Pollinators and Assassins

Nope, that’s not a new Netflix original series, even though we’d totally watch that. Pollinators and assassins are two types of beneficial bugs you may find around your garden and home.

viceroy-butterfly_1600.jpg

 Butterflies, moths, bees, flies and other winged insects all pollinate plants, helping your garden bloom and thrive. This post will focus primarily on the assassins, but we do have some super informational tips about attracting pollinators, too. For all the details, read our blog post, Creating a Butterfly Destination. You’ll find a list of plants to incorporate into your yard, and details about how much sun those plants require.

 Now, on to the killers.

praying-mantis-2.jpg

Assassin bugs, like spiders, praying mantises, ladybugs, lacewings, and even some wasps, eat pests that like to destroy your plants. Most of us perform some version of a flailing jig when faced with insects, but as much as your family and neighbors may love your sweet, panicky dance moves, we should learn to coexist with - and even to attract - our multi-legged friends.

 To attract helpful assassin bugs, add mulch to your yard. The mulch creates cover for predatorial insects, allowing them to sneak up on their prey. Given a nice, mulch-covered environment, you’ll find that predators move right in.

 “These guys are going to be all around in a healthy garden or backyard,” said Lisa Keys, Science Mill Animal & Plant Care Technician. “Spiders and praying mantises are generalists and will eat a wide variety of pest species, such as caterpillars, grasshoppers and flies.”

 It’s also important to plant a wide variety of native plants. Planting many different types of plants will attract more species of insects, and establish a healthy ecosystem in your area. To find out which plants will thrive in your yard, talk to a local nursery. They understand the specific challenges of your environment, and have ideas for what, and how, to plant in your yard. A great Central Texas resource is The Natural Gardener. Their website is full of useful info.

 No discussion of assassin bugs is complete without some wasp talk. Lisa noted that many people shy away from attracting stinging bugs, yet some of them are definitely worth having around.

 “Wasps are particular about their prey, and don’t bother humans unless they are aggravated,” said Lisa. “Mud daubers, cicada killers, red wasps, and many others help control caterpillar, spider and fly populations, reducing the numbers of those pests in your yard.”

 So don’t be afraid. By cultivating many native plants, you can create a garden home to the right kinds of wasps and other assassins, as well as a host of pollinators.

ezgif.com-optimize (4).gif

 Come to the Science Mill on July 13 for our Incredible Insects event to learn more about pollinators, assassins and all of their friends. Our resident biologist will be in the greenhouse with information about beneficial bugs, Radford's Roach Roadshow is bringing their world-famous Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and don't miss a very special presentation by Associate Professor Dr. Nels C. Elde from the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah on " Insect Zombies Controlled by Viruses." Plus more fun hands-on activities and a special showing of Bugs 3D in our 3D movie theater! 

 Incredible Insects! activities and presentations are free with admission. Pre-purchase tickets to reserve your spot in the 11am or 1pm "Insect Zombies Controlled by Viruses" presentation. 

 All this and a membership bonus, too? You bet! Purchase or renew a Science Mill membership in the month of July and get one free insect or shark book per membership. We have books for all ages, so come pick out your favorite!