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Think before you spray!

Many beginner gardeners panic at the sight of the least insect. A common attitude is “Quick! Where is the most powerful insecticide I can find to blast that bug to smithereens?”

The wise gardener takes a few minutes to look over the situation. After all, the vast majority of insects are either innocuous or somewhat to very useful. Only about 10% are actually harmful in any way. Before you start to spray something noxious in your garden, take a few minutes to look into what’s going. The insect you’re about to destroy is perhaps one of your garden’s best friends!

Consider the following: if the insect does not appear to be eating your plant and does not seem to have a probiscus that pierces the stem, there is normally no reason to chase it away and certainly not to poison it.

A Few Beneficial Insects

The following insects and other athropods are generally beneficial to the garden… but there are many others.

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Bee – pollinator. Source: Maciej A. Czyzewski, WIkimedia Commons
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Braconid wasp – parasite of insect pests. Source: Judy Gallagher, Wikimedia Commons
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Centipede – predator of insect pests. Source: Bert Heymans, Flickr
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Ground beetle – predator of insect pests and slugs. Source: Udo Schmidt, Flickr
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Hoverfly – pollinator; some species are predators of insect pests. Photo: Sandy Rae, Wikimedia Commons
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Ichneumon wasp – parasite of insect pests. Source: Charlesjsharp, Wikimedia Commons
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Lacewing – predator of insect pests. Source: Bruce Marlin, Wikimedia Commons
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Ladybug – predator of insect pests. Provided by: ElinaElena, Pixabay
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Pirate bug (flower bug) – predator of insect pests. Source: Jack Dykinga, Wikimedia Commons
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Praying mantis – predator of insect pests. Source: Oliver Koemmerling, Wikimedia Commons
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Predatory mite – predator of red spider mites. Source: Anders Sandberge, Flickr
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Social wasp – parasite of insect pests and pollinator. Alvesgaspar, Wikimedia Commons
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Soldier bug – parasite of insect pests. Source: Gerald J. Lenhard, Bugwood.org
Domestic house spider
Spider – predator of insect pests. Source: James Petts, Wikimedia Commons
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Tachinid fly – parasite of insect pests and pollinator. Source: Gilles Gonthier, Flickr

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Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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