I used to hate bugs. I grew up in one of those really old houses with a cellar like a cave and spiders the size of mice.
By Annette McLoughlin
I used to hate bugs. I grew up in one of those really old houses with a cellar like a cave and spiders the size of mice. When I was a teenager, seeing them would paralyze me. Of course, like most teenage girls, I wasn’t a monument of rationality. I probably had similar reactions to organized sports, corduroy pants, curly hair, and guys with glasses. Teen hyper-drama aside, however, as I matured, my fear of bugs never went completely away. And later, living in dumpy apartments in the city certainly didn’t help.
Having a son can change all that. With a boy, you have to unsqueeze your eyes and look at his bugs (and other icky stuff). And you should probably do it with enthusiasm (at least the bugs.) I claim no parenting expertise, however, I believe that you have to let a boy be a boy (within reason, of course). You have to let him sleep with that jar of bugs (with the lid closed very tight) next to his bed. But even more importantly, you need to embrace his love of bugs because if you show fear, you put yourself at his mercy every time he pulls a centipede out of his pocket. Otherwise, you’ll set yourself up for years of bug pranks. He’ll only too happily hold that power over you and it’s all about maintaining the balance of power with kids, right? You can’t give them the bug ammo … ever.
So, over time, and with the help of a mantra (“I am bigger than you, I am bigger than you”), he’s helped me see bugs in a whole new light. I have helped with the Mason jar habitats and we even order bugs on line; so far butterflies, ladybugs, and my favorite, the Praying Mantis. Oh yes, I now even have a favorite bug. We currently have a Praying Mantis egg case in a container on our kitchen counter (on the counter!) We’re waiting for it to hatch so that we can keep a few to watch them grow and let the rest (the other approximately 97 baby mantises) free in our backyard. If you keep them contained, they start to eat each other. We learned this the hard way the first time around. Oh, I’ve come far.
I’m a happier person now that I’m at peace with the insect world. And since knowledge is power, following is a list for you of a dozen “good” bugs, the ones you should respect and even invite into your yard. They perform important jobs and should be respected and respectfully left to share your slice of Rye.
#1 The Ladybug
She’s no lady when it comes to her lunch! Ladybugs eat aphids, one of the most destructive plant pests. While an adult will eat about 100 aphids a day, the Ladybug larvae eat 100 an hour! They also eat mites, and the smaller insects and eggs of several other plant-destroying pests. Also, she’s cute.
#2 The Dragonfly or Damselfly
North America has 450 different species and we love them because while they also enjoy aphids, and, more pertinent to those of us who like to enjoy being in our backyard, they are the nemesis of that infernal pest, the mosquito.
#3 The Spider
I know, not an insect (an arachnid) but that being said, they kill more garden pests than all other beneficial bugs combined! This knowledge very much helps me to walk right by them and resist the urge to squash.
#4 The Ground Beetle
Most notably, they love slugs and snails.
#5 The Hover Fly (Syrphid)
They look like a two-winged bee and can hover like a helicopter. In addition to ridding us of aphids and other pests, they help pollinate flowers.
#6 The Green Lacewing
Adults eat aphids and the infants have a voracious appetite for a variety of garden pests.
#7 The Bumblebee
These little pollinators are even more efficient than their cousin, the honeybee.
#8 The Paper Wasp
Though they can be a nuisance if you disturb them, left alone, they’ll take care of caterpillars, which can cause major damage to trees and garden plants.
#9 The Butterfly
While as not as efficient a pollinator as the honeybee, they have become more important in the pollinating process since the mysterious decline of the honeybee.
#10 Centipedes and Millipedes
These leggy creatures are tough to love — especially since they sometimes end up indoors — but they create rich compost in the garden.
#11 Praying Mantis
These exotic-looking beauties eat aphids, moths, beetles, crickets, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, and flies. Unfortunately, they are related to the cockroach, but come on now who can honestly say they don’t have a freaky cousin or two? Despite that dirty little secret, they are Connecticut’s official insect.
#12 The Assassin Bug (Reduviidae)
This guy’s strategy is diabolical and its victims include beetles, mosquitoes, bedbugs, aphids, caterpillars and flies. Caution, however, as some species bite humans. It’s one tough bug.
So swat a fly and squish a mosquito, but give the hardworking spider, mantis, and beetle, some berth and let them do their job.