Insects are the most numerous type of animal on the planet. With tens of
thousands of different species and billions of individuals alive at any
one time, they are among the most important creatures as well, providing
a food for many other animals, and helping to pollinate plants. Insects
are, therefore, important to a permaculture plot as well.

Some insects are, however, more beneficial to your garden than others,
primarily because they help keep populations of pests & insects that
damage crops down. Here are some of the little critters that will help
keep your permaculture plot in balance.

1. Lacewings

While the lacewing gets its name from the delicate green tracery of veins
on the wings of the adult, it is the larvae of the species that is of most
benefit in terms of pest control. Sometimes called & aphid lions & for their
voracious appetite for said pests, the larvae also prey upon small caterpillars,
mealy bugs and insect eggs. As soon as the larvae hatch they search for food and
can eat as many as 40 aphids per day, often, in rather macabre fashion, placing
the desiccated husks of their victims on their backs as camouflage. They have
large jaws with which they grasp their prey, immobilizing them so they can suck
out their juices. Attracting adult lacewings obviously increases the likelihood
of larvae, and they feed on pollen, nectar and honeydew.

2. Ladybugs

Not only are ladybugs one of the most aesthetically pleasing of insects, they are
also one of the most beneficial in controlling pests on the permaculture site. Both
the adults and the larvae feed on plant-eating insects, particularly aphids but also
mites and mealy bugs. Many ladybugs secrete a foul-tasting substance from their
bodies to ward off predators, so once in your garden, they are likely to maintain a
population if there is sufficient food.

3. Ground Beetles

There are approximately 2500 different species of ground beetle, and all of the most
common varieties eat a wide range of smaller insects, including caterpillars, potato
beetles, cutworms, snails, slugs and vine borers. Predominantly nocturnal, ground
beetles prefer to lie low under rocks and plant material during the daylight hours,
so make sure you have ground cover crops if you want to attract them. A few species
of ground beetle are omnivorous and can consume weed seeds, offering another service
to the permaculture gardener.

4. Braconid Wasps

Adult Braconid wasps only eat pollen and nectar, but they certainly ensure that their
young have plenty of prey to feed on as soon as they hatch – by injecting their eggs
into other insects. The female will lay an egg in a moth or beetle larvae, leaf miner,
caterpillar, fly or an aphid, and when the wasp larvae hatches it eats its way out.
Fortunately, the wasps fearsome reputation is reserved for other insects; it doesnt
sting so humans have no reason to fear them.

5. Trichogramma Mini Wasps

Similar to the Braconid wasp, these tiny creatures lay their eggs not inside other
insects, but in their eggs. The young mini wasps develop inside, preventing the
original insect’s young from developing. They tend to favour the eggs of moths
and butterflies, but will also lay in those of some species of worm.

6. Assassin Bugs

Like their human namesakes, assassin bugs stalk their prey before delivering
a killer blow – piercing their victim with an elongated mandible. Both
adults and larvae feed on aphids, caterpillars, spider mites and all manner
of insect eggs. Be careful if handling assassin bugs as they can bite you as

7. Minute Pirate Bugs

Small they may be (around two millimeters in length), but minute pirate bugs
will attack insect prey many times their own size. But while they will take
the occasional caterpillar, the majority of their diet is made up of mites,
thrips and aphids. While their entire life cycle lasts little more than a
month, eggs develop rapidly so, given the right conditions, populations can
cycle through several generations during spring and summer. Minute pirate bugs
are known to be good pest control additions to greenhouses.

8. Tachinid Flies

Tachinid flies resemble the common housefly, but are distinguished by having
a hairy abdomen. The adults are pollen feeders, but the larvae feed upon
grasshoppers, beetles, bugs, caterpillars and earwigs. All species of Tachinid
flies are parasitical, meaning their eggs develop either inside or on a host
that the larvae predates when it hatches. Different species employ various
methods of getting their eggs a host, from injecting it inside, placing it on
the back, or sticking eggs to foliage that the prey animal will eat.

9. Soldier Beetles

An all-round predator, these beetles, which average around half and inch in
length when fully grown, can both scuttle along the ground and fly. They are
usually easy to spot, with yellow and black or red and black markings on their
wings. Adults and larvae feed on soft-bodied pest insects like caterpillars and
aphids, while the adults will also feed on pollen and nectar.

10. Hover Flies

Aphids form the largest part of hover fly larvae’s diet, although they will
prey on other soft-bodied insects when they get the chance. The adults tend to
lay their eggs among aphid colonies so the emerging larvae have food immediately.
The adults, which look a lot like yellow jackets, are solely pollen eaters.

11. Spined Soldier Bugs

Preying on caterpillars, fly larvae, cabbageworms, potato beetles and grubs, spined
soldier bugs are a type of stink bug, but are distinguished by their spined shoulders
which gives their carapace a shield-like appearance. They range in color from brown
to bright red.

12, Preying Mantids

Preying mantids are arguably the oddest-looking insects you might find on your permaculture
plot, at least if you can spot them, they are. Masters of camouflage, preying mantids use
their body shape and coloring to blend into plants, from where they attack any other passing
insect. This does mean that they will take other beneficial insects, but with healthy
populations, their benefits outweigh the loss of a few ladybugs.

12 Beneficial Insects for Your Permaculture Plot


Animals and Their Habitats

Critter Catalog

The Encyclopedia of Life

The Xerces Society