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How do you tell good bugs from bad ones?

Bees are among the beneficial insects found in San Luis Obispo County gardens.
Bees are among the beneficial insects found in San Luis Obispo County gardens.

Q: I have great vegetables this year in my garden but I see a lot of bugs. How do I tell the good bugs from the bad bugs?

Mary B., Paso Robles

A: That is a great question. You need to manage pests in a safe manner so that you do not disrupt the life cycle of beneficial insects.

Beneficial insects can be affective pest managers and do much of the work for you. Attracting and maintaining beneficial insects is a good first step to managing pests.

Some of the more familiar beneficial insects include lady beetles, damsel bugs, green lacewings and a variety of native bees.

While adult insects are easily recognizable, it is helpful to be familiar with the immature stages as well.

Lady beetle larvae is black and orange with an alligator-like appearance. Like adult lady beetles, the young are affective predators who not only eat aphids but also whiteflies, mites and scale insects.

Green lacewing eggs look like tiny, oval-shaped white specks suspended on a threadlike stalk on leaves. If you see these eggs, put out a “Do Not Disturb” sign. These beneficial bugs will be a great asset to your garden when they hatch.

Some of the pests you want to look out for are aphids, apple codling moths, scale insects, whiteflies, mites, earwigs and ants.

But don’t reach for a can of bug spray at the first sign of pests. That can be detrimental to beneficial insects, leaving you with an imbalance of too few predators and pollinators in the garden.

For more information about UCCE Master Gardeners, visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/mgslo.