Beneficial insects
Click for larger image Dragonfly (Odonata) on coleus (Solenostemon)

Many insects cause damage to garden plants but others can do a very effective job of keeping problem insects in check without the use of pesticides. Therefore, it behoves the responsible gardener to learn to identify beneficial insects and encourage them whenever possible. Here is a selection of some common beneficial insects.

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Predatory beetle (Coleoptera) on tulip tree (Liriodendron) leaf
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Margined leatherwing beetle (Coleoptera), also called goldenrod soldier beetle, Chauliognathus, on garlic chives (Allium). Adults feed on nectar and pollen; larvae possibly feed on corn earworms and root maggots
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Webbing like this indicates that a spider (Araneae) is nearby; all spiders are beneficial predators
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Spiders (Araneae) are beneficial predators. Here, only the web is visible on a spruce (Picea), but the spider's probable location is obvious.
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Swallowtail (Lepidoptera) on zinnia
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Two egg cases of a Chinese praying mantis (Mantodea)
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Yellow lady beetle eggs (Coleoptera) on tomato (Lycopersicon)
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Yellow lady beetle eggs (Coleoptera) with their future victim, an aphid (Hemiptera), on a tomato leaf (Lycopersicon)
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Close-up of yellow lady beetle eggs (Coleoptera) with their future victim, an aphid (Hemiptera), on a tomato leaf (Lycopersicon)
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Swarm of honeybees (Hymenoptera) on crabapple tree
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Swarm of honeybees (Hymenoptera) on crabapple tree
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Underside of minute black scavenger fly (Diptera)
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Minute black scavenger fly (Diptera)
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Minute black scavenger fly (Diptera); these insects may congregate in large numbers on compost piles but are benign and simply part of the decay process
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Wheel bug, Arilus cristatus, is one of the largest of the assassin bugs (Hemiptera)
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A wheel bug, Arilus cristatus, is so called because of the semi-circular cog on its back that resembles a cogged wheel. Like other assassin bugs (Hemiptera) they eat other insects and their eggs
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Wheel bugs (Hemiptera), Arilus cristatus, are especially fond of caterpillars which they stab with their sharp beak and suck out the body fluids
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Praying mantis (Mantodea) checking for pests on a hosta (Hosta)
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Look closely! Death is lurking on the inner stems of this aster in the form of a camouflaged praying mantis (Mantodea)
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Antlions (Neuoptera) are the larvae of an insect related to lacewings. Like lacewing larvae, they are beneficial predators.
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Antlions (Neuroptera) are voracious predators that lie in wait for their victims, usually under loose soil, although sometimes in trees.
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Some antlions called doodlebugs (Neuoroptera) dig a conical pit in loose sand to trap prey. Note, the enornous mandibles on this specimen used to eat ants and other insects.
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Monarch butterflies (Lepidoptera) gathering on a dogwood (Cornus)
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Not all flies (Diptera) are pests; many are parasites and many are part of the natural decay process
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Stag beetle (Coleoptera). The adults are benign; the larvae (grubs) feed on decayed wood
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The white cocoons visible on the back of this tobacco hornworm (Lepidoptera) are braconid wasps (Hymenoptera) that have eaten the hornworm alive
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The white cocoons on the back of this tobacco hornworm (Lepidoptera) are braconid wasps (Hymenoptera) that have eaten the hornworm alive
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Dragonfly (Odonata) on waterlily (Nymphaea)
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Tobacco hornworm (Lepidoptera) on tomato (Lycopersicon) with parasitic braconid wasps (Hymenoptera) in the white cocoons on its back
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If you see a mass of eggs like this, leave it where it is. Wheel bugs (Hemiptera), Arilus cristatus, are beneficial insects that are especially fond of caterpillars
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Wheel bug eggs (Hemiptera), Arilus cristatus, on a ash twig (Fraxinus)
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Close-up of wheel bug eggs (Hemiptera), Arilus cristatus; note, barrel-shape of the eggs typical of true bugs
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Wheel bug eggs (Hemiptera), Arilus cristatus
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Chinese praying mantis (Mantodea)
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Chinese praying mantis (Mantodea) eating its prey
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Close-up of Chinese praying mantis (Mantodea) devouring its prey
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This cicada killer wasp (Hymenoptera), itself a beneficial insect, was parasitized by these fly larvae or maggots (Diptera)
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The pupa of a parasitic fly (Diptera) that came out of a cicada killer wasp (Hymenoptera) while it was still alive
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Possible syrphid fly maggot (Diptera) feeding on the aphids (Hemiptera) on an iris bud; it was hidden in the flower sheath
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Cicada killer wasp (Hymenoptera)
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Underside of cicada killer wasp (Hymenoptera)
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Some lacewing larvae (Neuroptera) stick the bodies of the victims to their backs, making them look like moving piles of debris.
