INSECTS that are Actually Saviours of Your Greenhouse Plants

Buying insecticidal sprays for your Greenhouse plants can be a daunting task – and the worst thing about it is, these products are not even Eco-friendly. Furthermore, the produce from your greenhouse vegetables will also raise concerns about your health!

So why not opt for organic ways to control your greenhouse pests. This includes the use of insects, which might not be as bad as we think of these creepy creatures.

It is comforting to read about other greenhouse planters’ journeys, so we know what to expect.

In our article today, we would like to share one greenhouse planter’s story regarding the use of beneficial insects against pests for greenhouse plants. Even though each person’s experience is different, hopefully, the one I am about to share with you all, can give you a helping hand and the confidence to use these beneficial bugs in your greenhouse.

We planned our vacation trip to Wyoming last year in mid-June, while we were hiking, we come across an old cottage that was beautifully designed. What was more surprising and that caught our eyes was the greenhouse. We went inside to meet the owner and this young gentleman was busy raising the Ladybugs and other beneficial insects.

Why raising ladybugs for his greenhouse? Was he an entomologist? Necessarily, No.

He was just another enthusiast who loved gardening and his passion led him in making a greenhouse. He told us the details about beneficial insects and how can these bugs prove to be the excellent pest control mechanism for the greenhouse. His focus was not only on raising ladybugs but also the other beneficial bug, about which he learned through his greenhouse. He shared his experience with us, that one day he was busy planting his pepper seed in a raised bed, mixing compost and other organic matter in the soil.

While doing so he showed ladybugs underneath tomato leaves to us, they were actually feeding on aphids. We were overwhelmed to see this and finally, now we know how easily we can get away with these troubling bugs.

It’s cool!, Isn’t it?

He was raising and keeping beneficial bugs in his greenhouse with a simple artificial habitat.

There are round about 10 to 17 beneficial insects that have been recognised by different greenhouse planters.

Let us get to know each one of them in detail.

I have laid my eyes on you, Japanese beetles, Soldier bug and one of my favourite Lady beetles.

If you come across these little creatures in your greenhouse garden, do not kill them, they have entered your greenhouse on an important mission.

“Like attracts like”

Aphid Midge

An adult Midge is small, minute two-winged, long-legged fly and their larvae feed on roundabout 60 species of aphids. These aphid eaters enter our greenhouses by way of pollen plants and paralyze their prey with toxic saliva. So, if you are seeing them in your Greenhouse you should be happy because they are dealing with the Aphids for you.

Aphid Parasite Wasp

Another beneficial class of insects for your greenhouse and by far the effective biological control for aphids is none other than parasitic wasps. Yes!

They are not closely related to social wasps but look like them. A solitary winged insect with a narrow waist, a sting and black stripes over a yellow body. They, lay their eggs inside aphids causing them to mummify and die.

How it reaches aphids body? They sense and detect, the distress signals of plants affected by aphids and honeydew secretions of aphids. Now, parasitic wasp is ready to inject an egg into the aphid. Later, the egg will hatch into the larvae, which will start eating the pest (poor aphid) from inside, and finally mummifying its prey. Through the mummified shell of dead aphids’ body adult parasitic wasp will come out and the search for aphids will start over.

What will surviving aphids do? Well, they will emit pheromone, it is an alarm signal in response to the predator. This pheromone signals the aphids’ colony to flee. As a result, they land on the ground which is not a favorable habitat for them and eventually they will die too.

Are not these wasps amazing? Do you want to raise them? – Well, I do want them inside my greenhouse.

Parasitic wasps can be used in two ways: to combat infestations and as a preventive measure. They have a life span of 21 days and will lay eggs in as many as 300 aphids over the period of their lives, increasing the numbers of wasps as they do. How can we know if these parasitic wasps are working efficiently and are great means of pest control for a greenhouse? The brown, mummified shells left of dead aphids will give us the proof that they are working efficiently.

