What do beneficial insects do?
Using sound judgment to be more self-reliant.
Creating a healthy garden doesn’t just mean eliminating bad bugs – you also want to welcome good bugs. These “good bugs” are also known as beneficial insects.
We’ll talk about what beneficial insects do in the garden, common species, host plants and tips for attracting “good bugs” to your garden.
Beneficial insects play a variety of rolls in the garden. Pollinators, like bees, butterflies and moths, help plants to bear fruit.
Honeybees get most of the press, but our native bees are a boon to the garden, too. Some plants even require bigger bees like bumblebees to release their pollen.
Some insects help with biological control of garden pest bugs. For instance, parasitic wasps lay their eggs on tomato hornworms. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the hornworm.
Still others help break down organic matter and wastes, and improve the soil. Grab a handful of health garden soil or compost, and you’ll find that it’s crawling with a variety of bugs.
I plant a variety of host plants for beneficial insects around the garden (or allow them to grow on their own), such as:
Beneficial insects will often use host plants during their larval stage before they begin hunting other insects.
To attract pollinators, work to keep blooming plants available in your yard from early spring to late fall. If it’s warm enough for bees to be active, they’ll want to gather nectar and pollen.
I use companion planting, but I’m rather haphazard about it for the most part. Every bed gets some flowers and herbs along with the veggies and fruits. You can learn more about companion planting in the post Vegetable Companion Planting.
See the Weekly Weeder series for more information on wild plants and their role in the ecosystem, as well as their uses for food and medicine.
Along with bees and butterflies, some common beneficial insect species include:
I’ve watched wasps carry off caterpillar and beetle larva, and seen little wrens working over the broccoli.
I encourage insects, birds, bats, toads, snakes and frogs in the garden by:
We have beautiful little northern red belly snakes in our area that are about the size of a pencil, and they gobble up crickets and slugs. I’ve seen several different types of tree frogs hunting in the garden.
The photo above is a tree frog we found in the bean patch.
With water features, make sure that you keep the water moving, or swap out water regularly. Mosquito larva breed in stagnant water in just a few days.
Welcoming beneficial insects and other predators is an important part of our natural pest control strategy for the garden.
I’ve been using the term “bad bugs”, but to be fair, bugs just want to live. They can cause damage, but if we create a healthy and balanced ecosystem, serious damage is rare.
When we plant acres and acres of monocrops in dead soil, propped up by chemicals, it’s like putting up an “all you can eat buffet” sign for pests.
Don’t just treat the symptoms of problems in your garden – look for the underlying causes.
Are your plants under stress from too much water or too little? How’s your garden soil fertility? Do you have a good balance of nutrients? Are you trying to grow crops that aren’t well suited for your area?
Work to get your plants as healthy as possible, welcome beneficial insects, and enjoy the bounty of your garden.
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What do beneficial insects do?
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