Regardless of the size of your garden, encouraging beneficial insects to call it their home is relatively easy to do, especially since many of them already reside there. To learn how to attract beneficial insects to your yard, read this article!
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My children and I play outside almost every day, and one of our favorite pastimes is “Bug Hunting”. The kids pack up their magnifying glasses, and I grab my camera, and off we go. It doesn’t really matter what type of bugs we find, it’s more about the exploration – and the possibilities of what might be lying in, on, or under, our garden beds.
I often use these moments to remind my children that insects in the garden can be both good and bad. I also want my children to know that you don’t have to use pesticides in order to get rid of all of the “bad bugs” – you can just as easily invite some “good bugs” to the garden instead.
Even though my children are young, they understand that everyone, and every insect, has a job to do. More importantly, they like knowing that there are beneficial insects in our garden that help protect our favorite plants from insect pests. Naturally, every child wants to have a garden filled with pretty butterflies, as do I, but they are also learning to appreciate some of the more “intimidating” insects in the garden.
Regardless of the size of your garden, encouraging beneficial insects to call it their home is relatively easy to do, especially since many of them already reside there. In the article below, we cover some important, yet easy tips, to help you attract beneficial insects to your yard.
How To Attract Beneficial Insects in the Garden
Beneficial insects can only do their job if their enemies are present, and they have a comfortable place to call home.
1.) Provide food sources.
Many predatory insects and egg-laying parasitoid insects need pollen, nectar, or plant juices to supplement their diet when the insect pest population runs low. Include plants that beneficial insects love to feed on in your garden and they won’t need to leave.
2.) Provide shelter.
In order to attract beneficial insects and keep them thriving, they need a safe place to reside. They will naturally seek shelter in your perennial beds, compost piles, or under mulch and rocks, but they don’t like to be disturbed. So, if you cannot avoid mowing, weeding, or tilling these areas, think about creating an “Insectarium” – a designated area of your yard where they can exist without disturbances. Creating an “Insectarium” is easy – just include favored plants, cover crops, leaf litter and mulch in this area.
3.) Provide water.
Just like humans, beneficial insects need water to live, especially during dry spells. Birdbaths work especially well, but if you do not have one, you can simply place shallow containers of water in or around your garden beds. Perch some leaves, sticks or rocks in the water so that the beneficial insects have a place to stand and don’t drown. Make sure you change the water frequently to discourage mosquitoes from laying their eggs in any stagnant water.
4.) Eliminate pesticides.
When you apply pesticides to your landscape, you’re also killing off the beneficial insects. If there aren’t enough bad insects in your garden, the beneficial insects will seek out their food sources elsewhere.
Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects: 3 Things To Remember When Selecting Your Plants
Beneficial insects need pollen, nectar and plant juices for nourishment too. The more diverse your plantings are, the more you will attract beneficial insects. A varied, stable habitat will provide food for many different types of beneficial insects and their life stages.
1.) Plant native herbs and wildflowers.
Most predatory insects lack the long mouthparts that we typically associate with the more well-known nectar feeders like bees and butterflies. Most beneficial insects have shorter mouthparts and prefer wildflowers, native composites, and umbelliferous herbs.
2.) Pay attention to bloom times.
To keep your beneficial insects happy, include plants with different flowering times. This will ensure that there is always something in bloom and your beneficial insects will have a continuous source of pollen and nectar.
3.) Include plants of varied heights.
Not only will this enhance the visual appeal of your garden, but by selecting plants with different maturation heights, you will attract a wider assortment of beneficial insects to your garden. Every insect is looking for something different.
5 Types of Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects
Beneficial insects prefer certain types of plants in their habitats. Some of these plants have specifically-shaped flowers that make it easier for the beneficial insects to feed on, while others provide pollen and nectar.
1.) Umbelliferous Herbs (flower clusters that resemble upside-down umbrellas)
- Angelica, Chervil, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Lovage, Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot), Yarrow.
2.) Compositae Flowers (florets are arranged in dense heads)
- Asters, Black-eyed Susan’s, Butterfly Weed, Chamomile, Daisies, Goldenrod, Marigolds, Sunflowers, Zinnias.
- Bachelor’s Buttons (cornflower), Clovers, Mints (spearmint, peppermint, or catnip), Rosemary, Sweet Alyssum, Thyme.
4.) Plants for Nectar / Pollen
- Blanketflowers, Cinquefoils, Cosmos, Coneflowers, Coreopsis, Cup Plant, Feverfew, Lobelia, Lupines, Milkweeds, Peonies, Pincushions, Sea Lavender
- Basil, Borage, Garlic Chives, Lavender, Mints, Sweet Marjoram, Wild Bergamot (Bee Balm).
3 Major Types of Beneficial Insects
There are three major types of beneficial insects present in our gardens: pollinators, predators, and parasitic. All of these beneficial insects have specific jobs to do, and it’s important that they can cohabitate in your garden.
Pollinating beneficial insects are probably the most well-known. They include bumble bees, honey bees, sweat bees, wasps, moths, and butterflies. We need pollinating insects to transfer pollen so fertilization and sexual reproduction can occur.
Predatory beneficial insects feed on other insect pests. They include assassin bugs, dragonflies, green lacewings, ground beetles, hoverflies, ladybugs, and pirate bugs. We need predatory beneficial insects because they help keep down the insect pest population without the use of pesticides.
Adult parasitic beneficial insects lay their eggs in or on a host insect. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed in or on the host insect. The adult parasitic insect does not feed on insect pests; rather they rely on pollen, nectar and plant juices for nourishment. They include beneficial nematodes, fireflies, tachinid flies, and Trichogramma wasps. We need parasitic beneficial insects because they also help keep down the insect pest population without the use of pesticides.
As my children have learned from their “Bug Hunting” expeditions, there are already tons of insects hard at work in your garden. So why not help them along? Encourage these beneficial insects to stay in your garden by creating a stable habitat for them to live and reproduce in. As long as their basic needs are met, these beneficial insects will continue to do what they do best – protecting your garden from insect pests.
Did you like learning about how you can attract beneficial insects to your yard? Then keep reading:
- 5 simple ways your kids can be more green
- 10 easy ways to get kids gardening
- 4 easy ways to save money on gardening
- using recyclables to fill your large planters
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