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good bugs bad bugs expo

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Good bugs? Bad bugs? How do you know? The Alabama Cooperative Extension System recently published educational posters and coloring sheets to help Alabama residents tell the difference. The materials include illustrations of common good and bad bugs, as well as short facts about their impact on the environment.

Alabama Extension Home Grounds, Gardens and Home Pests Regional Agent Lucy Edwards and Extension Entomologist Katelyn Kesheimer found the inspiration for the materials by looking at Extension exhibits at the Sunbelt Agriculture Expo. They quickly decided that Good Bugs, Bad Bugs would be their focus for the 2021 expo.

Good Bugs

Good-Bugs-PosterWhat is a good bug? Edwards said good bugs are beneficial insects that positively influence the environment. This includes many species of insects and related animals like spiders, earthworms or millipedes.

“Some ‘good bugs’ are predators, feeding on pest insects,” Edwards said. “These pests are often damaging to crops, reducing the yield.”

Good bugs help to positively influence the environment by pollinating crops. Without them, food production would be impossible. Not only are they beneficial as they pollinate, but many of these good bugs are aesthetically pleasing to watch.

“Gardeners often plant specifically to host the larvae of some of these good bugs, such as milkweed for monarch caterpillars,” Edwards said.

In addition to pollinating crops, good bugs create products that humans use on a regular basis. These products include medicines, pharmaceuticals, silk, textiles and honey. They also help to break down organic material in the environment like dead trees or animal feces.

Good Bug Larvae

According to Edwards, the larvae of beneficial insects can often be in competition with pest insect larvae.

“It is critical for predator insects to feed on the pest insect larva for their own survival,” Edwards said.

Because of this, good bug larvae can often be found amongst pest larvae. The location of an insect can often determine if an insect is a pest or a good bug. For example, Asian lady beetles are beneficial when feeding on aphids in the garden. However, when they begin invading homes during the winter months they quickly become pests. A good bug can quickly become a bad bug in a different location.

Bad Bugs

Bad BugsAccording to Kesheimer, bad bugs are insects that have become a pest because of a variety of reasons. Bad bugs feed on agricultural crops, such as corn, soybeans and peanuts. They can also be pests to home gardens. Not only can they reduce yield from insect damage to the plant, but bad bugs can also aesthetically ruin ornamental or fruit crops by feeding on them. Bad bugs wreak havoc on plants, but some can even pose a health risk to humans and animals.

“Some insects, like mosquitoes and ticks, transmit diseases that result in illness,” Kesheimer said. “They can also transmit diseases to our pets and livestock.”

Bad bugs can negatively impact crops, individuals and homes. Insects like to seek shelter in homes, leading to unwanted infestations.

“Many of these insects are merely a nuisance, but others, like termites, can put our homes at risk,” Kesheimer said.

When they invade the home, they can even get into foods. For example, Indian meal moths can survive in pantries, feeding on grains, cereals and dried fruits.

More Information

Know the difference between good bugs and bad bugs to continue benefitting the environment and protecting yourself. For more information, check out the Good Bugs and Bad Bugs publications. Download the Good Bugs and Bad Bugs posters as well as buggin’ coloring sheets. Lastly, make sure to visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.

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