Six Beneficial Insects for Your Garden

Reprinted with Permission of the National Garden Board:


Six Beneficial Insects for Your Garden

Speaking strictly from a gardener’s perspective … There are good bugs, and there are bad bugs. And the more you have of the former, the fewer problems you’ll have with the latter. Here are six beneficial insects that every gardener should know, and tips on how to get them to hang around your garden.

To read how each of these beneficials help in the garden, click here.
Attracting Syrphid flies to the garden:

The best way to attract syrphid flies is to plant sweet alyssum. They also like catmint, yarrow, buckwheat flowers, cilantro flowers, and many other blooming plants. Nothing, however, draws them in like sweet alyssum.

Attracting Bumblebees to the garden:

Bumblebees are not picky. They love clover, sunflowers, mint, coneflowers, asters, tomatoes, and any number of other flowers. The trick is to plan your garden so that you have plants in bloom all year long, from spring hellebore through fall dahlias. See HGSA’s article “Priority Pollinators” for lists of early, mid-season, and late season pollinator plants that you can grow from seed.

Attracting parasitic wasps to the garden:

Parasitoids can make a substantial contribution to your garden, so it makes sense to attract them with nectar-producing flowers. Two large families of plants that make excellent lures are the carrot and sunflower family. Choices within these groups are many: dill, cilantro, eryngium, parsley, asters, goldenrods, and sunflowers are just a few. By planting annual and biennial flowering plants right in the vegetable garden, and perennials along the borders, you can attract parasitoids when and where you most need them.

Attracting Tachinid flies to the garden:

Most adult tachinid flies feed on nectar and pollen, especially from plants in the carrot, sunflower, and mint families. Attract them in the same way as you would parasitic wasps, with a diverse planting of flowers and herbs. The flies will also feed on aphid honeydew, so planting a non-crop plant to attract aphids to your garden, such as nasturtium, can help to support them.

Attracting Lacewings to the garden:

Plant flowers that allow easy access to nectar. Generally, the same plants that attract parasitoids—those in the carrot and sunflower families—will nourish lacewings as well. And don’t be too quick to soap-spray your aphids; give beneficial insects a chance to find them. Studies have shown that spraying aphid-infested plants with a homemade solution (1 tablespoon sugar per cup of water) can help increase visits by lacewings and lady beetles.

Attracting Lady beetles to the garden:

Ladybugs love aphids, so the wise gardener will have a little tolerance for minor aphid infestations. Given time, their predators will likely find them. Ladybugs also love buckwheat flowers, but a study showed that they tend not to migrate from a perimeter buckwheat patch into the garden. A better option is to locate your garden within a couple of miles of a natural forest or field if possible. Or, on your own property, provide habitat by growing a diverse population of plants, including trees and shrubs, and especially flowers.

We’ve just created a Pinterest board for “Good Bugs for Your Garden” that features even more great resources.

Let’s Go Garden!

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