Posted By: Michelle Kuehler /
Before you squish that bug, take a closer look. All insects may seem like pests but many insects can actually control the population of pests that would otherwise happily chow down on your garden. Some help to pollinate, others are predators of garden munching pests and some are parasites that use these pests as nurseries for their offspring. Making your garden open and inviting to these beneficial ‘pests’ can save your garden from disaster and remove the need for chemical insecticides.
Safety and Shelter
Try to avoid using pesticides in your garden. Pesticides aren’t targeted just to the pests that can destroy your garden; they will kill beneficial insects as well. Beneficial insects also need shelter from harsh winds, rain and their own predators such as birds and other bugs. Ground dwellers that like to munch on slugs and cutworms love to hide and burrow under mulch. Other beneficial insects prefer cover crops, flowerbeds and hedgerows of varying heights to hide under. Plant a plot just for your insect buddies or interspersed around your flower and vegetable gardens.
Water and Food
All living beings need water to survive. Keep beneficial insects happy and healthy by providing them with very small dishes of water, filled with rocks or sticks for them to perch on. Replenish water often to prevent mosquitos from breeding. If your insect friends have done a good job removing garden pests, they will also need another source of food. When pest populations are low, these insects will feed on pollen and nectar. Be sure to plant a good mix of small and tall plants that provide pollen and nectar. These plants will also attract them to your garden. Plant a variety of flowering plants to attract and provide nutrition for the greatest variety of beneficial insects, keeping them healthy and happy in your garden.
Common Beneficial Insects
Praying Mantis: Praying mantises consume a wide variety of pests but are very susceptible to pesticides. Keep your garden free of pesticides and provide plants with thick stems and twigs for them to hide on.
Ladybugs: Ladybug adults and larvae feed on pests, their favorite treat being aphids. Pollen Producing plants and weeds such as snowdrop, crocus, strawberry, yarrow and dandelion can attract them to your garden.
Lacewings: Sometimes called aphid lions, lacewings and lacewing larvae will destroy a population of aphids, dining on mites, other small insects and insect eggs. Lacewings are attracted by the scent of aphid honeydew but can also be enticed by low growing herbs and weeds such as dill fennel and dandelion.
Assassin Bugs: Assassin bugs tend to prefer munching on soft-shelled bugs like caterpillars but a pack of Assassins can take down any pest. Assassin bugs are attracted by cover crops such as alfalfa.
Syrphid Flies: Syrphid flies look like bees and although they will help to pollinate your garden, they will also take care of maggot and aphid problems. These helpful guys love plants that provide plenty of pollen and nectar.
Ground Beetles: Ground beetles eat soil dwelling pests like slugs and snails. They love to burrow and work under mulch, rocks and perennial beds.