Braconid Wasps

These are a family of parasitoid wasps that kill hornworms, moths, beetle larvae, caterpillars, and aphids. They are also known by the name of larval parasitoids. Braconid wasps are Mother Nature’s way of keeping pests like hornworms under control. Hence, Braconid Wasps can be very beneficial for your greenhouse plants.

How Braconid wasps kill their insect hosts? Let us see. The adult braconid female wasps inject her eggs inside the host insects caterpillar’s body. Eggs will hatch into larvae stage and will feed on their host until it reaches adult stage, as a result host will die.

How can these bugs get inside a greenhouse? Braconid wasps are attracted to nectar plants with small flowers like dill, parsley, wild carrot, and yarrow. So, what we required to do is to plant these nectar plants inside our greenhouse and let Braconid wasps do their work.

So greenhouse planters, brace yourself up, and spend a fascinating day at the greenhouse, checking out your favorite bugs playing their pest control role.

Damsel bugs

These bugs feed on aphids, small caterpillars, leafhoppers, thrips, and other pesky pests. How to bring these bugs inside our greenhouse? We, need a sweep net to collect damsel bugs from alfalfa fields. After collecting release them in every side of your greenhouse.

Ground beetles

Ground beetles feed heavily on cutworms, cabbage maggots, slugs, snails, and other pests whose natural habitat is soil. As the name implies they are nocturnal insects. Which means they will be active at night and control the pests. I am definitely going to keep them in my greenhouse – these voracious predators can eat more than 50 caterpillars, only one ground beetle can eat this much.

How can we let them feel home inside greenhouse? We, need to plant, perennials and white clover as stable habitats for ground beetles.

Green Lacewing

When I first heard about this insect, I thought it might be some lace design name. Well, it is not a lace design name but it is actually an attractive looking, deadly predator insect specie. Let’s see in more detail how Green Lacewing can contribute to your greenhouse plants.

It feeds on nearly all soft bodies insect pest, mites, and their eggs.

One thing that surprised me when I was collecting data about lacewing, was that in its adult stage, it only feeds on nectar and pollen, true to its name – on the other hand, lacewing larvae feeds on soft-bodied problematic insects, it eats over 200 aphids in a week. Only one lacewing can eat as many as 60 aphids per hour. Is not it surprising to note? Indeed it was.

Another interesting fact about these insect species is that it cannibalize other lacewing larvae when it is short of the food supply. Now, that’s more like a voracious insect consumer.

How lacewings kill their prey? let us see – First it searches out aphid colony, which is most probably on an egg stalk, this is a slender stalk, attached to the underside of a leaf. As soon as lacewing finds the colony and egg stalk it will lay nearly 200 eggs there. Eggs will hatch into larvae, these larvae will climb the stalk to find aphid colonies – and will continue to feed on the colonies for 14 to 21 days. Later adult lacewings will come out of spin cocoons.

Tip: We need to keep this in mind that aphids, mealybugs, thrips produce honeydew which is an indicator for predator insect species. Now, what happens ants feed on honeydew so there will be no honeydew to which predator insects will come. So, we need to control ants from getting access to the greenhouse.

Bumblebee

We all are well aware of mother nature’s most industrious pollinators “the bumblebees” and that they are one of the effective pollinators among other pollinating insects. Without their assistance, we would not have greater crops yields whether, it be cherries or tomatoes, every veggie and fruit crop that comes in our mind.

We can place bumblebee hives around the corners of our greenhouse because we all need a good natural source of pollination.

Why have I enlisted it in pest control insects? Because, these bees greatly help in pollinating plants inside your greenhouse and they also defend their hives from intruder insects, which doubles their role in a greenhouse. That is not letting in the harmful insects and pollination.

Fungus Gnat Predator

Fungus gnat predator is basically a mite, it is 1 mm long with brown translucent body. It feeds on larvae of fungus gnats and other harmful soil insects which might be present in a greenhouse, like thrips and springtails – Root-feeding fungus gnats cause lots of damage to plant seedlings by inhibiting their growth and spreading the disease to the nearby plants.

