UK gardening help and assistance

Garden Good Guys - the beneficial insects

Your garden may look like an oasis of serenity, calm and quiet. But appearances are deceptive. Every garden, every allotment is a battleground where the eternal struggle between good and bad is played out throughout the growing season. Tiny garden pest warriors are on the attack, and your plants are the target. Your beloved hosts, lovingly planted and nurtured, are reduced overnight to gibbering wrecks, their leaves decimated, a mosaic of munched holes. But there are good guys too, fighting an aggressive defence. Here's a guide to garden insects you want in your garden.

These innocent looking spotted little beetles, beloved of small children, is the Japanese samurai of the garden. Its rich adornment hides a cold killer, able to consume up to 50 pests a day. Woe betide a happily feeding colony of aphids zeroed in upon by a hungry Ladybird. There are 40 species in the UK, of which the two-spot and seven-spot are the most common and their name originates from the Middle ages when they were christened "birds of our lady" because they fed on grapevine pests.

Hoverflys may look like a wasp, but the hoverfly is harmless, and is disguised to deter predators. And while the adult hoverfly is a nectar loving pollinator, its children are as vicious as they are ugly. The greenish-brown, flattened little maggots are masters of camouflage, moving around undetected, bringing down annihilation onto unsuspecting aphid victims. Encourage hoverflys by growing marigolds and chamomile.

Sitting in the garden of an evening is wonderful, but too often spoilt by those nasty little creatures, mosquitoes. So what better than to encourage nature's exocet missile and voracious consumer of mossies, the dragonfly.  This beautiful and exotic looking creature depends on water, so a garden pond is what you'll need to make your garden dragonfly friendly.

Another aphid nemesis, with both the adult and larvae lacewings on the hunt for fat juicy victims. The larvae of some species of lacewings will attach the remains of their prey to themselves, trophies that serve to disguise. The adult lacewing has a formidable mouth structure, with tubular mandibles that pierce the hapless victim and are used like drinking straws to suck it dry.

Often found under stones or scuttling along, the ground beetle is an extremely beneficial resident of your garden. They are quite unassuming looking and mostly black in colour. Ask a child to draw a beetle and it will almost certainly look like a ground beetle. But this little beetle is one of the most prolific night hunters in the garden. It has a wide palate, and will eat a whole host of garden dwellers such as: aphids, caterpillars, leatherjackets, slugs and snails. You can encourage ground beetles by providing them with nice damp log pile to shelter in.

Quite simply, Brown Centipedes are designed to be killing machines. They have 15 pairs of legs, a pair of large, strong fangs located below the mouth, and poison glands. Fast moving, a centipede will grab its prey and inject venom to paralyze the victim, which then will be leisurely eaten alive. So watch out vine weevils, slugs, because death by centipede will be your worst nightmare come true.