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European paper wasp (Hymenoptera)--Polistes dominulus-- often mistaken for a yellow jacket, but note unique orange antennae. Adults feed on nectar; larvae are fed caterpillars and other insects.
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A spider web in the garden is good to have, because spiders eat garden pests, not plants
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Bristletails (Microcoryphia) usually feed at night on algae, lichen, moss, or decaying vegetation
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Northern spring peeper with lunch hidden in a daylily flower (Hemerocallis)
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This hornworm (Lepidoptera) was eaten alive by parasitic braconid wasps (Hymenoptera) now pupating in the white cocoons on its back
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Underside of a stag beetle (Coleoptera). The adults are benign; the larvae (grubs) feed on decayed wood
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Stag beetle (Coleoptera). The adults are benign; the larvae (grubs) feed on decayed wood
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Wheel bugs (Hemiptera) mating; these are beneficial predators.
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Wheel bugs (Hemiptera) mating; these are beneficial predators.
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Wheel bug (Hemiptera) eating a Japanese beetle (Coleoptera)
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Wheel bug (Hemiptera) eating a Japanese beetle (Coleoptera)
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Not all lady beetles are beneficial. This squash lady beetle larva, Epilachna borealis (Coleoptera) is eating the leaves of a squash plant (Cucurbita)
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Wheel bug adult (Hemiptera), a predatory beneficial insect; note, proboscis used for stabbing victims
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Wheel bug adult (Hemiptera), a predatory beneficial insect; note, proboscis used for stabbing victims
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Praying mantis (Mantodea) eating a moth (Lepidoptera)
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Praying mantis (Mantodea) eating a moth (Lepidoptera)
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Multicolored asian lady beetle adult (Coleoptera)
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Lightning bug adults (Coleoptera) do not feed; the larvae are beneficial predators
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Soldier beetle adults (Coleoptera) mating; aka leatherwings. The adults eat pollen or nectar; the larvae are beneficial predators.
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Hover flies (Diptera) or flower flies are types of syrphid flies. The adults, like this one on Coreopsis tinctoria, are beneficial pollinators while most larvae are beneficial predators
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Adult lady beetle (Coleoptera) just emerged from its pupal case (left) on Asparagus 'Purple Passion'
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Lady beetle larva (Coleoptera) on Asparagus 'Purple Passion'
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Lady beetle pupa (Coleoptera) on Asparagus 'Purple Passion'
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Adult lady beetle (Coleoptera) on Asparagus 'Purple Passion'
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Molted skin of a dragonfly (Odonata) on papyrus (Cyperus)
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Praying mantis (Mantodea) eating its prey on a tomato (Lycopersicon)
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Empty pupal case of a lady beetle (Coleoptera)
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A praying mantis adult (Mantodea) awaiting dinner from above? Or is it a standoff with the grasshopper (Orthoptera) on a copperleaf (Acalypha)
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Some praying mantises (Mantodea) have bloated abdomens
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Praying mantis adult (Mantodea) hunting bagworms (Lepidoptera) on a spruce (Picea)
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Praying mantis nymph (Mantodea)
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Praying mantis nymph (Mantodea)
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Freshly laid praying mantis eggcase (Mantodea)
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Wingbuds on a praying mantis nymph (Mantodea)
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Praying mantis (Mantodea) demonstrating the the prey holding spines on her foreleg
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Silhouettee of praying mantis (Mantodea)
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Lady beetle larvae (Coleoptera) with plenty of prey in the form of aphids (Hemiptera) on the underside of a cup plant leaf (Silphium perfoliatum)
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Many adult flies (Diptera) are important pollinators; here is one on an aster
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Adult longlegged fly (Diptera) in the Dolichopodidae family, a beneficial predator
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Adult longlegged fly (Diptera) in the Dolichopodidae family, a beneficial predator
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Adult longlegged fly (Diptera) in the Dolichopodidae family, a beneficial predator
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Adult robber fly (Diptera) a predator that can hunt down and snatch its prey in midair
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Sideview of adult robber fly (Diptera)
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Close-up of the head of an adult robber fly (Diptera)
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Multicolored Asian lady beetles (Coleoptera) can be identified by the black M marking on their white pronotum
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Tiger bee fly adult (Diptera), possibly Xenox tigrinus
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Bee fly adult (Diptera), possibly Dipalta. Adults are important pollinators; larvae are predators
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Syrphid fly adult (Diptera), possibly Eristalinae
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An adult black swallowtail (Lepidoptera)
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Dragonfly (Odonata)
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Dragonfly (Odonata)
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Bumble bee (Hymenoptera)
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Like all beetles, multicolored Asian lady beetles are in the order Coleoptera which means sheath wings, and here's why: The hindwings are folded and hidden (or sheathed like a sword) beneath the hard forewings.
