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Insects Are Important Because of Their Diversity

Spring is finally here and with that comes lots of critters-- including insects! Oftentimes, insects have a negative connotation for people, but many (if not most) actually have an important role in our world. Instead of reaching for the nearest spray can of pesticide anytime you see something munching on your flowers, first determine if it actually is a pest or not! One of the easiest ways to do this is to download apps that help you identify items in the natural world. One that I really like and can be used for plants as well is the iNaturalist app, available for free! It allows you to narrow down to a few possibilities and is quite accurate.

This male twelve-spotted skimmer is a dragonfly that is fast and will guard its territory. Its larvae will eat mosquitos before they hatch.
Japanese beetles are a non-native, invasive beetle. Once they are adults, spraying pesticides is ineffective.

That scary bug could actually be a beneficial "good bug" that eats problem pests. Accept a little damage and give nature time to work. Accept a few pests, as long as they are not harmful to the long-term effects of the landscape. Natural predators often bring pests under control, but they need time to work. Monitor your landscape to spot signs of pests, but don't spray at the first sign of damage — nature may control it for you or plants may outgrow the damage. If a pest or weed problem develops, use an integrated approach to solve the problem. Physical controls like traps, barriers, fabric row covers or plants that repel pests can work for some pests.

A holistic approach can be an effective tools for controlling pests such as insects, weeds, and diseases. Be sure you need a pesticide before you use it. Ongoing pest problems are often a sign that your lawn or garden is not getting what it needs to stay healthy. You need to correct the underlying problem to reduce the chance of pests reappearing. Remember, a holistic — or integrated pest management — approach is the most effective way to manage pests.

A longhorn beetle on an upright yellow coneflower. Note the pollen that it is eating.
Start with prevention.

  • Mow higher. Most grasses should be mowed to a height of two to three inches. Taller grass has more leaf surface and deeper roots and eventually chokes out many weeds.
  • Clean out diseased plants so disease doesn't spread.
  • Pull weeds before they go to seed and spread.
  • Identify the problem before you spray, squash or stomp (see paragraph above on ID). Whether it's a bug, disease or weed, you need to identify it to know how to effectively manage it. Carefully read and follow pesticide product label instructions. Avoid overuse of pesticides. When you have a small problem area, treat just that area, not the entire yard. Remember, most bugs are good bugs. Only about 5– 15 percent of the bugs in your yard are pests.

For more information and amazing photos go to the following link: Those Other Flower Visitors | The Prairie Ecologist 

Eastern bluebirds benefit from less pesticide use and will feed their nestlings with the caterpillars that feed on your shrubs and trees.
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