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Know your garden friends- Predators, assassins, and killer insects

The author is a graduate of Agriculture at the University of the Philippines.A teacher at the Visayas State University, Baybay City, Leyte.

Keywords: Insects. Beneficial. Harmful. Pests Cultural Methods. Pesticides. Natural Control Agents.

Trees dance and sway in the dying sun of Madagascar.  Dance! Dance! Dance! for tomorrow is ANOTHER DAY. Source: National Geographic, 2015

Trees dance and sway in the dying sun of Madagascar. Dance! Dance! Dance! for tomorrow is ANOTHER DAY. Source: National Geographic, 2015

Act Wisely!

“Protect predators of pests, pollinators, our environment, ourselves from the misuse of pesticides. Identify the organism first and then if it is a pest of importance, choose the least toxic way to manage it.”

Quote from Wayne S. Johnson and Jessica Graham (June 2008)

Worldwide distribution of known organisms in each group

  • Insects-950,000
  • Plants-270,000
  • Fungi-72,000
  • Fishes-19,000
  • Birds-9,000
  • Mammals-4,000
      The six Classes under Phylum Arthropoda

The six Classes under Phylum Arthropoda


Don't be alarmed if you see loopers, flyers and crawlers in your beautiful garden. Those flying objects and crawlers are not all pests. In fact if you look closely, some of those flyers and crawlers are beneficial insects. They help you control the population of harmful insects in your garden by acting as predators, assassins and insect killers.

Insects are the most diverse group of an organism with around 950,000 species described in the animal kingdom. They assume a critical role in both ecology and human society as a vital link to food webs. Served as pollinators and in the recycling of nutrients for increasing productivity of agricultural crops, conversely, insects have devastating consequences as agricultural pests and bears diseases. Insects vary in size and forms but their ability to adapt to extreme temperatures and altitudes makes them superior over other organisms.

The animal kingdom is divided into phyla (sing. phylum), considered the most diverse is Phylum Arthropoda. Under this phylum are six distinct Classes, namely, Class Crustacea, Class Diplodea, Class Arachnida, Class Chilopoda, Class Insecta, and Class Merostomata. However, in terms of numbers and diversity, Class Arachnida and Class Insecta bears the bulk of 950,000 known invertebrates in the Animal Kingdom widely referred to as "insects ", but the arachnids (eg. spiders ) are not insects, they have four pairs of legs while true insects (eg. Honeybees) have three pairs of legs only. Nevertheless, the so-called "insects" are further grouped as beneficial or harmful insects and here's the rub, the harmful insects (pests) out numbers the beneficial insects. But, don't be alarmed, though outnumbered, they're the most effective nature's insecticide.

Bugzki -the Prehistoric Insect of Phylum ENGKANTODA

Bugzki -the Prehistoric Insect of Phylum ENGKANTODA

   Phylum Arthropoda and the five diverse class

Phylum Arthropoda and the five diverse class

                Edible insects of the world

Edible insects of the world

The common insects in your garden

The first reaction of most gardeners, if they see insects in their gardens, are pests and immediately apply insecticide to get rid of troublesome insects without knowing first the type of insects present. Spraying of insecticide also kills beneficial insects and this my led to resurgence of harmful insects as the population of natural control agents is lowered Furthermore, the use of chemical as control agents may threaten human health as residues are left on the food crops and could potentially contaminate our water resources if applied enlarged amount.

Knowing what are the insects present in your garden before any control measures done, is basic to the effective reduction of harmful insects in your garden. Some of these common insects found in your garden is shown below.

Common insects in your garden

Common insects in your garden

Do you Know ?

Can aphids have offspring without mating?

That Assassin bug inject toxic saliva that paralyzes and liquefies victim's tissue before feeding?

That ladybird beetle's larvae feed for three weeks, eating 10 to 50 aphids per day?

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That honeybees communicate with each other using the " dance " language?

That ants have two stomachs, one to digest its own food, the other to feed other ants?

That the larvae of periodic cicada live about 13 to 17 years below ground, but as an adult two weeks to 40 days only?

One maggot of Syrphid fly can consume 400 to 500 aphids in its lifetime? They have 3 to 7 generations per year.

       Predator Praying Mantis-Enjoying a grasshopper  meal. CANNIBALS ?

Predator Praying Mantis-Enjoying a grasshopper meal. CANNIBALS ?

 I'm coming ! Two legged insect-A new species ?

I'm coming ! Two legged insect-A new species ?

Venomous Assassin bug- "Delicious millipede" It SUCKS!

Venomous Assassin bug- "Delicious millipede" It SUCKS!

What are beneficial and harmful insects

Insects are important components to our world as they are sources of food to other animals including man, they aid in the pollination or reproduction of food crops and they have inspired humans with their beauty and ingenuity, and even worshiped in ancient religion. Therefore, don't be alarmed if yo see insects in your garden, not all insects are harmful, in fact, some of them help toned down pest population Shown below is some common insects usually observed in your garden, they are classified as beneficial or harmful insects, try to familiarize with them and understand how they affect your crops. If you can secure an illustrated guide to common insects in your area will be most advantageous. A list of examples is shown below.

Examples of Beneficial and Harmful insects in your garden

Beneficial InsectsHarmful Insects

green lace wings


lady bird beetles

bean leaf beetls

assassin bugs


praying mantis

cucumber beetles

minute pirate bugs

squash vine borers

ground beetles

squash bugs

syrphid flies

flea beetles

predatory stink bugs

european corn borers

big-eyed bugs

asparagus beetles

damsel bugs

tomato & tobacco hornworms

paraitic wasp

cabbage looper

tachinid flies

colorado beetles

      Most common insects and their numbers

Most common insects and their numbers

                        Edible insects ?

