Natural enemies

The following text was adapted from Natural Enemies Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Biological Pest Control, Publication 3386, - University of California. Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, by Mary Louise Flint, Steve H. Dreistadt, Jack Kelly Clark (Photographer), University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (Corporate Author). And also: Introduction to the Study of Insects by Norman F. Johnson, Charles A. Triplehorn.

To find out more information on the individual natural enemies listed below, click on the “Learn more” link in the “Common name” column. It will direct you to more additional facts from the Identifying natural enemies website. View our information about selecting plants for their appeal to natural enemies and pollinators.

Please note: The information presented at this web site should be considered a guideline to be adapted for your situation. MSU makes no warranty about the use of the information presented here.

beneficial insect  beneficial insect

 

Identifying natural enemies

 PicturesScientific name Common name Type of natural enemyDescription and pests attacked
Bee fly

Bombyliidae

Photo:Jeff Evans, Natural History Museum, London

Bee fly

Parasitoid

Most are internal and external parasites of butterfly, moth, bee, and wasp larvae, some attack larvae of beetles, flies, moths, or grasshopper eggs. Most adults are short, very hairy, medium to large flies with long, thin mouthparts. About 3,000 known species.

Braconid wasp

Braconidae

Photo: Jim Kalisch, Tom Clark, Univ of Neb., Entomology

Braconid wasp

Parasitoid

Parasitize larvae of beetles, caterpillars, flies and sawflies. Adults usually are less than ½ inch long with an abdomen that is slender and longer than the head and thorax combined. Over 1,000 named species worldwide.

Soldier beetle

Cantharidae

Photo: Susan Ellis, www.insectimages.org

 

Soldier beetle

Predator

Adults of some species feed on nectar and pollen and are often found at flowers. Other adults eat aphids, insect eggs and larvae or feed on both flowers and insects. Adults are elongate, often with red, orange or yellow head and abdomen and black patterning and ¼ to ¾ inch long. Wing covers are soft. Larvae are dark, flattened and elongate, and feed in soil, leaf litter or under bark, primarily on eggs and larvae of beetles, butterflies, and moths.

Predacious ground beetle

Carabidae

Photo: Debbie Waters, Univ. of Georgia, www.insectimages.org

Predaceous ground beetle

Predator

Most are predaceous as adults and as larvae, a few species are parasitic. Adults are primarily active at night , often dark in color, and have long legs. Larvae often occur in leaf litter or soil and are elongate. Some feed on seeds and can reduce weed seed populations in agricultural systems. Over 40,000 known species in the world.

Chalcid wasp

Chalcidoidea

Photo: Gerald J. Lenhard, www.insectimages.org

Chalcid wasp

Parasitoid

This group includes many families of wasps that have many hosts. Some lay eggs inside of insect eggs, and many parasitize aphids. Other hosts include beetles, flies, moths, sawflies, mealybugs, and scales. These insects are very small, from ¼ inch to less than 1/12 inch long.

Plant bug
Plant bug

Chlamydatus associatus

Photo: Cedar Creek Natural History Area

Plant bug

Predator

This species has tubular mouthparts that can point forward. Oval shaped, black with yellow legs, less than ¼ inch long. Wings turn downward and are clear at the end. This species is an aphid predator.

Green lacewings

Chrysopidae

Green lacewings

Predator

Adults of many species are not predaceous. They have very thin, green bodies and green wings with lacy veins. Predaceous larvae have long, curved mandibles that they use to pierce and suck the fluids out of their prey. The larvae are about 1/8 inch long, look like tiny alligators, and prey on most small soft bodied insects. Larvae are often pale with dark markings. Eggs are laid on individual silken stalks. These predators are common in agriculture, gardens and landscapes.

Lady beetle

Coccinellidae

Photo: Scott Bauer, www.ars.usda.gov

Lady beetles

Predator

Most adults and larvae feed on soft-bodied insects. These may be important in aphid population control. Adults are rounded, and range in size from tiny to medium-sized (about ¼ inch long). Color ranges from black to brightly colored. Larvae are active and elongate with long legs, and look like tiny alligators.

Cynipid
Cynipid

Cynipoidea

Photos: ©2003 Regents, University of Arizona, www.cals.arizona.edu

 

 

Alan Hadley, www.hadleyweb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk

Cynipids

Parasitoid

These are wasps less than 1/8 inch long with few wing veins. Most species are black. More than 800 species in the United States, about 640 of which are gall makers and the remainder are parasites on horntails, flies, lacewing cocoons, psyllids, syrphid fly pupae, and other wasps.

Long-legged fly

Dolichopodidae

Photo: Susan Ellis, www.insectimages.org

Long-legged flies

Predator

Adults prey on small insects and are less than ¼ inch long, often metallic green, blue or copper-colored. They are abundant in many places, especially near swamps, streams, in woodlands, and meadows. Larvae are found in varied habitats, including water, mud, decaying wood and grass stems. Not much is known of their feeding habits but some are predaceous.

Dance fly

Empididae

Photo: Cedar Creek Natural History Area

Dance flies

Predator

All are predators as larvae and adults. Larvae are pale and cylindrical, and feed on varied prey in litter, soil or water or bark beetles under bark. Adults stalk small insects on bark or flowers. Adults have a large thorax and abdomen that tapers, and often a beaklike mouth. Most are 1/8 inch long or less. Over 700 species in North America.

Ichneumonid wasp

Ichneumonidae

Photo: Gerald J. Lenhard, www.insectimages.org

Ichneumonid wasps

Parasitoid

Larvae or pupae of most types of insects are attacked by species in this family. Common hosts include beetles, caterpillars, and wasps. Adults are usually slender with a long ovipositor. Over 3,100 species in North America.

Damsel bug

Nabidae

Damsel bugs

Predator

These bugs prey on aphids, leafhoppers, mites, caterpillars, and other insects. Most often yellowish, gray or dull brown, they are a little over ¼ inch long. Slender insects with an elongated head and long antennae. Nymphs sometimes look like ants.

Minute pirate bug nymph
Nymph
Minute pirate bug adult
Adult

Orius insidiosus

Photo: Dept. of Entomology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, cropwatch.unl.edu

Minute pirate bugs

Predator

This distinctive looking predator about 1/8 inch long feeds on aphids, thrips, mites, psyllids, and insect eggs. The insidiosus species occurs in the Eastern United States, and another species, tristicolor, is common in the Western United States. These insects are abundant in many habitats. Adults are oval, black with white markings and a triangular head. Nymphs are slightly pear-shaped and reddish brown or yellowish. They were commonly collected in our trials from mid-June on.

Stink bug

Pentatomidae

Photo: Susan Ellis, www.insectimages.org

Stink bugs

Predator

Most species are plant-feeding, but some (genus Perillus and Podisus) are predators that have tubular mouthparts that can point forward. Oval or shield-shaped, often brownish, usually less than ½ inch long. Nymphs are rounder than adults and have underdeveloped wings.

Plant bug

Plagiognathus politus

Photo: Cedar Creek Natural History Area

Plant bug

Predator

This species has tubular mouthparts that can point forward. Oval shaped, brown, ¼ inch long. Wings turn downward and are clear at the end. This species is a predator on leaf beetles.

Jumping spider

Salticidae

Photo: Judy Sedbrook, www.colostate.edu

Jumping spiders

Predator

These spiders are day active hunters in plants or on the ground. They do not make a web, and instead stalk and pounce on prey. They have a distinctive eye pattern with a front row of four eyes and two pairs behind the front row in a perpendicular line. About 300 species in North America.

Rove beetle

Staphylinidae

Rove beetles

Predator

Most are predaceous and live in litter as adults and larvae. Some larvae are parasitic. Prey includes insect eggs, larvae and pupae, as well as small soft-bodied insects such as aphids. Adults are often brown or black with soft wing covers that do not extend over their entire abdomen. Larvae are long and thin with a large head. About 3,100 species in North America.

Hover fly

Syrphidae

Photo: Susan Ellis, www.insectimages.org

Syrphid flies, flower flies, hover flies

Predator

Most adults eat pollen and nectar. Some larvae feed on fungi, but many are predators. Adults often have black and yellow bands on the abdomen, often hover around flowers, and look like bees (but do not sting). Larvae primarily feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Larvae usually have an opaque skin internal organs visible, and are patterned and colored in various ways, but usually green to dark brownish. About 1,000 species in North America.

Tachinid fly

Tachinidae

Photo: H. Gross, www.insectimages.org

Tachinid flies

Parasitoid

Hosts include immature beetles, butterflies, and moths. Adults are often dark, robust, hairy flies that look like houseflies but with stout bristles at the tip of their abdomen.

Crab spider

Thomisidae

Photo: David Keith, Unv of Neb., Entomology

Crab spiders

Predator

Crab spiders stalk and capture insects resting on surfaces or walking. They do not spin webs. The front two pairs of legs are enlarged and extend to the side of their body, giving them a crablike appearance. They have small eyes in two slightly curved rows, and the middle four eyes make a square. Over 200 species in North America.

Vespidae

Vespidae polistes

Hornets, paper wasps, yellowjackets

Predator

Adults often eat caterpillars, but feed their larvae on a variety of insects, including beetles, flies, true bugs, and other wasps. Some insects in the family Vespidae are pests to humans, but several native species in the genus Polistes are less likely to attack people. Adults are black with yellow markings, and they fold their wings lengthwise when at rest. In areas with severe winters, colonies do not overwinter, but in milder areas a colony may grow for several years.