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Brown lacewing adult (Neuroptera)
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Green lacewing adult (Neuroptera)
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Lacewing egg (Neuroptera)
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Ichneumon Gnamptopelta or spider waspPepsis (Hymenoptera)
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Ichneumon wasp (Hymenoptera)
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Wings of an ichneumon wasp (Hymenoptera)
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Ichneumon wasp (Hymenoptera) with extremely long ovipositor
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Spider (Aranae) helping wilth pest control in the garden
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Spider (Aranae) helping wilth pest control in the garden
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Red-winged blackbirds are songbirds and beneficial predators of many insects; they also eat seeds
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Maggots or fly larvae (Diptera), here found inside decaying daylily foliage (Hemerocallis), are important in the decomposition of dead plants and animals.
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Maggots or fly larvae (Diptera), here found inside decaying daylily foliage (Hemerocallis), are important in the decomposition of dead plants and animals.
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Maggots or fly larvae (Diptera), here found inside decaying daylily foliage (Hemerocallis), are important in the decomposition of dead plants and animals.
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Six-spotted tiger beetle (Coleoptera), Cicindela sexguttata. This metallic green beetle could be mistaken for an emerald ash borer, but this beetle is a beneficial predator.
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Six-spotted tiger beetle (Coleoptera), Cicindela sexguttata. This metallic green beetle could be mistaken for an emerald ash borer, but this beetle is a beneficial predator.
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Six-spotted tiger beetle (Coleoptera), Cicindela sexguttata. This metallic green beetle could be mistaken for an emerald ash borer, but this beetle is a beneficial predator.
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Predatory beetle (Coleoptera) on tulip tree (Liriodendron) leaf
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Possible predatory mite (Acari) captured on a greenhouse yellow sticky trap
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Tiny parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) captured on a greenhouse yellow sticky trap
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Even indoors, spiders (Araneae) can be beneficial; this one has caught difficult-to-control whiteflies (Hemiptera) on crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii)
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Even indoors, spiders (Araneae) can be beneficial; this one has caught difficult-to-control whiteflies (Hemiptera) on crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii)
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Predatory beetle (Coleoptera) on tulip tree (Liriodendron) leaf
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Close-up of green lacewing larva (Neuroptera) eating euonymus scale (Hemiptera) on euonymus (Euonymus)
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Green lacewing larva (Neuroptera)
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Green lacewing egg (Neuroptera) on stalk over woolly apple aphids (Hemiptera) on hawthorn (Crataegus)
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Close-up of a lady beetle larva (Coleoptera) on birch (Betula)
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Close-up of the head of lady beetle larva (Coleoptera)on birch (Betula)
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Close-up of the head and thorax of a praying mantis (Mantodea)
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Egg case, with ruler for scale, of a Carolina mantis (Mantodea)
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Side view of the egg case of a Carolina mantis (Mantodea)
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Top view of egg case of a Carolina mantis (Mantodea)
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Braconid wasps (Hymenoptera) are an important natural control of hornworms on tomato (Lycopersicon); note white eggs along back of caterpillar (Lepidoptera)
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Nymph assassin bug (Hemiptera )
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Nymphal stage of a dragonfly (Odonata)
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Rosie, a praying mantis (Mantodea), spent the entire summer in a hanging basket of kalanchoe (Kalanchoe and moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora); long enough to be named
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Rosie, a praying mantis (Mantodea), spent the entire summer in a hanging basket of kalanchoe (Kalanchoe and moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora); long enough to be named
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The cast skin of Rosie, the praying mantis (Mantodea)
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Rosie, the praying mantis (Mantodea), praying for another victim
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Egg mass of a Chinese mantis (Mantodea)
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Egg mass of a Chinese mantis (Mantodea)
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Egg mass of a Chinese mantis (Mantodea)
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Egg mass of a Chinese mantis (Mantodea)
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Spiders (Araneae), like this garden master, are beneficial predators in the garden
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Most solitary hunting wasps (Hymenoptera), like the mud dauber, are considered beneficial insects
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Green lacewing larva (Neuroptera), some of which are called aphid lions, not only eat aphids, but also eat other soft-bodied pests
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Close-up of green lacewing larva (Neuroptera)
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Cicada killer wasps (Hymenoptera) are considered beneficial insects because they prey on dog-day cicadas
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Dragonfly (Odonata) on (Ratibida pinnata)
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Potter wasps (Hymenoptera) rarely sting and are predators of caterpillars and beetle larvae, which they catch and then paralyze for their own larvae to feed on.
