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Beneficial Insects and Birds that Eat Insect Pests

June 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.

Hummingbird hovering over Waterfeature

Hummingbird hovering over Waterfeature

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.


  1. Victoria Soto says:

    You Tube has a video on how to make Mason Bee Blocks and they show a block for what they call the Aphid eating bee, or sometimes referred to as the onion bee. I can find neither on the internet, but the holes for them are much smaller when you make the block. I did find the following on Vintage Rosery’s website:

    “Parasitic Wasp Encarsia formosa (Nile Delta Strain)
    This is a new strain of Encarsia parasitic wasps bred with the assistance of the USDA. The main advantage to this new strain, is that it will go after all major strains of Whitefly (Greenhouse / Silverleaf – Sweetpotato / Banded Wing). EF is a tiny, parasitic wasp that will lay 50 – 100 eggs into whitefly larvae…The wasp is actually about 10% the size of a honey bee.”

    So, do you think the wasp is actually the bee people talk about? The size is about right.

  2. […] poo; the wasps to eat them up – yum! Aphids also attract beneficials like hummingbirds and insects like lady beetles (aka lady bugs to most of us). Soft aphids are a favored food for lady beetle […]

  3. Hector says:

    I thought was a very interesting artical but um ladybeetles also eat aphids too.

  4. Terry Spear says:

    I caught a picture of a blue dragonfly eating aphids on my crepe myrtle. But all kinds of birds, sparrows, cardinals, even a road runner, have been munching on beetles in the driveway where a nightlight attracts the bugs. And it appears that some of these birds are going after the yellow jackets building nests near one of my windows. Great way to reduce my huge yellow jacket population without having to resort to chemicals. 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing Terry!

  6. […] birds, hornets or yellowjackets don’t consume all of the black aphids on the elderberry branches, a carefully aimed blast of […]

  7. Ginger Isom says:

    This is an old article, I know, but what the lady may have been referring to when she said nice bees that eat aphids are hoverflies, which look much like yellow jackets. They are attracted to the honeydew produced by aphids and eat aphids.

  8. Thanks for your input Ginger.

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