Meet the Garden Beetles: Helpful Backyard Bugs
Japanese beetles are an unwelcome sight, but many other garden beetles are worth welcoming your yard. Learn which beetles are good bugs.
Garden Beetles You Should Know
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 garden beetles.
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 beneficial insects 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 garden beetles and other pollinators and predators. Here are some of the most common beetles in the garden. If you see one, let it be!
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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.
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. These beetles are also commonly known as lightning bugs.
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.
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 aphids and other insect pests. Their larvae are carnivorous, feeding on eggs and other insect larvae. These beetles are common in gardens and considered beneficial. If you have goldenrod or Joe Pye weed in your garden, you’ll very likely see them on those plants.
Milkweed Leaf Beetle
This distinctly colored beetle is common in gardens where milkweed has been allowed to grow. They’re almost twice the size of the common ladybug.
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Red Milkweed Beetle
If there are any milkweeds in your garden, this beetle will show up, especially if you grow common milkweed, its favorite host plant. Its bright red color warns birds and other insects, “Don’t eat me. I’m toxic.”
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Many species of these stout, oval-shaped beetles feed on animal dung, making them very good bugs for your garden!
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.
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