Many insects are beneficial. Some pollinate our flowers and vegetables, and many others feed on the pests in our garden. This segment demonstrates a good habitat for caterpillars that will help beautify your garden.

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Beneficial Insects - Not All Bugs are Bad

In our Finney County extension demonstration and research garden, we have various types of plants for the public. And, some of those that you’ll often find in a garden are those that reseed. These volunteer plants provide some interest within the landscape.

I’ve had numerous youth and adults that come to the extension office and ask, “What are those insects?” that are on a particular plant. So, I like to step out and explain that in the insect world, we have those that are desirable insects that we like to promote because of their beauty and their beneficial uses in the landscape.

One of the butterflies that we find occasionally is the black swallowtail butterfly. It feeds on some of these plants. Here, we have a bronze or a purple fennel that we planted last year. It reseeded, and you can see how dense and thick the growth is underneath. But, the plant will also bear flowers the second year of its growth. Here we see the seed heads that have come up.

It’s in this particular type of growth that the swallowtail will come in and lay their eggs. Here, is a great example of that caterpillar. The larvae feeding on the plant is very colorful and striking. It raises the interest of the young people when they come through our demonstration garden.

Plus, it’s an opportunity to tell them that we let it grow like this so that we can have a teaching moment – to show them that “yes,” we don’t like to have pesty insects in the garden. But, they’re not all pests if we look at them from an educational value, but also beneficial to our beautiful world around us.

This feature story prepared with Dean Whitehill, Kansas State University Research and Extension Agent, Retired, Finney County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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