Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Good Beetle, Bad Beetle

As a gardener, it is important to identify, protect and encourage beneficial insects. Beneficial insects eat other insects that feed on various parts of the gardener’s plants.

While many people are very familiar with the common red ladybird beetle or ladybug, most people would not recognize a ladybug larvae. Because of this, I felt it important to show a few pictures of juvenile ladybugs. I prefer ladybug larvae to adult ladybugs. Although the ladybug is a beneficial insect throughout its life cycle, the larvae don’t leave the area – meaning that they will keep eating aphids - until they become adults. Just to note: ladybug eggs are orange or yellow and exhibit a slender shape.

On the other side of the spectrum are cucumber beetles. Cucumber beetles are attracted by yellow pollen. Though they will feed on dandelions, they will often attack plants within the melon and squash family. Once established, they can require a lot of work to eradicate. Going out to the garden early in the morning when the beetles are slower often helps. They are much more sluggish in the early morning and will choose to drop down from where they are hanging on. To catch them, the gardener only needs to have a cup of soapy water for the bugs to drop in. Alternatively, the gardener can just let the beetles drop in their hand and utilize the “thumb and forefinger” approach.

 Cucumber beetles come in an array of colors and patterns. Two varieties that I encounter around here are a light striped variety and a green spotted variety. One evening I found a variety I had never seen, so I took a couple pictures of it.

Talking about cucumber beetles, I saw something that made me smile when walking into one of the schools that I work at.


A mantis had noticed a spotted cucumber beetle feeding on the flowers of a Euryops pectinatus or a daisy bush. Though you’ll have to excuse the poor quality of my phone’s camera, hopefully, you can recognize the tactic of the praying mantis. They slowly creep towards their prey until they are within striking distance. Sadly, I was not able to stick around long enough to find out what happened.

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