Beneficial Insects

Each year there is a greater demand for natural pest control among organic gardeners. Whether they desire to keep plants pesticide free to do their part in protecting the environment for the many pollinators that live in and visit our city, or they desire to stay true to a holistic philosophy they subscribe to, they choose the least toxic solution available to them. The use of beneficial insects as a form of natural pest control, allows these gardeners to be confident that they are completely organic in their gardening endeavors.

Both of our Rainbow Gardens locations in San Antonio, carry a wide range of organic options for gardening, including but not limited to: soils, composts, mulches, fertilizers, and even some specialty plants brought in from organic farmers. We carry multiple lines of low-toxicity pesticides in our organic sections, but to go completely organic is to not use ANY type of pesticide.

Beneficial Insects Carried Seasonally at Rainbow Gardens

This is where beneficial insects come in to do the dirty work for you. Beneficial insects are truly the most natural type of pest control. Rainbow Gardens carries these specific beneficial insects on a seasonal basis:

What We Carry

This is where beneficial insects come in to do the dirty work for you. Beneficial insects are truly the most natural type of pest control. Rainbow Gardens carries these specific beneficial insects on a seasonal basis:


Microscopic, beneficial nematodes tackle soil-dwelling pests like grubs, fleas, beetles and more.


Ladybugs swoop in with their voracious appetites to devour aphids, mealybugs and spider mites. 

Care for your Ladybugs:

Before you buy them:

They are kept either refrigerated or in these containers and misted once everyday.

After you buy the ladybugs:

Still in the container:

Two or three shots of a fine mist is good. You want to moisten the wood chips but not allow puddles at the bottom of the cups.

In the garden:

First you need to water your garden and release them after sundown. (Ladybugs do not fly at night and if released during the day they will just fly away.) Shake them out of the box in groups and place them at the base of the plants with aphids or other pests ladybugs munch on.

Praying Mantis

Praying mantis capture and chew up grasshoppers, wasps, and flies that pester.

Care for your Praying Mantis:

Before you buy them:

They are kept out of direct sunlight at room temperature or warmer

After you buy the praying mantis:

In the garden:

Place the egg cases in or near plants that have pest problems. If you have squirrels or birds that may eat the egg case, you can hang them according to the directions.

Observe then release:

If you want to watch the praying mantis hatch, place the egg case in a bowl or terrarium and keep it in a warm area. Release immediately after they hatch since they will begin to attack each other.

Some other beneficial insects (not carried by Rainbow Gardens) are:

Bees (you need them to pollinate your gardens), Earthworms (aerate your soil and provide natural, perfectly neutral pH balanced compost, Green lacewings (aphid lovers too), Dragonflies (they love mosquitoes).

Some Plants To Attract Beneficial Insects

Plants To Attract Beneficial Insects

  • Ajuga
  • Anise
  • Bachelor’s Buttons
  • Basil
  • Basket of Gold
  • Black Eye Susan
  • Blanket Flower
  • Bee Balm
  • Borage
  • Calendula
  • California Poppy
  • Caraway
  • Catmint
  • Chamole
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Coneflower
  • Comfrey
  • Copper Canyon Daisy
  • Coral Vine
  • Coriander/Cilantro
  • Coreopsis
  • Cosmos
  • Dandelion
  • Dill
  • Fall Aster
  • Fennel
  • Feverfew
  • Golden Marguerite
  • Johnny Jump Up
  • Lavenders
  • Lobelia
  • Lupines
  • Mexican Sunflower
  • Mint
  • Milkweeds
  • Oregano
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Penstemon
  • Pincushion Flower
  • Prairie Sunflower
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Sea Lavender
  • Sunflowers
  • Tansy
  • Thrift
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow
  • Zinnia

Beneficial Nematodes

Beneficial Nematodes

Biological Control Of Grubs And Other Soil Dwelling Pests

Nematodes are microscopic, non-segmented worms which occur naturally in soil all over the world. Thousands of strains exist with different life-styles. Beneficial ones attack soil dwelling insects and leave plants alone. These predators enter the host through body openings or by penetration of the body wall. Once inside, they release a bacterium which kills the host within 48 hours. The nematode continues to reproduce and its offspring begin to seek out new host material. Beneficial nematodes are a totally safe biological control parasitic insect organism. They are so safe that the EPA has waived the registration requirements for application.

