch, the larvae eat the caterpillar from the inside out, killing it.

Bees and wasps do sting, so it's best to enjoy them from a distance. Try to stay away from the garden when bees are actively feeding, usually from mid-morning to late afternoon. If you see swarms or encounter bees that are attracted to noise, such as that made by a lawnmower, get indoors immediately and call your local animal control department.

Spiders

Kids know that spiders eat flies right? Spiders also eat many other insects that could be harmful, such as crickets and grasshoppers.

There are many different spiders around and most will eat just about any insect that happens by its web. Encourage children to be on the lookout for spiders in the garden.

Although rare in most parts of the country, Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders should be avoided, especially by children. These spiders produce enough venom to sicken a child, and bites are in rare cases fatal.

Birds

Don't underestimate a robin or a blue jay's ability to eat the caterpillars that try to destroy your garden plants. These birds, along with many other birds, can help drive pests away from the garden.

Hang up birdhouses to encourage birds to visit your garden area. Just don't put the houses too close or they will be afraid of you and not get close enough to make a difference.

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