As an avid gardener and a Field Scientist who primarily focuses on entomology and botany, I get asked often about common garden insects and arachnids. Many people are under the impression that most bugs are pests. That is not usually the case.
Most of the insects and arachnids you’ll see in your garden are beneficial. This means that you do not want to prohibit them from being there.
Why You Want a Wide Array of Insects & Arachnids in Your Garden
+ Many common garden bugs will prey upon potentially troublesome species before any pests actually cause a problem. These bugs act as free, natural exterminators.
+ Birds and other pollinators will feast on many of the insects and arachnids. If you want more wildlife like birds on your property, you want insects and arachnids there, too!
+ Bugs can improve soil health. For example, many arthropods help break down organic materials in soil. Additionally, healthy soils themselves can suppress plant pests.
+ Insects and arachnids can help create a healthy environment for your edible and ornamental plants to flourish in.
+ You need pollinators to pollinate the plants on your property, of course! These pollinators can be bees, wasps, beetles, flies, butterflies, moths, etc.
What To Do if You Think There Are Pests in Your Garden
Before taking any action to get rid of the pest, ensure you first properly ID the insect or arachnid in question. Insects can look alike, especially during different life stages. You want to make sure you don’t accidentally eradicate beneficial bugs.
Insect ID Help
You can use BugGuide.net to find insect IDs.
You can peruse InsectIdentification.org and use their Bug Finder tools.
If you’re in Florida, you can contact your local UF/IFAS Extension agent for help. If you’re outside of Florida, you check with any local universities that are around. Many Unis have similar extension programs to help the public with insect, plant, and soil questions for free. Additionally, your state Department of Agriculture can often be a free resource for you to use.
Once you have positively ID-ed the insect and are certain it’s a pest, you want to try to determine the number of these insects in your garden. Why? Because it’ll take quite a few of them to cause severe damage. Having a few common pest species around isn’t going to ruin your garden. You really only need to worry about the pest species if there is an infestation of them.
In the event your garden is becoming infested with a pest species, and you’re certain major damage is occurring, consider using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to manage the bugs. There’s no need to go out and buy a bunch of expensive pesticides that will disrupt the balance of your garden and harm beneficial insects.
My recommended method of IPM that proves time and again to be safe, easy, and effective:
+ Using a steady stream of water from a hose to remove insects like aphids and scales from plants. Oftentimes, the water pressure alone is enough to effectively manage the situation, and it doesn’t take much water to get the job done.
If you have larger pests, you can collect them by hand to eradicate them.
While these methods of managing pests might seem tedious and time-consuming, they are extremely effective and won’t upset the balance and health of the beneficial insects and arachnids around, negatively impact plants and soil, or add harmful chemicals to the environment.
Concerns Over Venomous Species, Such as Spiders
Keep in mind that while many insects and arachnids have evolved a number of defense mechanisms, they will only defend themselves if forced to do so. They don’t *want* to bite or sting you. Spiders in particular will usually only bite if you apply pressure or force to them.
While all spiders are venomous, not many of the venoms are dangerous to humans. In Florida, we really only have venom from Widow species that are capable of harming humans. Widow spiders are generally very shy and passive. Just don’t hold one and continuously apply pressure to it.
At times, it can seem like spiders are more dangerous than they are due to people receiving incorrect diagnoses in the emergency room or at the doctors. It’s not uncommon for an infected bite from something like a mosquito to be diagnosed as a potential spider bite. In reality, spider bites aren’t common and major illness from spider bites are even more rare.
Most insects and arachnids in your garden are friendly helpers not pests. They will help keep plants pollinated, soil healthy, and birds and other wildlife fed.
If you’ve done your research and decide you have a pest infestation that is damaging your garden, use chemicals as a last resort. There are many other ways to manage infestations that won’t negatively impact beneficial insects, plants, soil, and the environment as a whole.
Spiders get a bad rap. The vast majority of spiders out there are totally harmless and are beneficial to have around. Leave ‘em be. Your garden will thank you.
If you have questions about wildlife, including insects and arachnids, in your garden, don’t hesitate to reach out! Feel free to email me at email@example.com.