Natures Way Of Killing Insect Pests In The Soil.

Beneficial nematodes control grubs that are known to destroy crops. They are effective against white grubs and the larval or grub stage of Japanese Beetles, Northern Masked Chafer, European Chafer, Rose Chafer, Fly larvae, Oriental Beetles, June Beetles, Flea beetles, Bill-bugs, Cut-worms, Army worms, Black Vine Weevils, Strawberry Root Weevils, Fungus Gnats, Sciarid larvae, Sod Web- worms, Girdler, Citrus Weevils, Maggots and other Dip-tera, Mole Crickets, Iris Borer, Root Maggot, Cabbage Root Maggot, Flea, Ants, and Carrot Weevils.These predators are also effective against: termites, German cockroaches, flies, ants, and fleas.

Life Cycle of Beneficial Nematodes

Beneficial nematodes are mobile and move short distances in search of host insects. Heterorhabditis is more mobile than Steinernema. Nematodes use carbon dioxide and perhaps other chemicals produced in waste products of insects as cues to find their hosts. Upon entering the insect the nematodes kill their host by releasing bacteria into it, strains of Xenorhabdus species that are associated with the nematode. The bacteria develop within the body cavity of the susceptible host. The host dies from blood poisoning within a few days.

The dead insect generally maintains its original shape and does not decay in a normal manner because its body is filled with these specialized bacteria. Associated color changes may occur. For example caterpillars and grubs parasitized by Heterorhabditis may have a reddish-brown color. The nematodes develop by feeding upon the bacteria and degraded host tissues.

The active stage of the nematode that invades an insect is the juvenile (dauerlarva) stage. These infective juveniles are applied for insect control. Steinernema nematodes enter the insect through natural openings, such as the mouth, spiracles and , then penetrate into the body cavity. Heterorhabditis nematodes use natural openings but also can enter by piercing the body wall.

Once inside the infected insect, nematodes develop rapidly, in five or more days, depending on host quality and temperature. Normally, one to two generations occur in a host insect. Thousands of nematodes can be produced following a single infection. Ultimately, the body wall of the dead host insect ruptures and releases the nematodes. The beneficial nematodes typically kill their host insect within two to three days after invading the body cavity.


Mix with water and spray or sprinkle on the soil along garden, lawn or crop rows or around larger plants. Place the entire sponge of nematodes in a bucket. Pour at least two quarts of water over the sponge and repeatedly squeeze for a few minutes to get the nematodes out of the sponge and into the bucket of water. Discard the sponge and pour the water into a sprayer or water can. At this stage, you should have the amount of nematodes indicated on the bag suspended in about two quarts of water. Add clean water to dilute the suspension and make up the volume that your sprayer requires. You can always add more water for distribution of the nematodes to cover the required square footage. Just add 2, 5, or 10 gallons of water so that you have enough to allow even spread of the nematodes. Keep the soil moist during the first 10 days after application.

Information from Buglogical.

Release Instructions

These are only a few potential release options. Drop buy one of our locations for a more detail description of your options. 

Release Instructions

These are only a few potential release options. Drop buy one of our locations for a more detail description of your options.


Keep the ladybugs refrigerated or store in a cool place until you are ready to release. This will calm them down from being shipped or they make fly to a neighbors garden. The best time to release them is in the early evening. They will most likely stay in the general area of where you placed them and find food and water. They will be thirsty from their package and shipment journey so sprinkle or mist the area before you release them. Beyond their release, they will get all their moisture needs from the harmful pests they eat like aphids.

