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Beneficial Insects for Hydroponics part 3

This is part 3 of  the Beneficial Insects series: see  part 1 and part 2

Spiders, are one of the most feared Beneficial Insects there is, and some with good reason. Some spiders are poisonous and can have deadly results, but most aren’t dangerous to people at all. Some might inflect a painful bite but are not able to inject any poison. There are hundreds of thousands of species of spiders, but very few of them have bites that would require medical attention. Or even fangs strong enough to puncture human skin to be able to inject any venom in the first place. Although if your unsure weather they are poisonous or not, it’s simply always a good idea not to handle them in the first place.

Spiders come in all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes. All spiders are predators, and both poisonous and non poisonous spiders will eat almost any insect they can catch. They wont eat or damage your plants, they just hang out there because that’s a great place to find all the insects that they do eat. Most spiders will make webs to catch prey, but some like wolf spiders, are hunters that just search the ground and plant foliage for their prey. Spiders are found in all types of habitats, as long as there is food, they will stick around. All you need to do is just leave them alone to do their job.

Ground beetles, There are around 2,500 species of ground beetles in North America, and more than 40,000 species worldwide. Even though there are variation in their body shape, they are usually elongated, and heavy bodied, as well as be slightly or distinctly tapered at the head and/or back end, with ridges running along their back. While generally dark in color (brown to black) most ground beetles are shiny black , although some beetles are multi-colored with a metallic look, like an attractive metallic purple or green. They can also range in size from 1/16 to 1-3/8 inches long for the adults.

They are generally fast moving insects that have long legs. Most ground beetle species lay their eggs in soil. And like all beetles, ground beetles have complete metamorphosis with egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. The larvae feed and grow for about 1-2 years, then they pupate in small chambers made of soil (usually during the winter months), and then the adults emerge during springtime. Ground beetles will generally hide under logs, rocks, or even in soil crevices during the day, and are much more active at night. Most ground beetles don’t climb very well, and thus tend to be found on or near the ground.

Both the larvae and adults are predators. The larvae usually have large pincher-like mandibles to devour their prey. Ground beetles feed on a wide variety of insects like wireworms, grasshoppers, crickets, cut worms, armyworms, well as prey on things as large as snails and slugs. They can be attracted to light sources because they know the insects they feed on are attracted to the light. Many ground beetles can emit an offensive smelling, hot or volatile liquid which is used for defense. When threatened, they raise the end of their body aim and fire the chemical gas with popping sound and smoke like puffs. Because of this they are often referred to as stink bugs, some large beetles will even pinch fingers with their strong mandibles for defense.

Parasitic wasps,  are not the stinging social wasps like yellow jackets, hornets and paper wasps that are commonly found in/and around houses. Unlike social wasps who live in colonies that will siting to defend the colony when it’s threatened, parasitic wasps are loners and don’t live in colonies, there more like flies in that way. Although rare, parasitic wasps can sting if threatened or handled for defense, but don’t attack humans. There are many thousands of species of parasitic wasps in many different classifications, and they are extremely variable in both size (ranging in size from 1/100 to 3/4 inch long) as well as color. But most are small to medium sized, and black or brown in color. They also usually have a constriction where the abdomen and thorax meet, giving the appearance of a thin waist.

Parasitic wasps use their stinger to lay eggs inside other insects. The wasps larvae usually develop by feeding on a single host, the eggs are of various shapes and sizes, depending upon the species. The parasitic wasps larvae usually live and feed inside the host’s body, but some species will feed outside the host’s body. Depending on species and host there can be anywhere from 1, to as many as 1000’s of parasitic wasps larvae feeding on the same host.

Many species of parasitic wasps are host specific, developing in one, or a limited number of related host species of insects. A number of parasitic wasp species are commercially available from insectaries, and these can be purchased to reduce your pest populations. It has been said that there is a parasitic wasp species to reduce the populations of just about any insect. Because many beneficial parasitic wasps are very small, you can plant small flowers in your garden to attract the adults wasps. Adult wasps usually drink flower nectar as a food source, and if there are insects for them to lay their eggs in, your wasp populations will be able to multiply, thus keeping your pest populations under control.

Just like pests, many beneficial insects are very sensitive to pesticides. By using many of the pesticides on the market you will also be reducing your beneficial insect populations. By providing a variety of habitats and/or flowers you can attract a variety of beneficial insect to your gardens. There are many other beneficial insect you can consider too, like Big-Eyed Bugs, Ladybird Beetles, Mealybug Destroyer, Firefly’s, Millipedes, Damselfly’s, Dragonfly’s, Pirate Bugs, Predatory Mites, Rove Beetle, Giant Diving Beetle, Giant Stoneflies, Syrphid Flies and Tachnid Flies. So you may want to reconsider the next time you are thinking of squashing that bug that your unsure what it is.

Useful Links
Texas master gardener, spiders
Common Garden Spiders
Ground beetles
Ohio State University Extension, Ground beetles
University of Kentucky entomology, Ground beetles
Washington State University, Ground beetles
Parasitic wasps
Ohio State University Extension, Parasitic wasps
Top Secret agents
Texas AgriLife Extension, Parasitic wasps
Parasitic wasps Protecting greenhouse tomatoes
Other Beneficial Insect info
Beneficial Bugs
Beneficial Insects and Spiders in Your Maine Backyard
Beneficial Insects
Types of Beneficials

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