Pest control insects: different types & the benefits of using beneficial insects for pest control


As a horticulture student I mainly studied crops and cultivation techniques. It fascinates me how many diverse plants can grow from small, nearly identical seeds.

Favourite fruit: blueberries, grapes, raspberries, pears
Favourite vegetables: mushrooms, peppers, kohlrabi, onions, garlic

There are a number of pest control insects available which offer a viable and effective alternative to chemical pesticides. Find out how to attract beneficial insects to your garden and how to use these little helpers strategically against pests.

Aphid on leaf
Beneficial insects, like the ladybird larva here, can help against an aphid infestation [Photo: Ebani Brunaldi’ 85/]

The use of beneficial insects in commercial horticulture has increased considerably over the last 30 years. Meanwhile, it has also become a tried and tested practice in hobby gardening. However, in order to use these little helpers correctly, it is important to know which beneficial insects combat which pests. Read on to find out which insects you can use to control which pests, the advantages of using beneficial insects as well as how to attract beneficial insects to your own garden.

What are beneficial insects?

Beneficial insects are various insects or groups of insects that play an important role in pest control in horticulture, agriculture and viticulture, as well as in forestry. They are the natural antagonists of pests and can reduce pest populations to a tolerable level or even wipe them out entirely.

Fungus gnat on leaf
Larvae of the fungus gnat cause enormous damage to plants, nematodes can help here [Photo: SIMON SHIM/]

Note: Beneficial insects are not only those that we use to control pests. Earthworms (Lumbricidae) and pollinators such as bees (Apiformes or Anthophila) and bumblebees (Bombus) are also considered beneficial insects.

In our Plantura online shop, we also offer beneficial insects for you to use for targeted pest control against nuisance and destructive pests. When you order beneficial insects from us, each order comes with detailed information and instructions to help ensure that you use the beneficial insects correctly. Beneficial insects mostly comprise useful invertebrates that can be subdivided into predators or parasitoids.

Predatory beneficial insects

Predatory beneficial insects fight the pest or its eggs by feeding on them. A well-known example is the ladybird (Coccinellidae), which can eat up to 4000 aphids during its lifetime. Seven-spot ladybirds are reliable pest control insects for combatting all aphid species.

Other predatory beneficial insects include predatory mites (Gamasina), lacewings (Chrysopidae) and bug species (Heteroptera), for instance.

Parasitic beneficial insects

Parasitic beneficial insects lay their own eggs in or on the eggs, larvae or pupae of other insects. The developing larvae of the parasite then feed on the host until its demise.

Ichneumon wasps, also known as parasitic wasps, are a classic example of parasitoids. There are many different, specialised species of ichneumon wasps, some of which can be used against moths in the home. These include our Plantura Mini-Wasps against pantry moths and Plantura Mini-Wasps against clothes moths of the genus Trichogramma. Encarsia ichneumon wasps are also parasitic beneficial insects that you can use to control pests on plants, such as whiteflies.

Other parasitic beneficial insects are chalcid wasps (Chalcidoidea), caterpillar flies (Tachinidae) and beneficial nematodes (Nematoda).

Insect laying eggs inside host
Parasitoids lay their own eggs in or on eggs, larvae or pupae of other insects [Photo: Nik Bruining/]

What are the advantages of using beneficial insects for pest control?

Using beneficial insects has several advantages over using chemical pesticides.

  • Biological pest control: pests are controlled by their natural counterparts. In contrast to chemical pesticides, beneficial organisms are much less harmful to other organisms in the garden and harmless to humans and pets.
  • Safe to apply and no strict rules: unlike pesticides, beneficial insects are not subject to any regulations regarding their use or disposal and are available to the general public. They are also quite practical to use as you do not have to observe any waiting periods before consuming crops.
  • No issues with resistance: pests are becoming increasingly resistant to certain pesticides and insecticides, which poses a great problem for pest control overall. Beneficial insects do not contribute to this problem.

What to keep in mind when using beneficial organisms: Beneficial insects need suitable living conditions to successfully control pests. You must provide the right temperature, humidity and light conditions, or else these little helpers may die or not be as effective. Pest control insects are generally much more effective in closed spaces such as conservatories, greenhouses and indoors. This is because here they cannot be blown away by wind, eaten by other animals or migrate elsewhere. In contrast to chemical pesticides, beneficial insects usually need to be used straight away and cannot be stored.

Green lacewing on leaf
Lacewings attack many different pests [Photo: Muddy knees/]

Tip: Some beneficial insects are not only useful against one type of pest, but tackle several at once, such as green lacewings.

Which beneficial insects combat which pests?

The following table gives you an overview of which of our Plantura beneficial insects are effective against which plant pest. All of our beneficial insects are made in Germany and delivered to you in safe, protective packaging.

Beneficial insectPests
Encarsia-ichneumon waspsWhiteflies (Trialeurodes vaporariorum or Bemisisa tabaci)
Green lacewings (Chrysoperla carnea)Aphids (Aphidoidea), spider mites (Tetranychidae), thrips (Thysanoptera), mealybugs (Pseudococcidae), typical bugs (Heteroptera), whiteflies (Aleyrodoidea)
HB nematodes (Heterorhabditis bacteriophora)Vine weevils (Otiorhynchus) and grubs (Scarabaeoidea)
Predatory mites (Phytoseiulus persimilis, Amblyseius californicus)Spider mites (Tetranychidae)
SC nematodes (Steinernema carpocapsae)Mole crickets (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa), crane flies (Tipulapaludosa) and owlet moths (Noctuidae)
SF nematodes (Steinernema feltiae)Codling moths (Cydiapomonella), fungus gnats (Sciaridae) and ants (Formicidae)
Seven-spotted ladybird eggs (Coccinella septempunctata)Aphids (Aphidoidea)
Seven-spotted ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata)Aphids (Aphidoidea)
Predatory mites on leaf
Predatory mites are effective antagonists of spider mites [Photo: dohtor/]

How to attract beneficial insects to your garden

Beneficial insects can be used effectively in the home as well as in sheltered growing spaces. In gardens, they tend to migrate quickly and do not stay in one place for long unless you intentionally try and encourage them to stay in that area. In order for store-bought and especially naturally occurring beneficial insects to establish themselves in your garden, you must provide them with a suitable habitat. There are certain measures you can take to promote beneficial organisms and thereby increase biodiversity in your garden and reduce pest populations.

In a separate article, we present to you 10 beneficial garden animals that help to control pests.

Garden with various plants growing
A slightly wilder garden creates a more resilient biological system [Photo: L. Feddes/]

How to attract beneficial insects:

  • Wait until spring to cut back perennials and faded ornamental plants; quite a few beneficial insects like to overwinter in the flower stalks.
  • Create hiding places for beneficial insects, e.g. leaves, bark, stones or wall cracks; hedges and shrubs are also suitable.
  • Create natural meadows and plant flowering plants and wild herbs.
  • When choosing flowers to plant in your garden, opt for single flower varieties instead of double-flowered varieties, as single flowers still have carpels and produce nectar and pollen.

Are you considering going the natural route and using pest control insects to fight your next pest infestation? In our Plantura Shop, you can buy beneficial insects and have them delivered safely straight to your door – no muss, no fuss!

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