It happens every spring. First a few aphids appear on the cole crops. I barely notice. A week later the aphids have doubled. I start to get concerned. After another week the number has grown again. Should I panic? Reach for the soap spray? Will my helpers come to my aid again this year? And then, one morning, there they are, lady beetles wandering among the aphids, dining contentedly. In a few days there’s hardly an aphid to be found. I’m always amazed that the lady beetles come in such numbers, and at the right time. And they always do the job.
1. Trichogramma wasps, looking like tiny black flies, are working a mass of gypsy moth eggs.
2. It looks like a honeybee, but it’s not. Hover, or syrphid, flies are common predators and easy to spot.
3. During the day, ground beetles hide in plant debris. At night, they emerge to hunt for insect eggs and larvae.
4 and 5. Like hungry teenagers, the larvae of lady beetles (4) and lacewings (5) eat many more aphids than adults do. Learn to recognize these somewhat scary phases; they’re some of the best bug insurance you can have.
6. What a difference a couple of weeks makes! From gray alligatorlike larvae, gossamer-winged green lacewings develop. If you’re going to buy predators, lacewings are a good bet because they eat a wide range of harmful insects.
7. There are many different lady beetles, all beneficial as both larvae and adults. They overwinter as adults, congregating on leaf undersides in mild climates. In cold winter areas, you may find them camping out in your house.