Beneficial Insects and Birds that Eat Insect PestsJune 03, 2009
Earlier this week I got a call from a woman looking to buy “aphid eating bees”. I suggested she hang a hot dog out by her aphid-infested plants to attract yellow jackets. She didn’t like that idea very much. Apparently, someone at a garden show years ago had sold her “nice bees” that eat aphids. When she described what she bought, it sounded a lot like she’d been sold orchard mason bees. I don’t think they eat aphids, but please correct me if I’m wrong here readers. I’ve seen posts mentioning “aphid bees”, but I have yet to find any real detail on them.
Anyway, back to the ones that do eat aphids and other pest insects — Yellow Jackets and Bald Faced Hornets are notorious meat eaters. They’ll snatch up aphids and clean your plants beautifully. Just steer clear so they don’t come after you. Yes, Yellow Jackets are mean. But, Bald Faced Hornets would rather go about their business than chase you around the garden. Stay away from their nests and don’t swat at them, and odds are they’ll leave you alone. Yellow Jackets on the other hand might just chase you for their own personal amusement.
That being said, I was thrilled to find a big, fat Yellow Jacket hiding under my floating row cover just above the cabbages and cauliflowers that have been munched on my cabbage worms over the last few days. I’m not sure why s/he decided to plant herself there, but I’m hoping she’s on guard for worm hatches. This morning, I found no new worms and no new worm damage in the bed. Fortunately, when I peeled back the fleecy row cover, I didn’t manage to touch the Yellow Jacket. She stayed put as I gently draped the cover back over the beds after working. Hopefully, she’s my new pest guard and will make my worm picking work easier.
Not interested in attracting Yellow Jackets or Bald Faced Hornets to your garden to help battle pests? Try creating a Hummingbird-friendly space. I’ve caught them harvesting aphids in my garden more than once, and generally they’re pretty nice. They can be territorial and may dive-bomb you, but that’s pretty rare in my garden. Too, attracting wrens, nuthatches, titmice, and other birds will help keep down pest problems from aphids to mosquitos to root-eating grubs to all sorts of other non-beneficial insects we gardeners love to hate.