While there are many insects that are considered pests and may pose a threat to crops, there are many more insects that are actually beneficial to plants and eliminate other harmful insects. In this blog post, we’ll explain what beneficial insects are and how to protect and use them to benefit your crops.
What are Beneficial Insects?
Beneficial Insects are insects that perform positive functions in a growing environment. This commonly includes pollination or pest control. Beneficial Insects can occur naturally in an environment, or they can be added to increase positive effects in a growing environment. Utilizing the effects of beneficial insects is an economically valuable practice in any agriculture setting.
Encouraging beneficial insects by protecting them or adding more of them into a crop environment is a common component of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Specific beneficial insects are encouraged for their ability to prey on a harmful and unwanted type of insect. Examples may include using beneficial wasps to control beetles, or using ladybugs to eliminate several different varieties of arthropods.
Other common beneficial insects include:
- Assassin bug
- Beneficial nematodes
- Big-eyed bug
- Damsel bug
- Green lacewing
- Ichneumon & Trichogramma wasps
- Mealybug destroyer
- Minute pirate bug
- Soldier beetle
- Syrphid & tachinid flies
By first identifying the insect(s) that may cause harm to your crops, you can find beneficial insects that are the natural enemies of those pests. The advantage of beneficial insects over other forms of pest control is that they will continue to prey on unwanted pests with little to no work on the part of the grower.
How to Encourage & Protect Beneficial Insects
If you’ve identified a beneficial insect that preys on a species that is harming your crop, there are several ways to encourage and protect beneficial insects so that they will continue to perform positive functions in the environment. As long as beneficial insects are happy, you’ll have a self-sustaining means of pest control that will work for far longer than a single application of conventional pesticide.
One way to use beneficial insects is actually to buy them in large quantities from a commercial retailer, then distribute them in a field or closed environment such as a greenhouse.
But whether you’re adding more beneficial insects or simply supporting those naturally occurring in the growing environment, it is essential to encourage these insects by both supporting their ideal conditions and ensuring that they are not harmed or killed by other materials you add to your crops.
Doing research on the specific type of beneficial insect you want to encourage is essential to creating an environment that will continue to support that insect. You might add companion plants, such as those in the Apiaceae and Asteraceae families, to attract more beneficial insects and keep them around your crops.
You must also be conscious of the potential consequences to beneficial insects from other pesticides and materials that you apply to your crops. Many pesticide applications intended to kill harmful insects will inadvertently kill beneficial insects as well. Thus, if you are using another method of pest control, it is wise to protect beneficial insects by trying a method of control that won’t kill them.
One common and effective means of controlling pests is to use an insect repellent along with the effects of beneficial insects. Repellents will drive away unwanted pests without killing the insects you want to stick around. Here at Soil Technologies Corp., we carry Garlic Gard, an excellent repellent against a wide variety of plant parasitic insects. Because it does not kill insects, you can protect your beneficial insects and continue to see their positive effects.