we like bugs

We are grateful for all the fascinating bugs and critters we find in our Florida garden!

Without insects, our whole ecosystem would be out of whack – and would collapse. They pollinate the flowers that allow our food to grow, they serve as food for birds, reptiles, and mammals and they break down organic matter into nutrient-rich soil.

venomous IO caterpillar on Gandules tree

Most people think of all bugs as pests, but really, the majority of insect species do more good than harm. It is best to identify an insect, learn its habits and understand its purpose before squishing or spraying it.

pollinators

If it really is something that is causing overwhelming damage, you should determine how the problem would be solved in nature.

Remember, sometimes the solution isn’t to get rid of the insect, but to attract something else instead. When you spray insecticides, you kill off everything – including the insects that control the pest population. This may be a good temporary solution, but it will cause more harm in the future.

You don’t have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency

bill mollison

dealing with bugs in the garden

integrated pest management (IPM)

The best way to get rid of pests (aphids, whiteflies) is to prevent them in the first place by creating an ecosystem that stays in balance to control these things. Learn what plants attract predatory insects and birds, and we like to pile up sticks to create habitats and hiding spots for lizards

We all know that ladybugs are super beneficial to have in the garden. The black and orange insect below is a ladybug larva, basically a teenage ladybug. They eat way more aphids and they look totally different from adult ladybugs.

ladybug larvae eating aphids

attract beneficial insects

The more plant varieties you grow, the more food options there are for bugs. But it is best to do a little research before shopping for clearance plants at the big box store.

nectar plants

Butterflies aren’t picky eaters and they will appreciate the nectar from any flowers you choose to plant in your garden.

Although natives are usually best, other flowers such as zinnias, ageratum (mistflower), butterfly bush, and verbena are good choices.

Shown below is a bee on a Bidens alba. This plant is also called the Spanish Needle because of its needle-like seeds that stick to everything. It is a Florida native plant that spreads super fast and annoys most people. We love having it in our yard because it is loved by insects and the flowers are always buzzing with bees and butterflies.

bee on Bidens alba

host plants

Host plants feed the caterpillars.

spurred butterfly pea

more about bugs

Bugs are generally misunderstood, but as you learn more about them you will realize how helpful they are to your garden’s ecosystem.

For example, the millipede below is considered a pest, but they are super helpful to improve the soil (healthy soil = healthy plants).

They live in the top layer of the soil and help break down leaves and organic matter, just like an earthworm would, by eating the debris and excreting it as nutrient-rich waste that your plants need to grow big and healthy.

millipede (Eurhinocricus)

Ants are a huge nuisance, especially here in Florida. They build massive ant hills all over our property, they bite us, carpenter ants invade our house at least once a year and they chew up our wooden fences and planters.

It is a constant battle against the ants, but I have learned that they are pretty predictable. Knowing their behavior patterns, I have been able to do a decent job of keeping them out of the garden and walkways.

carpenter ants on the fence

We grow food for ourselves, but we don’t mind sharing it with the wildlife as well. Insects, squirrels, birds, and other critters help themselves to the food we have worked so hard to grow, but that’s ok, we need them around.

As stated earlier, the majority of insects are good. Like this beneficial paper wasp below, eating a fig. Young wasps mainly eat insects and as they reach adulthood, they prefer more sugar and carbs like nectar and fruit. Wasps eat many common garden pests, they are the biggest pollinators of fig and mango trees.

paper wasp eating a fig