Your garden is thriving, the leaves are green and full, and the produce or flowers are prolific. And then suddenly, they aren’t. Even the most dedicated gardener can be bested by bugs in the garden, but the trick to winning that battle is to be able to distinguish between the good bugs and the bad bugs. And the problem with pesticides is that widespread use kills not only the bad bugs, but the beneficial ones as well. Knowing the difference is critical.

Garden bugs are one of three types: pollinators, parasites, or predators.

Pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, and wasps are necessary for seed and flower production in plants and crops. In fact, bugs and animals pollinate about 75% of the food we eat. Providing an environment that's favorable for pollinators is just smart gardening.

Parasites are insects that lay their eggs on or in another insect. The resulting larvae then consume the host, killing it. The adult insect most often feeds on nectar or pollen and not the pest insect. Parasitic flies and wasps are often used for insect control.

Predator insects are usually larger than their prey and will consume other pests – sometimes even the beneficial ones. Depending on the insect, the predator will prey on pest insects at one or more stages of its life cycle. Spiders, though not an insect, are also effective predators.

To keep your garden healthy, knowing which bugs will help and hurt is crucial. To manage bugs, you can either grow plants that attract the beneficial bugs or you can purchase them and release them into your garden, though this should be done before the pest problem is out of control.

It’s a good idea however, to always allow some space for plants that will attract pollinators. Some good ones are: mint, marigold, clover, and daisies. Providing an environment with mostly native species, lots of perennials, a water source, and some shelter will go a long way too. Additionally, using organic pesticides with great restraint will help as well. 

With some research to determine which insects are wreaking havoc in your garden, you can easily pinpoint which insects can help remedy the situation.
Listed below are some more common bugs and their roles in keeping the ecosystem stable.

Insect Type Diet
Gall Midge Predator Eats Aphids
Green Lacewing Predator Eats Mealybugs, Spider Mites, Thrips, Aphids, Caterpillars
Pirate Bugs Predator Aphids, Mites, Whiteflies, Thrips, Corn Borers
Parasitic Wasps Parasite Tomato hornworms, Aphids, Cabbageworms
Centipedes Predator Slugs
Assassin Bugs Predator Caterpillars, some Beetles, Mosquitoes, Flies
Hover Fly Predator Aphids
Ladybugs Predator Aphids
Bumble Bee Pollinator A hive of bees can pollinate up to 5000 sq. ft.
Aphid Parasite (small, parasitic wasp) Parasite Aphids
Praying Mantis Predator Will eat any bug (good or bad) so keep this in mind. Can even eat mice or hummingbirds.

A quick search on the internet will help you to locate pictures of the insect in your garden, and help you to determine whether it’s beneficial or not. For more information, watch this video produced byJohnny’s Seeds, available on YouTube.