Home gardening basics: seven beneficial garden insects and how to attract them
When you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in your garden, the last thing you need is a bunch of pesky insects determined to munch their way through your plants.
Vigilance is of utmost importance in the war against garden pests. The sooner you spot those pests, the quicker you can eliminate them before they can multiply and cause devastation to your garden.
Unfortunately, pesticides don’t really provide an adequate solution to the problem, especially where vegetables, herbs and other plants for consumption are concerned. For one, plants could end up with traces of pesticides. Plants sprayed with pesticides may also produce toxic pollen or nectar that might harm pollinating insects.
What might help, though, is a biological control method. Nature always provides a way to keep balance and it is no different in the garden. There are a number of insects that you should actively encourage to take up residence in your garden because they’ll do a great job keeping all the plant-eating bugs away.
On that note, here are seven beneficial insects for garden pest control: (h/t to HomesteadSurvivalSite.com)
Bees are among the most recognizable of all garden insects as they buzz about among flowers harvesting nectar and pollen. Bees are excellent pollinators and are particularly vital if you want to produce fruit.
Bees can be easily distinguished from wasps and flies by the pollen they carry on their legs. They can usually be observed flying from flower to flower as well. Bees are drawn to plants with bright flowers that have lots of pollen and nectar.
2. Pirate bugs
Quick-moving pirate bugs are only two to three millimeters long with oval-shaped bodies and feature black-and-white markings on their wings. Their power comes from their needle-sharp “beaks,” which they use to suck the juice out of their prey. Both the adults and larvae prey on a variety of insects, including caterpillars, spider mites and aphids.
Caraway, fennel, alfalfa, spearmint and goldenrods will attract pirate bugs.
Ladybugs and their larvae prey on sap-sucking aphids. Some native species also control mealybugs, which feed on plant juices. One particular ladybug species can even control powdery mildew, a common fungus that affects a variety of plants. Attract ladybugs to your garden by planting dill, yarrow or dandelion.
Spiders may look scary, but they have a rightful place in your garden. These arachnids feed on a wide variety of insects, including bed bugs, aphids, cockroaches, grasshoppers, mosquitoes and fruit flies. As such, they’re a valuable ally to keep. Weaving spiders are attracted by tall plants and predatory ones are attracted by mulch.
5. Praying mantis
The praying mantis is a gentle garden tenant that preys on beetles and aphids. Its name comes from its pose, which is to sit on a plant with its forelegs raised as though in prayer. While some praying mantises can grow up to 12-centimeters-long, they are often hard to spot as they are camouflaged by their green or brown coloring.
The praying mantis is attracted by tall grasses and shrubs, as well as cosmos and marigolds.
6. Ground beetles
Ground beetles usually appear black, dark brown, green or blue in color and almost always have a metallic sheen on their wing cases and thorax. They feed at ground level, preying on a variety of bugs and slugs.
Ground beetles are typically only active at night. Grow evening primrose, amaranthus and clover to attract ground beetles to your garden.
7. Green lacewings
Green lacewings are small green insects with near-transparent wings. Both adult lacewings and their larvae eat aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, thrips and whiteflies. The larvae are especially good at getting rid of soft-bodied pests. Angelica, cosmos and sweet alyssum will bring green lacewings to your garden.
Many insects are beneficial to have in the garden. They repay their accommodation by eating actual pests or by being food for birds and other animals. You can help these beneficial insects find their way to your garden by planting their favorite plants. Do your research to determine which plants attract which insects.
If you’re unfamiliar with an insect in your garden, take a few minutes to observe it. It may reveal whether it’s a pest that’s eating a plant, a friend that’s eating pesky bugs or a pollinator working on your plants. Remember that insects go through many stages in their life cycles, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with beneficial insects as eggs, larvae and adults.
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