Many gardeners are beginning to focus more attention on natural or organic gardening methods of controlling a variety of insects.
Harsh chemical pesticides and herbicides that eradicate common garden pests pose a threat not only to the harmful animals and plants they are intended to kill but to their human users, as well as pets and children.
By trying to attract beneficial insects to your garden, you can reduce the number of chemicals needed to keep your garden looking good and producing heavily, in harmony with the environment, while controlling the pest population.
- Kinds Of Beneficial Insects To Attract
- Plants That Can Encourage Beneficial Insects
- Other Tips For Attracting Beneficial Insects
Kinds Of Beneficial Insects To Attract
There are a wide variety of beneficial insects that you may want to attract to your garden.
Ladybugs or Ladybird Beetles
Lady bugs or lady beetles are little red insects with black dots on their shells and are popular in children’s stories and nursery rhymes.
Lady beetles should also be popular visitors in your garden as they have an unending appetite for aphids and spider mites that prey on the undersides of leaves of your plants in your vegetable garden.
These larger beetles look intimidating and can often be mistaken for harmful insects. Like their ladybug cousins, though, these predatory beetles prey upon harmful insects.
Honeybees and bumblebees are tireless workers gathering pollen and nectar for their hives as a source of food.
In the process, they pollinate a variety of flowers, garden plants, and vegetable plants, as well as fruit trees. Without the bees, our crop yields would be much lower.
Green Lacewing Larvae
The larvae are the immature stage of green lacewing. Known as aphid lions, they are voracious predators. They dine on aphids, spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies. They are often used as a biological control in the garden to control pest populations.
Wasps and Hornets
Larger predatory wasps and hornets are often unwelcome visitors in the garden, but they also have a place in the ecology. They prey upon larger common pests.
If you are allergic, you may not wish to tolerate wasp and hornet nests in or near your buildings, but otherwise, they are a necessary part of the environment.
Minute Pirate Bugs
These predatory insects are generally black or dark brown and tiny, only about 1/16″ to 1/8″ inch long. They are often found on flowers earning them the name “flower bug.” Minute Pirate bugs control pests while feeding on small insects and mites in greenhouses and gardens.
Smaller Parasitic Wasps and Flies
Many of these insects are so small as to be nearly invisible. They prey upon unwanted pests but can easily be wiped out by the careless use of botanical insecticides.
Praying Mantis are large, eager predatory insects of pest insects that can infest your garden.
Many beneficial insects are available for commercial purchase from scientific supply companies, garden supply stores, or seed catalogs and dealers.
You can restock your garden if you think it has lost its beneficial insect population through heavy pesticide use.
Another alternative is to encourage the beneficial insects that are already in the neighborhood by providing a better habitat for them for integrated pest management.
Plants That Can Encourage Beneficial Insects
Several different types of plants provide good habitats for beneficial insects and will encourage their appearance in the garden.
Plants in the Aster family (Asteraceae) attract beetles, including ladybird beetles and larger ground beetles.
Many of these plants are popular garden flowers that you are probably already planting, including sunflowers (Helianthus sp.), coneflowers (Ecinacea sp.), coreopsis (Coreopsis sp.), and cosmos (Cosmos sp.).
You can plant these plants in your flower garden or add them throughout your vegetable garden to attract insects there.
Plants in the Fabaceae family attract bees with their showy flowers. They can also attract other beneficial insects that rely upon their nectar for a food source and nutrition, like parasitic wasps and flies.
Besides the obvious choices, like beans and peas, there are many leguminous cover crops, including clover (Melilotus sp.), vetch (Vicia villosa), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa).
Shorter varieties of these cover crops can provide a blooming carpet for your lawn instead of lawn grass requiring mowing and chemicals.
Plants in the Apiaceae family attract parasitic wasps and flies. Besides the obvious choice of carrots in the vegetable bed, many of these plants are probably already found in your herb garden, your flower garden, or as a volunteer weed.
Caraway (Carum carvi), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), and dill (Anethum graveolens) are all popular herbs. Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) is a pretty and showy flower but is often regarded as a weed in many places.
These can be put into the flower garden, vegetable garden, and herb garden. Wild carrots can also be used as companion planting in the tomato bed or with beans.
Mustard plants and their relations are a part of the Brassica genus and the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi, in addition to wild mustard greens.
All types of brassica plants attract their own pests but also attract predators which devour those pests. You can think of them as a double-edged sword. They are probably best planted in their own beds, away from the rest of the garden.
Relatives of mustard which you might not ordinarily think of, include sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) and yellow rocket (Barberea vulgaris).
Plants in the Verbenaceae family attract many beneficial insects with their showy perennial flowers. They are popular choices for the flower garden.
Other Tips For Attracting Beneficial Insects
Besides attractive plants that provide food and habitat for beneficial insects, there are a couple of other things you can do to encourage insect life in your garden.
Provide Sources of Water
Insects require water sources. You may wish to consider shallow pots with water mixed with pebbles, allowing beneficial insects to land and rest as they drink.
Be Thoughtful About Using Pesticides.
Unless you have decided to use organic pesticides, operating a completely organic garden, you will probably resort to insecticides to remove unwanted pests.
You may wish to look for insecticides that break down quickly or leave no residue, like neem oil. While the application of insecticide will eliminate any beneficial insects on the spot, the quick breakdown will allow others to appear soon after the application.
In any event, you may wish to be thoughtful and sparing in your use of insecticides if you wish to attract beneficial insects.
You can increase the habitat for beneficial insects by providing carefully thought-out arrangements in your garden, mixing the flower species you already grow with your vegetable.