Meet the Cavalry

Got a pest?

Nature's got a solution!

To every pest, a predator.

 These beneficial insects are like superheroes for your plants.

It's like having your own personal army of shocktroopers that can take out a pest infestation with laser like precision.

But like any special forces unit, you have to know where and when to use them. 

Get familiar with some of the good guys waiting to give you a helping hand.

Red-backed jumping spider 

(Phidippus johnsoni)

Not to be confused with the unrelated and highly venomous redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti), the Red-backed jumping spider is one of the largest and most commonly encountered jumping spiders of western North America and is quite docile and harmless to humans and pets, but it will defend itself if threatened and its bite can be painful none the less. Johnsoni is also interesting in the surprising degree of colour difference between male and female. Males have a nearly completely red abdomen, while females have much more complicated patterning which includes reds, whites, blacks and yellows.

 

As with other jumpers, it is highly intelligent and aware of its surroundings with superb eyesight. A great generalist predator with a particular taste for other spiders!

Zebra back spider 

(Salticus scenicus)

Like other jumping spiders, it does not build a web to hunt. Instead, it has the ability to move its head independently of its body allowing it to use its four pairs of large eyes to locate prey and orientate itself into the best position to pounce and capture its meal.

 

Zebra spiders are often noted for their awareness of humans. Upon noticing someone observing them, they will often stop what they are doing to look up at the human and change their behavior accordingly.

 

Zebra spiders tend to hunt smaller spiders and similar insects, but they have been observed taking on prey items up to 3 times the length of the spider, such as some of the smaller species of moth. This one has just caught a whitefly.

"Luca" the Jumping Spider

(Phanias albeolus)

Another cute jumping spider in the same family as the famous "Lucas", but we'll call her "Luca". Generally, as in this case, the abdomen is the easiest way to tell the sex of a spider. Although there are some exceptions, as a rule, males have skinny abdomens, while females have rounder, fuller abdomens.

Minute pirate bug

(Anthocorids)

Although unable to identify the specific species, I am reasonably certain this little guy does belong to the Anthocoridae family

Predacious both as nymphs and adults, They are beneficial biological control agents. Orius insidiosus, the "insidious flower bug", for example, feeds on the eggs of the corn earworm and has been effectively used in greenhouses to control mites and thrips.

Damselfly

(Zygoptera)

Similar to dragonflies,  but smaller with slimmer bodies, damselflies are voracious little predators, and if your an aphid or a whitefly, they are the stuff of nightmares! But to you and me, they are a welcome addition to any growing environment.

Brown Lacewing

(Micromus Variegatus)

Particularly well suited to greenhouse environments, the Brown Lacewing is an exceptional generalist predator with a particular taste for aphids. Brown lacewings are predatory at all mobile stages ot their live-cycle, and these tiny delicate looking insects can single handedly wipe out even heavy aphid infestations, but are also effective against thrips, mites, whiteflies, and even soft bodied scale.

Green Lacewing

(Chrysoperla Rufilabris)

The "Green" Lacewing is another type of lacewing that is readily available for purchase. Just like it's brown cousin, it is an excellent generalist predator. There a a few differences between the two however. Green lacewings are a bit larger than brown lacewings, and aren't quite as suited to greenhouse use as their smaller brown cousin. Additionally, it is only the larvae that are active predators. Adults feed on nectar, pollen, and honeydew. Like al Lacewings they are very effective at controlling aphidsthripswhiteflyleafhoppersspider mites (especially red mites) and mealybugs.

San Francisco Lacewing

(Nothochrysa Californica)

A bit less common than the more plentiful "green" or "brown" Lacewings that are available for purchase, the San Fancisco is an excellent examply of just one of the roughly 1,300–2,000 additional species in this widespread group.

Snakeflies

(Agulla adnixa)

Snakeflies are a distant cousin of lacewings but belong to the order Raphidioptera. The roughly 260 different species that are commonly called snakeflies can be found  throughout temperate coniferous forests of the northern hemisphere. Virtually unchanged since the early Jurassic period, these freaky looking insects are completely harmless to you or I, but they are important predators of aphids, mites, and other small arthropods. Although they are extremely effective at controlling pest species, they're long life cycle has prevented them from becoming a commercially available.