Now, you all would be wondering about fungus gnats are fungus or what? The answer is No, these are small flies whose larvae feed on fungi and organic matter in the soil, not only this they like to chew roots and are one of the most problematic insects known to greenhouse planters and gardeners, as well as to the nursery keepers.

How does it kill the fungus gnat? Adult mite punctures the pest larvae, with its long legs and finely-haired back thus damaging the pest larvae. How to attract Fungus gnat predators inside greenhouse? They prefer moist conditions and the top layer of soil. So, now, we know what to provide them with.

Lady beetles

We know about them since kindred garden school life and them being considered a universal sign of luck. Let us see how lucky they prove in a greenhouse. Lady beetles, ladybirds, or ladybugs all are names of the same insect. Both larvae and adult stage feed on aphids, mites and other soft-bodied insects and insect eggs.

Ladybirds larvae consumes 400 aphids prior to pupating and adult ladybird will eat more than 5,000 aphids during their lifespan. Ladybirds lay eggs in form of clusters of bright yellow color, on plant leaves and stems. Eggs will hatch into horned and segmented larvae within 7 days and this larva will start feeding on its prey. After the larva stage depending on the outside environment, they will pupate after 21 to 28 days.

Ladybird will generally go through one or two generations during a growing season, often synchronized with the advent of aphid infestations. Plants that provide the adults with a source of pollen and nectar will help encourage these popular beneficial insects to stay in your greenhouse.

Minute pirate bugs

These bugs are aggressive predators, fast-moving, black and white-bodied insects. Feeds on aphids, moth eggs, mites, and thrips. Therefore, they can help in protecting your greenhouse plants from harmful predators.

How can we attract these bugs inside our greenhouse? By planting alfalfa, daisies, goldenrod, and yarrow.

Soldier beetles

They have a black body with a red thorax and head, soldier beetles feed on aphids, caterpillars, and also beneficial and harmless insects. The reason that Soldier Beetles feeds on beneficial insects makes it a poor choice for controlling Greenhouse pests.

We can attract these into our greenhouse by planting catnip, goldenrod, and hydrangea. Honestly, I would not go for soldier beetles. There are so many beneficial bugs out there we can opt for instead of soldier beetles.

Spined Soldier Bug

Next in line is the spined soldier bug with its most prominent feature “pointed shoulders” and is very mobile. It feeds on caterpillars, some of the most potentially damaging grubs, and soft-bodied insect pests inclusively.

They include: European corn borer, corn earworm, gypsy moth caterpillars, the cabbage looper, cabbage worm, flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles, fall army worms, beet army worms, the diamond back moth, the cotton boll worm and the Mexican bean beetle.

Hurrah! Soldier bug I want you to feel home inside my greenhouse. What about you all? Let us know more about these fascinating bugs – How they kill their prey? It sucks out the juice of its prey by piercing it with a proboscis, a large weapon-like structure. Cool!

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Good to know! Spined Soldier Bugs are common throughout United States with varying colors from yellow to brown and covered with black spots. I would highly recommend you all to keep these in your greenhouses because of the fact it nearly feeds on 100 different pests.

Soldier bugs female lays barrel-shaped egg clusters with cream, gold or gray in color on stems and leaves, up to 1000 eggs during her lifespan. One need to plant perennials on permanent beds, to provide shelter for these bugs.

Tachinid Fly

Tachinid fly larvae feed on many caterpillars, they burrow inside the caterpillars body and kills these greenhouse pests from the inside. We can attract adult flies by planting dill, herbs, parsley, sweet clover inside the greenhouse.

I would love to hear, your greenhouse pest control strategies using these above mentioned beneficial insects. I have missed out a few insect species like moth egg parasite, mealy bug destroyer, Japanese beetle and praying mantis.

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