Praying Mantis

AKA – Praying Mantis. Average release rate of 3 cases per 5,000 square feet or 10-100 cases per acre. Attach the cases on twigs, leaves, fences, or the crotch of a bush or tree. Do not place on the ground because ants can get to them. Begin outdoor releases after last chance of frost and they should be hatched before August for best results. Praying mantis eat garden pests as well as beneficial insects but do not eat ladybugs because they are bitter. (Either somebody snacked on one or they asked the praying mantis ??? )

Nematodes: Application for the 10 Mil. garden size

The 10 Mil. nematodes are available in a sponge. Place the entire sponge in a fresh, uncontaminated container that holds at least gallon of water. Squeeze the sponge multiple times to release the nematodes out of the sponge and into the water. Discard the sponge and pour the gallon of water into a hose-end sprayer or water can and apply to the soil. You can always add more clean water to dilute nematodes and distribute for further square foot coverage.

Beneficial Nematodes Quick Facts…

  • Insect parasitic beneficial nematodes are small round worms that kill insects but are harmless to other organisms.
  • Several species of these nematodes are developed as biological insect controls.
  • Among the pests effectively controlled are most turf insects and several other insects that live in soil.

The beneficial nematodes are small, round worms that complete part of their life cycle in insects. Several species can kill insects in this process, and some are marketed as a biological control agent.

The use of insect parasitic nematodes to control soil insects, including many turf grass and Garden pests, has received increased attention in recent years. Insect parasitic nematodes are also known as predator nematodes, beneficial nematodes or entomogenous nematodes. Insect parasitic nematodes have been studied for potential biological control of turf pests for more than 50 years. However, their increasing availability and rising public demand for alternatives to insecticides has heightened interest in beneficial nematodes. Two types of beneficial nematodes have been most actively considered for control of insect pests. Steinernema has been thoroughly researched, including control studies for Japanese beetle conducted in the 1930s. Recent attention has shifted to include the genus Heterorhabditis. Both groups are in the order Rhabdita, the bacteria-feeding nematodes. It includes a large number of common but frequently overlooked soil-infesting nematodes that assist in organic matter breakdown.


Red Wiggler Worms


The most common type of composting worm is the Red Wiggler Worm. As they feed, they digest great quantities of organic matter and release a residue called a worm casting that is very rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and micronutrients. They can be stored in the refrigerator in a cloth bag (not in a plastic bag or container.) Do not freeze the little guys. Lightly water the area before you release them and scatter them around the area. Release them early in the morning or after sunset. Do not release in direct sunlight.

Release rates:

  • For tomatoes and cucumbers, 1 predator per plant plus 1-2 per infested leaf.
  • For other greenhouse crops, tropical plants, and outdoor gardens, 2,000 per 3,000 sq. ft. – For bedding plants, 1,000 per 10,000 sq. ft.
  • For large agri-business, 5,000 – 20,000 per acre depending on infestation.
Predatory mite, Galendromus occidentalis,

is a very versatile mite predator and tolerates high temperatures low and high humidity (40-85%) well, both indoors and out. Does best in warm weather (80° to 110° F). Tolerates low humidity of inland valleys. Does not do well in cool coastal areas. Goes into diapause (hibernation) in colder temperatures. Recommended for greenhouses only if plants are maintained as low as 40% relative humidity. It is native to California and has ben researched for spider mite control in almonds, grapes, and many other ornamentals and plants. This predator is well adapted for outdoor use and can perform in hot situations where humidity remains above 40%. Use G. occidentalis to control spider mites, two spotted mites, Russet mites, and others on gardens, greenhouses, and orchards of all types. Adults eat 1-3 pest adults or up to 6 pest eggs/day. Release rates indoors, 2-3/sq. ft. bi-weekly, 1-2 applications; outdoors, 5,000- 20,000/acre, bi-weekly, 1-2 applications.

Spider mite larvae, nymphs and adults feed on the underside of the leaves and cause yellow spots,later even yellow leaves. Plant cells turn yellow, which can be seen on the upper surface of the leaf as small yellow spots. This reduces the photosynthetic area of the leaf and the plant gets out of the physiological balance. This results in decreased plant growth and production. Finally the crop may die from the infestation. Nymphs and adults produce webbing that can cause cosmetic damage to the crop. If large numbers of spider mites are present, plants may be completely covered with webs.

Information from Buglogical.