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On the right is a cicada killer wasp (Hymenoptera); on the left is its prey, a cicada (Hemiptera)
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Praying mantis (Mantodea)
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Assassin bug (Hemiptera )
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Assassin bug (Hemiptera ) on pine (Pinus)
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Close-up of green lacewing adult (Neuroptera)
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Lacewing larva (Neuroptera) looking for prey.
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Dragonfly (Odonata)
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A praying mantis (Mantodea) is the only insects that can turn its head.
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Praying mantis (Mantodea) in distinctive "praying" stance.
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Praying mantis (Mantodea) in distinctive "praying" stance.
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Pupa of a ladybug, which is actually a beetle (Coleoptera)
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Mating praying mantises (Mantodea). Note that the male is much smaller than the female.
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Predatory seven-spotted lady beetle (Coleoptera); native to North America
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Adult yellow-collared scape moth (Lepidoptera). The adults feed on nectar; the larvae/caterpillars feed on grasses, lichens, and mosses.
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Adult yellow-collared scape moth (Lepidoptera).
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Adult yellow-collared scape moths (Lepidoptera), mating.
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Immature male whitetail dragonfly (Odonata); predator
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Immature male whitetail dragonfly (Odonata); predator
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Cocoons of grass-carrying wasps (Hymenoptera) and remains of their prey (crickets and other Orthoptera)
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Cocoons of grass-carrying wasps (Hymenoptera) and remains of their prey (crickets and other Orthoptera)
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Cocoons of hairnet spongeflies or spongillaflies (Neuroptera). Adults resemble brown lacewings; larvae are aquatic feeding on fresh water sponges and bryozoans.
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Cocoons of hairnet spongeflies or spongillaflies (Neuroptera).
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Imperial moth (Lepidoptera); as with all moths adults are benign
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Imperial moth (Lepidoptera)
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Lizard on a tree in San Antonio, Texas. Most lizards are insectivorous and therefore beneficial.
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Mealybug destroyer (Coleoptera) on cordyline. As the name implies these eat mealybugs (Hemiptera) and other soft bodied insects; adult is a lady beetle.
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Predatory stink bug (Hemiptera)
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Rat-tail maggots (Diptera) feed on decaying vegetation and are part of the natural decay process.
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Immature assassin bug (Hemiptera); most are predatory feeding on other insects.
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Wasp larvae of a potter or mason wasp (Hymenoptera). These solitary wasps build nurseries of mud and stock them with prey.
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Monarch crysalis (Lepidoptera). The caterpillars of many butterflies and moths leave their larval food plant and move to a taller vertical surface, like a post lying in a truck bed.
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Black swallowtail crysalis (Lepidoptera). Caterpillar moved from dill plants to a crape myrtle to pupate.
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Ichneumon wasp pupa, a campopleginae cocoon, (Hymenoptera) with remains of host insect attached.
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Cocoons of Cotesia glomerata, a Braconid wasp (Hymenoptera) that parasitizes imported cabbage worms, a.k.a., cabbage white butterflies (Lepidoptera)
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Spider egg cases on an azalea bush (Rhododendron); all spiders (Araneae) are beneficial predators.
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Wheel bug nymph (Hemiptera) eating a cucumber beetle (Coleoptera) on a potato plant (Solanum)