Predators are one of the primary groups used in the biological control of insects and mite pests. These include some of the larger insects and spiders along with amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles.
- Consume many prey during their development.
- Are generally larger than their prey.
- All life stages may be predators; some are only predators at one stage in their life.
- Specialists feed on only one or a few species of prey
- Generalists feed on a wide variety of insect pests and even, at times, each other.
- Types that eat only others of their type are carnivores.
- Types that eat only plants are herbivores.
- Types that feed on both prey and plants including pollen and nectar, are omnivores.
Common predators of insect and mites include birds, lizards, lady beetles, green lacewings, ground beetles, soldier beetles and syrphid flies. Get an overview of beneficial predators or print out this list of the predators that you may find in your garden, and match them to the photos.
Spiders are major predators in the garden. Most common garden spiders are observed in the open during the day are not likely to bite you or cause lasting harm if they do bite you. Spiders whose bites might require you to seek medical attention spend most of their time hidden. Watch this to learn more about common garden spiders.
How to get them into your garden
Like any living creature, predators need food, water, and shelter, all generally available in the garden. Here are some ways to attract them:
- Provide plant diversity – it encourages a range of types of beneficials.
- Use sequentially flowering species to provide nectar, pollen, and shelter throughout the growing season.
- Create plantings of varied heights in sun and shade to provide food and habitat for different insect species and life stages.
- Maintain groundcovers and coarse mulches for nonflying predators to hide from their enemies.
- Tolerate low populations of plant-feeding insects and mites so that food is available for them.
- Reduce dust; it can interfere with natural enemies.
- Go light on fertilization; lush new plant growth encourages sucking pests like aphids to reproduce more rapidly than natural enemies can control.
Plants that attract natural enemies include asters, alyssum, small sunflowers, yarrow, cosmos, stonecrops, lobelia, basil, thyme, lavender, parsley, dill, borage, and many other herbs.
How to protect them
- Protect natural enemies from disturbances including:
- Garden maintenance practices
- Their own natural enemies (e.g., ants)
- Adverse environmental conditions
- Provide supplementary nectar or pollen sources, alternate hosts, or shelter.
- Avoid the use of any pesticides; if absolutely necessary, confirm before use that the product to be used is not harmful to beneficial insects.