Lady Beetle: Queen of the Beneficial Insects

lady bug larvae on Clematis jackmanii

lady bug larvae on Clematis jackmanii

I have always been fascinated with insects and am always on the lookout for them.  Since I garden using least toxic methods, the balance of good and bad insects is key to pest control.  A healthy garden will have it’s share of plant eating insects so we all need allies in keeping those pest populations at a tolerable level.  My garden benefits from the presence of bats, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and of course, insects.

One of the most well known beneficial insects is the ladybug but there are many other interesting insects and spiders that help protect our vegetable, fruit and ornamental garden plants so that we can enjoy them.  I recently spied a ladybug larvae amongst the foliage of my Clematis vine.  How different they look from the adult beetle.  They are voracious eaters of other insects, especially aphids.

Beneficial Crab spider with its legs outstretched in typical fashion.

Beneficial Crab spider with its legs outstretched in typical fashion.

Since I have a mild problem with something perforating the leaves of the vine (not serious enough to do anything about it) I wondered if this little alligator looking dynamo is keeping the culprit in check.  Later that week I found a crab spider, also insectivorous, in the Clematis.  Crab spiders don’t spin webs, but wisely hang out in plants and flowers so as to ambush unsuspecting prey.  With friends like these, whatever is occasionally nibbling on the leaves is meeting its match.

Washington State University Extension has a new publication out this year called “Beneficial Insects, Spiders and Other Mini-Creatures in Your Garden: Who They Are and How to Get Them to Stay”.  The publication is number EM067E and is available to download as a free pdf.  Included are color photographs of lady beetle larvae and a variety of other fascinating and helpful garden visitors.  Visit WSU Publications to read this wonderful resource and learn how to recognize, protect and attract beneficial insects to your yard.

©Colleen Miko 2014


About Colleen Miko

Colleen Miko is a certified professional horticulturist with 20 years experience in landscape design who has designed award winning gardens for the NW Flower & Garden Show as well as HGTV’s “Landscaper’s Challenge”. Colleen is freelance garden writer and speaker.
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