Edible insects ?

What are garden pests :

These are garden insects that destroy your plants. As insect pests, they destroy roots, bore tunnels in the stem, stunt growth, blemishes flowers and leaves, deformed fruits and above all make yours product unpalatable and unfit for market. The damage done by garden pests can be arbitrarily categorized as a) the fruit and flower destroyer, b) the leaf and root cutters, c) the stem borers and gall makers, d) the flower and flower buds destroyer, and e)seedling feeding pests. The list of insects in each category is not absolute, in fact, some of these garden pests are present all year round especially those having multiple plant hosts. therefore, eradicating them will be difficult. In this case, a robust control measure should be planned prior to planting.

a) The fruit blemishers and flower destroyer

The following insects are considered pests that damaged flowers and fruits such as:

Borers, Mealybugs, worms

petal cutters, Mites

Beetles, Japanese, Scales

Aphids, and Thrips

Bug, Squash and Whiteflies

b) The leaf and root cutters

The following insects are considered pests such as:

The foliage eaters, Sawfly

Armyworms, Tomato hornworm

Leafcutters, Weevils

Corn earworms, Grasshoppers

Midges.Aphids, and Cicadas

             Beneficial and Harmful insects

Beneficial and Harmful insects

          Fruit sucking insects on corn ear

Fruit sucking insects on corn ear

            Aphids marching on Rose stem

Aphids marching on Rose stem

             Hornworms-a leaf eating insect

Hornworms-a leaf eating insect

                    Root eating grub

Root eating grub

c) The stem suckers and gall makers

The following insects are considered pests in stems of such as:

Aphids, Bugs, Squash

Cicadas, Mealybugs

Mites, Scales, Beetles, Japanese

Thrips and Whiteflies

d) The flower and flower buds destroyer

The following insects are pests to flowers and flower buds such as:

Aphids, Bugs

Mealybugs, Scales

Thrips, Whiteflies

Weevils, Corn borers

Grasshoppers, Corn Earworms

and Tomato Hornworms

e)The root feeding pests

The following insects are considered pests to roots such as:

Root feeding insects,

Crickets, Cutworms

White grubs, and Cicadas

       Caterpillars festing on floral blooms

Caterpillars festing on floral blooms

Do you know ?


  • thin antennas ⁄ feathery
  • wings closed at rest ⁄ wings often at rest
  • pupa-chrysalis ⁄ cocoon
  • diurnal-active day ⁄ nocturnal-active night
                  Flower bud destroyer

Flower bud destroyer

                               Stem Borers

Stem Borers

Methods how to attract beneficial insects in your garden

Source: Charles, Ray and Geoff Zehnder (December 2011)

Beneficial InsectsMethods to Attract

Lady bug

grow pollen bearing and nectar producing plants; provide water in shallow pans filled with gravel duringt dry months

Hover flies or Syrphid flies

grow pollen bearing and pollen producing plants in the Umbelliferae family. Allow some brocolli to flower.Plant tall plaqnts like sunflowers where fleis can hover.

Assassin Bugs

grow perennials to provide permanent shelter plantings

Tachinid Flies

Grow plants in Umbelliferae family and other small-flowered plants like Alyssum and spermint

Parasitic Wasps

grow pollen and nectar plants inthe Umbelliferae family, mints and herbs.Legumenous cover crops planted adjuscent to garden beds , ptovide shelter like sunflower, let some Brocoli and radishes flower

Ground beetles

grow pollen producing plants, grow dense cover cropsto provde sherter, incorporate stone walkways between garden beds

Big-eyed bugs/flower bugs

grow pollen and nectar plants like sweet alyssum, alfalfa, golden rod and cosmos

Predators, assassins, killers and prey

These are your garden allies that will help you in controlling harmful insects the natural way. Considered as nature's own pesticide is more economical and environmentally friendly. Though their numbers are limited but they helped toned down pest population in a mutualistic way. Plants and insects have co-evolved over 300 million years ago when flowering plants(The Angiosperms) start to dominate the plant world. They are the first inhabitants of this world. Under the mutualistic condition, plants and insects co-exist, whatever damage imposed by insects to plants, plants was able to outgrow the damage. For instance, insects are not destructive to plants at all times only a certain part of their life cycle they do damage to plants example their larval stage. In the adult stage many insects help plants by serving as pollinators or promoting sexual reproduction, the plants get pollinated as requisite for species survival for generations to come, in return the insects gets its food(honey, nectar, etc,), a place to live among others.This mutualistic understanding have persisted for millions of years and has been encoded in their genome to be expressed in their behavioral response to each other.Indeed, plants, predators, assassin's. killer insects and prey are one in the insect food web. Man does not take this relationship seriously in his desire to produce more food for his own kind. Methods used by man altered this relationship (eg. use of pesticides) which created more problems rather than solving it. Some suggestion to keep beneficial insects in your garden ( selected techniques) is presented here(Table).

Pollen bearing and Nectar producing plants

Pollen Bearing







Grape Hyacinth


Squash family


Nectar Producing





Grape Hyacinth


Squash Family




Queen's Ann Lace

Source: Heidi Minga

The Red Ants are coming- YOU, are just MANDIBLES AWAY !

The Red Ants are coming- YOU, are just MANDIBLES AWAY !

                                    Stem cutter

Stem cutter

                                         Root Suckers/ feeders

Root Suckers/ feeders

Do you know ?

  • that red ants are not true ants but a kind of wasp?It is also known as "cow killer" it can sting humans and animals
  • that damselfly fly at the speed of 30 kph?
  • Have that cockroaches their skeleton outside their bodies?
  • that butterfly taste using their feet?
  • that grasshoppers have five eyes but no ears?instead, they have a special organ called tympana