Beneficial Beetles and Other Interesting Insects
As warm weather embraces the region, insect activity intensifies in the garden. While you might be aware of bees and lady beetles, let’s talk about some unique six-legged critters you’re likely to see around this time of year and what they’re up to in the garden.
Great Golden Digger Wasp
Enormous yet harmless adult wasps rigorously inspect the tiny individual allium flowers for nectar and watchfully buzz in and out of their ground burrows. Like many species of wasps, the Great Golden Digger lays eggs in a prey insect. Grasshoppers or crickets are killed then dragged into the wasp’s underground den where it will become food for newly hatched larvae. Wasps are most voracious early in the life cycle, devouring egg clusters of other insects.
Red Soldier Beetles
Pairs of small red beetles scurry all over their favorite umble-shaped flowers, seeming to copulate and consume simultaneously. Rhagonycha fulva are excellent pollinators who won’t do damage to plants. While adults spend most of their time eating nectar and making more beetles, the larvae overwinter in the soil where they prey on slugs and other ground-dwelling invertebrates as it warms in the spring.
Slugs are to spring as grasshoppers are to summer: hungry at all stages of the life cycle. Adult females lay eggs July-September in grassy places and small crevices along the edges of the garden. Eggs hatch in April and May, but unlike previously mentioned insects, these nymphs are born hungry for greens. They’ll eat crops, weeds and native plants without discernment, so gardeners are grateful to predators like wasps and birds for keeping the grasshopper population under control. The red-legged grasshopper is the most common, but if you see a large grasshopper with striped eyes, the WSDA wants to know!
Southern Green Stink Bug
A wide variety of both native and introduced species of stink bugs are common in the Pacific Northwest, but the Southern Green Stink Bug is perhaps the showiest. Clusters of white cylindrical eggs hatch tiny black beetles with red/orange spots, and by adulthood they become a fluorescent green that camouflages them among plants. Their adaptability and varied food sources allow for population explosions. Watch for egg clusters on the underside of leaves throughout the growing season and do like the young wasps: get rid of the eggs before they hatch.