Beetles: Beneficial Garden Bugs

Japanese beetles are an unwelcome sight to most gardeners, but there are plenty of beetles that are actually good bugs for your garden.

Not all beetles have such fanciful names as fireflies and ladybugs. But many of them have something more important in common: They’re good bugs for your garden. Coleoptera, more commonly known as beetles, is the most diverse insect order, with more than 350,000 species, 24,000 in North America alone. So there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to encounter beetles in your garden.

While it’s true that some beetles are pests (Japanese beetles come to mind), many more are a boon to gardeners, pollinating plants, preying on pests or helping to compost decaying plant and animal -material. Remember that if you use toxic pesticides, you often kill off all the good bugs for your garden, including beetles. I always say that instead of using chemicals, it’s better to have a diversely planted garden that provides lots of habitat for hardworking beetles and other garden bug pollinators and predators. Here are some of the most common beneficial beetles in the garden. If you see one, let it be!

Garden Bugs Scarab BeetleJill Staake
Sometimes called dung beetles, scarab beetles are sometimes surprisingly beautiful up close. Jill Staake

Ladybird beetles
Probably the best known group of beetles, they vary in color and pattern. Some are red or orange with black spots, some are black with red spots, while others have no spots at all. All are predatory both as larvae and adults, feeding on soft-bodied plant pests such as aphids, mealybugs, caterpillars and scales.

Rove beetles
These long-bodied beetles look something like earwigs and are found in the same habitat, under rocks, logs and leaf litter. Unlike earwigs, however, rove beetles are predatory.

Scarab beetles
Many species of these stout, oval-shaped beetles feed on animal dung, making them very good bugs for your garden!

Soldier beetles
These garden bugs are active during the day and live in vegetation, where they feed on pollen and nectar and serve as pollinators. They also feed on other insects. Their larvae are carnivorous, feeding on eggs and other insect larvae.

Garden Bugs Firefly
Fireflies don’t eat as adults, but their larvae consume garden insect pests.Art Zeigler

Famous for their glowing abdomens, many firefly species don’t live long as adults because they are too focused on mating and reproducing to eat, but their larvae are predatory, feasting on other insects, slugs and snails.

Ground beetles
This nocturnal garden bugs family includes the tiger beetle and bombardier beetle. Most are voracious predators that patrol the ground in search of prey. Their larvae, too, are predatory. Ground beetles are swift runners; many species have large mandibles used to hold and dispatch victims.

David inspires people to protect wildlife through his job as a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His favorite beetle is the stag beetle.

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David Mizejewski
David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, as well as a nationally recognized media personality and speaker. He is the author of the book Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Other Backyard Wildlife.