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Good Bugs

Most of the bugs (insects, spiders, mites, slugs, and snails) in your landscape are not harmful to your plants. Many of them are what we call beneficial insects or "good bugs" because they benefit the landscape by

  • eating other insects that cause damage (the "bad bugs")
  • pollinating plants
  • improving the soil and recycling organic matter
  • being nice to look at (like butterflies)

You can create a healthy garden with lots of beneficial insects by:

  • Avoiding pesticides, especially insecticides. Even some organic pesticides can be harmful to beneficial insects.
  • Planting flowering plants and shrubs will attract and support beneficial insects with nectar and pollen. Many of these plants are also quite attractive.
  • Have diverse plantings. You’ll have wider array of beneficial insects, and a garden ecosystem that is more resistant to outbreaks of plant diseases and insect pests.

Using pesticides

Using pesticides can kill the good bugs along with the bad ones. The result can be a landscape that is out-of-balance—bad bugs that remain can multiply very quickly because they no longer have good bugs to keep them in check. Pesticides also pose a risk to people, pets, and the environment. So, before using pesticides, make sure you understand the risks, so that you don’t cause more problems than you solve.

About buying beneficial insects

It’s better to have a garden designed to naturally attract and support wild beneficial insects, like ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies, than to buy them at the store. Store-bought insects often don’t stick around, and certainly won’t if you don’t have a garden that provides their needs. Some of them are sold in stores are collected in the wild in large amounts, which may damage natural populations.


A few of the good bugs…

  Ladybeetle, ladybug,
ladybird beetle

Both adult and larva eat soft-bodied insects like aphids, scale, thrips, mealybugs and spider mites.

Left, adult ladybug; right, ladybug larva. Both photos © Alex Wild


Lacewings devour aphids,
thrips, mealybugs, scale, spider mites, leafhoppers and insect eggs.

Lacewing © H. Vannoy Davis © California Academy of Sciences


Adult hoverflies feed mainly on nectar and pollen, while the larvae (maggots) eat a wide range of foods, including aphids, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects.


Left, adult hoverfly; right, hoverfly larva eating an aphid.
Both photos © Alex Wild

  Aphidius whtmls

Aphidius whtmls can help control aphid populations.

Aphidius whtml and aphid. © Alex Wild


Dragonflies prey on unsuspecting flying insects like mosquitoes, flies and midges.

  Photo from PD Photo


Bees pollinate the flowers of many of our ornamental, fruit and vegetable plants. Bee populations are diminishing due to pesticide use, and loss of habitat.

  Honey Bee.
  © Alex Wild


Download these documents to learn more about good bugs:

Is your landscape River-Friendly?
Use our benefits calculator to find out.

Here are some more in depth articles on specific RFL topics that you might find of interest:

Contest Winner

RFL Inspiration Garden

RFL Examples

Rain Gardens

Mulch, Grasscycling, and Compost

Get Mulching

Fertilize Naturally — Is Feeding Frenzy Really Needed?

Plant Trees, Save Energy!

Right Plant, Right Place!

Plant Selection

Plant Communities

Take Action to Save Water Outdoors…

Lawn Care: How Green is Your Grass?

Rethink Your Lawn

Pests Bugging You?

River-Friendly Pest Control

Managing Common Pests

Good Bugs

Interview about RFL (MP3)

Choose California natives first

Don't Blow It!

Reducing Outdoor Asthma Triggers


Watch the YouTube video
"Slow the Flow - Make Your Landscape Act Like a Sponge"
to learn about the importance of landscaping to stormwater quality.

The Seven Principles of
River-Friendly Landscaping

Click on any section to learn more