When some people see a crawling insect, their first instinct is to step on it or hire an exterminator. But some experts say that insects are also beneficial to yards, gardens and the environment.
Sandra Goeddeke-Richards, horticulture program coordinator for the Macomb County MSU Extension, warned that the misuse of pesticides can kill off beneficial bugs and cause other harmful insects to proliferate.
“I can’t even begin to express the multitude of checks and balances that are out there,” she said.
Goeddeke-Richards listed a few of these beneficial bugs. Spiders, which are technically arachnids and not insects, are a natural form of pest control even through their creepy nature provokes many homeowners to kill them.
“You can go out with a flashlight at night, and you’ll see all their work being done,” she said.
Another creepy-crawly good guy is the ladybird beetle, also known as the ladybug. Adult and larval ladybird beetles feed on plant-killing insects, such as aphids and scale crawlers, she said.
Bees and wasps might have an ominous presence, but they prey on other bugs like caterpillars, spiders, aphids and cicadas. “There are many (wasps) that lay their eggs right into the offending caterpillar or aphid and they parasitize it from inside,” she said.
Goeddeke-Richards said the best way to encourage beneficial bugs into a yard or garden is to plant more native and flowering plants.
“(Insects) will come on their own,” she said. “That’s their job in life. But we do also need to promote their presence by understanding why they’re there.”
But for homeowners who would prefer to rid their property of stinging insects and pests, insect exterminators are willing to lend a hand.
Abbott’s Organic Pest Control owner Art Abbott said his company tries to avoid killing bees since they pollinate plants and are already dying in large numbers. But his business has taken plenty of calls this summer to hunt carpenter ants, yellow jackets and wasps.
Wasps tend to build their nests on decks, which can be problematic when the insects are flying in and out, he said. “It makes it dangerous to sit out there,” he said. “If you come and wave at them, they’ll come and sting you.”
Mosquitoes have also been a particularly pesky pest this year, he said. “This is one of the wettest spring seasons that I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “In this business, lots of rain means lots of bugs.”
Entomologist Gene White of Rose Pest Solutions said that mosquitoes can carry the West Nile virus, and thus can be deadly. “They’re the most dangerous insect in the world,” he said.
Homeowners should do what they can to avoid mosquito breeding in moist places, like gutters, flat roofs and potted plants, he said. “The most important thing a home or business can do is make sure they don’t have water that is trapped in stagnant pools,” he explained.
White also said people can avoid mosquito bites by applying repellent, wearing pants and long sleeves, and avoiding being outdoors during dusk and dawn.
While spiders are less of a health hazard, many people hate them and their webs. White divided spiders into two kinds: those that build webs and those that run freely in a house.
The spiders can be dealt with in two ways. One is to seal the home and its windows thoroughly. The other is to discourage spiders by constantly knocking down their webs, he said.
“You can make insecticide applications to those places after you’ve cleaned up the spiders and knocked them down,” he added. “Spiders take work.”
And then there is the ant. White called the insect the No. 1 pest group in America and said many of his clients suffer from two types: the pavement ant and the carpenter ant. The pavement ant invades the home through the soil and the foundation walls, and the carpenter ant builds its colonies inside of walls and in water-damaged parts of the home.
“They require some specialized products, and finding them can be very difficult at times,” White said.
The Macomb County MSU Extension is located in Clinton Township and can be reached at (586) 469-5180. To contact Rose Pest Solutions in Troy, call .
By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer