Beneficial insects are a vital part of our ecosystem. Without them, there would be little harmony and balance in our agricultural systems and your personal garden.
Each winter as the chill of the air rolls in I am reminded of the importance of beneficial garden insects as hundreds of ladybugs somehow find their way into our master bathroom. They seek the warmth and moisture and are fascinating to observe. I am certain if my mother reads this that I will soon get a lecture on the inefficiencies of our windows and doors, but this year it has been particularly enjoyable to observe the ladybugs as our two-year-old daughter loves them!
Each day she runs into our bathroom to see "my ladybugs" we get to teach her about their importance in nature and instruct her not to touch or "pet" them. You see, the beautiful little creatures are ferocious tiny predators. Each one can consume as many as 50 aphids in a single day.
Many beneficial insects are excellent pollinators. Of course, we all know of the beloved honey bee and its many benefits, but did you know that there are many vital pollen wasps? In fact, the fig wasp is essential to the production in a fig orchard (http://www.figweb.org/Fig_wasps/index.htm). While it is true that wasps are not as hairy as bees and do not carry as much pollen from flower to flower, they are well-traveled and pollinate fairly well. This information should irk you each time your non-gardening neighbor reaches for the can of Raid only to eliminate her irrational fears.
Perhaps the most significant benefit that I look for is pest control. Integrated Pest Management is a buzz term in agricultural that is used in many ways. Broadly it only signifies a range of actions and tactics to control pests, typically insects that make a negative impact on agricultural production. Unfortunately, most modern farmers think with an insecticide first approach. While I refuse to stand on a high horse and deem all uses of insecticides as evil I am adamant that often it is not the best approach for the health of our food supply, future and even the next crop in question.