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The Good (and Bad) Garden Bugs In Oregon

You’ve finally taken care of some significant tree pruning and general landscaping for your beautiful backyard. You are planning on starting a garden in your Oregon home and you want to familiarize yourself with the local insect species. After all, the minute you start a garden, you’re inviting herds of pests and bugs into your home.

Some of these insects are very helpful while others are nothing more than pests, rampaging through your garden and devouring the crops you’ve worked so hard to grow. This guide will give you an idea of what type of bugs you may encounter in your garden and whether they’re helpful or harmful.

Good: LadybugThe Good (and Bad) Garden Bugs In Oregon

Actually beetles are not true bugs, ladybugs are one of the most beneficial insects you can find in an Oregon garden. Not only are their familiar red and black wings beautiful to look at, but they eat harmful insects such as aphids, which are small insects that can suck the sap from plants in your garden.

(As you don’t want ladybugs to fly off, you’ll want to do some tree pruning rather than tree removal so they feel well protected.)

Bad: Mealybug 

Mealybugs are a very common pest among house and garden plants, especially in warmer climates. Their appearance resembles white tufts of cotton growing on plants and they generally feed upon plant sap. They’re a common predator of citrus plants as well as ferns, orchids, and sunflowers. Oftentimes mealybugs will develop a symbiotic relationship with ants and an infestation can be discovered by following those ants to where the mealybugs are. The previously mentioned bug on this list, the ladybug, feeds upon mealybugs and can be used to control infestations of them naturally.

Good: Green and Brown Lacewings

Lacewings are another familiar species found throughout the gardens of Oregon. As their name suggests, they can either be green or brown in color but it’s their unmistakable net-like wings that make them stand out from other insects. They also have long antennae and mouthparts which help them discover their prey.

Just like ladybugs, they eat aphids and mealybugs and therefore are a welcome presence in the garden, keeping infestations of destructive insects at bay.

Bad: Tomato Hornworm

The tomato hornworm is a destructive moth and, while it’s one of the most visually striking creatures in a garden, it’s also one of the biggest threats… as a caterpillar. As a larvae, it’s a large green caterpillar with imposing horns at its rear and diagonal white stripes across its body. Oftentimes due to its green color, the caterpillar will blend into the plants that it feeds upon, thereby making it difficult to locate.

As an adult, it’s a large gray moth with orange dots along the sides of its abdomen. Whether in its larval or adult stages, it can devastate plants; and, as its name suggests, it prefers tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes.

Probably the worst aspect of these insects however is how they can contaminate the plants they don’t eat with their feces. Utilize floating row covers to prevent the moths from laying their eggs on your plants; and if you discover the caterpillar you can remove it by hand.

Good: Yellow Jackets and Hornets

Seeing a yellow jacket wasp or hornet in your garden can be a fearsome sight. After all, they’re equipped with a painful stinger and you never know where a nest might be found. But if you give these creatures distance and respect you will discover that they’re actually extremely beneficial to gardeners. The reason for this is the food that they give their young during the summer; they catch flies and caterpillars, liquefy them, and return them to the nest. By late summer they will also be searching flowers for nectar and pollinating them as they go along.

All that said, you will have to be careful if you grow fruit in your garden, since yellow jackets love things like fallen apples and they will swarm around them. If you do grow fruit, bury any waste underneath two inches of soil or otherwise compost it far away from your home.

One of the benefits of tree pruning is hornets can make their nests away from you home and up in your trees rather than under your roof.

Bad: Azalea Lace Bug

Azalea lace bugs are tiny, strange looking insects that feed upon the sap of plants, spreading diseases as they do so. As if that weren’t enough, they have been known to bite humans as well. Identify these insects by the black and white veins in their wings. The pattern these veins form is similar to that of the beneficial lacewing, but the wings on an azalea lace bug always lay flat. They tend to appear in mid to late May and reproduce very quickly, going through several generations a year. To control them, use an organic insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, but avoid chemical pesticides, which can kill beneficial insects in addition to the pests.

Good: Damsel bug

Here’s another species that feeds upon pest species. The damsel bug catches its prey with its forelegs – not unlike a praying mantis. They have long, thin legs and very large, bulbous eyes so they stand out in a garden.

Bad: Corn Earworm

Here is another moth that’s damaging both as an adult moth and as a caterpillar. The larvae have orange heads and a largely black body. The corn earworm is estimated to cause over 100 million dollars a year in damage to crops as these insects sometimes lay thousands of eggs and can cover large areas. They are best controlled with mineral oil, which can be placed upon plants to suffocate larvae. Chemical pesticides are not recommended as the corn earworm has already become resistant to many of them.

We hope that this guide has given you some useful information when it comes to identifying both the good and bad insects in your garden!