Some bugs are good

Barry Zucker

Not all bugs are pests. Indeed, less than one percent of insects are considered pests. Furthermore, insects have always done a better job of controlling other insects—by eating them—than people have with poisons.

The idea of manipulating insects for pest control is not new. In 1800, Charles Darwin’s grandfather suggested breeding ladybugs to control aphids. The lady in ladybug refers to the Virgin Mary. Ladybugs love to eat aphids, and are also thought to bring good luck.

Although wasps are generally considered a nuisance, parasitic wasps are quite the opposite. They do not sting people or animals, feeding instead on flies and other pests.

Dragon flies, also called mosquito hawks, are amazing fliers with 360-degree vision. Alfred Lord Tennyson called them "living flashes of light." Fireflies, or lightning bugs, have a luminous segment near the end of their abdomen that lights up as part of their mating habits.

The most dramatic good bug is the praying mantis It is one of the world’s best ambush hunters, lying in wait for its victims while looking like the soul of religious contemplation. It consumes its prey alive and then grooms and cleans itself. In Europe, women used to collect mantis egg cases under a full moon to use for toothache relief.

Nowadays, you can mail order beneficial insects for your garden. Remember that pesticides are poisons; they kill insects indiscriminately, even the good ones. To learn more about environmentally healthy ways to eliminate pests from you house or garden, read Tiny Game Hunting by Hilary Dole Klein.

Barry Zucker

Barry Zucker is executive director of Beyond Pesticides Ohio.

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Volume 4, Issue 11, Posted 11:41 AM, 10.25.2011