My name is John Byrd and I am the owner of Byrd Pest Control. It is our mission to protect beneficial insects as part of our management programs. Let’s start by defining our terms. In the formal sense of the word, a pest is “a destructive insect or other animals that attack crops, food, livestock, etc.” and in an informal sense of the word it is “an annoying person or thing; a nuisance.” The reason for this article is to convince people that not everything that crawls on 4-8 legs is bad. In fact, there are some beneficial insects that actually serve a huge purpose and actually help control the pests that in an urban environment would be considered a pest in the formal destructive sense of the word.

In the agricultural realm which includes small gardens in a person’s backyard to a large multi-million dollar corporation, beneficial insects are desired, people paying millions every year to bring these living things in to help promote a healthy ecosystem, helping in the process of pollination or with the process that provides biological control. Biological control is the process of using living organisms to control other more destructive living organisms. There are three different living organisms that I have found to be helpful outside around the house.

As can be viewed on our home page I hold an ACE certification and as such have a broad knowledge of insects both harmless and harmful, and I make sure my company holds our environment in the highest regards above all else.

Beneficial Insects

Ladybugs

Ladybugs prey on aphids, whiteflies, mites, and fleas. Ladybugs can consume more than 50 aphids a day and 5000 during their lifetime also after they eat your aphids they will lay some eggs under some leaves which keeps the process going, Take a look at this Ladybug in action.

Praying Mantis

These little guys feed on a wide range of bothersome insects including caterpillars, beetles, crickets, and moths. Praying Mantis’ have an amazing view their surroundings because of the position of their eyes and combined with a reaction time that is 2x faster than a house fly you can bet that these guys are efficient hunters and are to be protected/cherished.

Bees

Bees are incredibly beneficial. Here in the Central Valley, a huge majority of our jobs here depend on these insects to pollinate our various orchards and crops. Pollinator health is of primary importance to us as a company and we 100% believe in live extraction and we refer all of our bee calls to a local beekeeper.

Ground Beetles

Ground Beetles are true carnivores and will hunt slugs and snails, cutworms, beetle grubs, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. Ground beetles and are typically only active at night. However over the past two years in Modesto, especially houses out in the country we have seen homes invaded on a major level which required mediation, however, when these bugs stay outside they are a huge benefit to your environment. Here is a video of a ground beetle taking out a snail.

Aphid Midges

Aphid Midges feed exclusively on Aphids, well actually their Larve do, the adults actually eat the honeydew that the aphids produce. Each aphid midge larvae can feed on and destroy 65 aphids a day. Aphid midges can attack over sixty types of aphid species. Many times aphid midges are confused with mosquitoes, however, they are smaller and their antennae curl back.

Braconid Wasps

Braconid wasps are easily identified by their small narrow waist these wasps are no threat to people, but a major threat to hornworms, caterpillars, and aphids. Braconid wasps kill hornworms by laying eggs inside the caterpillar which then eats the inside of the caterpillar to death until it emerges.

Damsel Bugs

Damsel Bugs will eat caterpillars, mites, aphids, beetle larvae and thrips. If you look closely at these bugs you will notice their front legs look super buff. Damsel bugs will use those front legs to grab their prey with their front legs and then pierce their prey with their beaks and suck out the fluid. Damsel bugs are active between June and August and will overwinter during the other months. Look at this video of this bug in action.

Green Lacewings

Lacewing adults to not feed on insects but it is actually the larvae stage of development where they really wreak some havoc on aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, mealybugs, and caterpillars of moths. These larvae are nicknamed aphid lions check out this video of an aphid lion in action.

Minute Pirate Bugs

Both Nymphs and adult Minute Pirate Bugs will feed on spider mites, aphids, insect eggs, caterpillars, and thrips. These little guys are so small you may not even realize that they are there, however they will deal a major blow to the non-beneficial pests around your home. Some species will bite people, as others will not. I have not heard of anyone in the central valley complaining of bits from these insects.

Soldier Beetles

Soldier beetles also go by the name of leather wings and by looking at a picture you will know why. These guys other insect eggs, aphids, as well as other soft-bodied insects. soldier beetles do zero damage plants and are harmless to people. This is an up-close video of one of these guys eating some nectar.

Tachinid Flies

Tachinid flies will lay their eggs on gypsy moths, Japanese beetles, various cutworms and squash bugs. Their Larvae then feeds off of the host until the host dies. The adult flies eat flower nectar and honeydew.

Hoverflies

Hoverflies are actually flies even though they may look like small wasps or bees and may freak some people out, they are harmless. They are called hoverflies because they can and will just hover in place, just like hummingbirds. They inflict some major damage on thrips, aphids, scale insects, and caterpillars. Much like the Tachinid flies the Hoverfly larvae feed on pests, while the adult flies feed on pollen. Check out the hoverflies doing their thing in this short clip.

Mealybug Destroyer

Mealybug Destroyers were imported from Australia in 1891 when we were having a huge problem with mealybugs here in California that was stunting the production of our citrus trees.  There target prey for these insects are mealybugs.
A single mealybug destroyer can consume up to 250 mealybug larvae.

Predatory Mites

Predatory mites pose no harm to people, plants or animal, however, they will obliterate spider mites. They will feed on pollen as well if there are no spider mites around. Here is a funny video of a predatory mite taking out a spider mite.

Beneficial Vertebrates

Lizards

Lizards are awesome for pest control around the home, however, they can be a little messy. Some people will actually confuse lizard droppings with mouse droppings. Mice droppings differ from Lizard droppings whereas mice droppings are the same color, lizard droppings have a little white dot at the end of the dropping. Lizards will eat many bugs including crickets, ants, and beetles, however, lizards become prey as well. Birds, cats and even black widows will look at a lizard as lunch. Generally, the lizards we have here in the Central Valley are blue belly lizards which are actually officially called the western fence lizard and alligator lizards.

Toads

Toads are beneficial because they will eat tons of bugs including beetles, cutworms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, grubs, and slugs. A single toad can eat over 100 insects in a single evening. If you find one in your yard you can be proud.

Some Borderline Beneficial Insects

Certain Species of Ants

Carpenter Ants and Fire Ants can be on the line since they will actually go after termites. However, when carpenter ants start moving into the home they can start making a mess and the beneficial aspect wears off quickly. The Same with fire ants, they will consume termites in droves, but you don’t really want to have a fire ant nest close to the house where you are BBQing or your kids are playing.

Spiders

Yes, you heard it right, spiders can actually be in the beneficial end of the spectrum. Spiders do not actively prowl around looking for a person or animal to bite. The only time spiders actually bite is when they feel threatened, and this may happen if you touch/disturb a spider in a way that it feels threatened, or roll on top of it.  Some spiders can actually carry poison like the black widow spiders that we have in the Central Vally. But generally, spiders are not actively aggressive and will actually help to control other nuisance pests. Also, cellar spiders will actually help to control black widow spiders, watch this video of such a case. Spiders will actually actively help control earwigs, aphids, fruit flies, grasshoppers, and roaches. However, some spider can be messy and a tidy house may be more important to you.

Here are the Non-Beneficial Pests

Roaches, Rodents, Aphids, Spiders, Ants, earwigs, crickets, millipedes, centipedes, Wasps, Bed bugs, Mites, Gophers, silverfish, fleas & ticks. These pests are not considered beneficial to our urban and even rural environments. Non-beneficial pests do actually play a very important role in our ecosystem as a whole, but not in or around our homes. Our pest control programs are designed for controlling the pests, all while preserving the beneficial insects.