The highlight of my summer garden has not been the produce, but the pollinators and pests that have had a party in my backyard! I have two Milkweed plants that have been deemed party central. Some visitors are welcome friends, others not so much. But I still find myself constantly amazed at the variety of garden life that abounds right outside my back door. This post will give you a snapshot of the wildlife I was able to capture and a brief bit about their role in my garden.
Ladybugs (aka Lady Beetles) are beneficial insects and a welcomed party guest in my garden. They eat aphids and other insect pests like mealy bugs, scales, mites and leaf hoppers. Ladybug larvae can eat as many as 50-60 aphids a day!
Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetles are unwanted pests because they eat milkweed. Their voracious feasting can damage the plant and make it unsuitable for the Monarch Butterflies I am trying to attract and nurture to my garden.
Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars are also unwanted pests. They feed on milkweed leaves and compete with Monarch Butterfly caterpillars for food. I haven’t seen very many of these this year, so I gave the ones I saw a pass.
Ok, I have never seen so many aphids in my life! My milkweed plants are literally COVERED with aphids. There are too many to flick into a bucket of soapy water. So I let the beneficial bugs (i.e. ladybugs and lacewings) and heavy bouts of rain take care of these varmints. Aphids damage milkweed by sucking sap from leaves and stems. They also leave behind a sticky substance called honeydew which promotes mold growth and attracts ants. So, yep these are garden pests!
Milkweed Bugs tend to be considered beneficial insects. The colorful bugs mainly feed on the seeds but can munch on the leaves and stems. The upside is that Milkweed Bugs cause little damage to the plant and don’t hang around very long. They actually help control native milkweed populations by eating the seeds.
Monarch Butterflies are delightful pollinators that always have a home in my garden. I planted milkweed to attract these beneficial insects and offer a place for them to lay their young. I have been fortunate to capture each stage of the Monarch lifecycle in my garden this year and it has been a joy to see! I’ll share pics and details about their lifecycle in an upcoming post!
What insects have you captured in your garden this year? Name one or two in the comments area below!
Peace and zen,