We ask ourselves that question on numerous occasions throughout the year, as we catch sight of some newcomer to our garden. Usually with the subtext of ‘beneficial or pest?’. As our garden has matured and diversified, we’ve been pleased to see an ever greater variety of insects. Our goal is to arrive at a self-regulating state, where neither pests nor predators multiply out of control, eliminating the need for any intervention on our part.
A case in point: potato leafhoppers and red soldier beetles. The leafhoppers love to feast on the big, lush leaves of our giant sunflowers. Damage varies from a bit of leaf curl to plants being stunted or dying. The hoppers are quite nimble and hard to catch by hand. So we were very excited when a couple of years ago we noted the arrival of red soldier bugs. Within days, there was not a hopper to be found. Now we look forward to the next hopper invasion with equanimity, knowing that their natural predator will not be far behind.