Good and Bad Bugs
Get brief descriptions about three bugs you don't want in your yard! And as a bonus, read about two bees that will benefit your backyard.
By Bill Johnson, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Here's a quick look at three insects you don't want in your yard!
Oleander Aphid (Aphis neri), 1/8 inch
These are extremely common, gathering in large colonies on the stems of many kinds of plants. They suck the juice out of the stems, often harming the plants. Oleander aphids and all other aphids are a favorite food for the adult and larval stages of both ladybugs and syrphid flies. You'll also see ants nearby, because aphids secrete a liquid called honeydew, which ants love. Interestingly, the ants can appear to herd the aphids, protecting them in order to obtain the honeydew.
Japanese Beetle (Popila japonica), 1/2 inch
These insects are pretty but very destructive. If you try to pick them off your plants, they will collapse or drop off, which allows them to dash away on the ground before you catch them. Put some soapy water in a small container to hold below these beetles, then brush them off your plant.
Four-lined Plant Bug (Poecilocapsus lineatus), 1/2 inch
This very colorful and common bug eats by piercing plant stems with its proboscis (beak) and sucking out plant juices. The four-lined plant bug is easy to see, and the best way to dispose of it is just to pick it off the plant. It doesn't bite.
BONUS! Two more beneficial bees
Digger Bee (Melissoides bimaculatum), 1/2 inch
Another honeybee look-alike, digger bees and solitary bees that make their homes underground in tunnels where they store the pollen they gather and food that they catch. On their hind legs are rows of special hair (called combs) used for gathering and distributing pollen.
Leafcutter Bee (Megachile latimanus), 1/2 inch
Although sometimes mistaken for honeybees, the markings on their abdomens identify these as leafcutter bees. Considered solitary bees, they live alone in nests in the ground. Beneficial as pollinators, they also eat small caterpillars. Unlike honeybees, they have no pollen sacs on their legs. Instead, the rows of hairs you see under their abdomens gather and distribute the pollen as they fly from flower to flower.