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How to Attract Beneficial Insects

Are unwanted pests eating away at the plants in your garden?  Aphids, slugs, mites, mealybugs, thrips, whiteflies, to name just a few, can cause a lot of damage if left unchecked.  Keep your garden healthy by encouraging beneficial insects to help control or suppress these pests naturally.  

To attract these helpful critters, use plants and create suitable living conditions to encourage them into your garden. They will reward you by preying on unwanted pests, and helping control further outbreaks. 

Keep in mind that you don't need to eliminate all of the pests.  A few left in your garden likely won't cause a lot of harm, and they will serve as a food source for the good guys and help keep them around.

How to attract

Provide a home. Soil dwelling predators, such as ground beetles, will benefit from a stable environment. Cover bare soil with organic mulches or ground covering plants to create an ideal home for them to live in.

Add plants to your garden that will attract beneficial insects. The larva are generally voracious eaters of pests. Grow a variety of flowering plants to lure the adults, who will then feed on nectar or pollen, and lay their eggs.  When the larva are formed, they will feed on the pests and help keep them under control

Be cautious with insecticides.  Even low toxicity sprays, such as soap, can kill beneficial insects along with the bad ones. Minimize the harm to good bugs by spraying only the plants that need treatment.

Plants to Provide a Home for the Good Bugs

For natural pest control, use plants in your garden to provide a food source for beneficial insects. Small flowers, such as fennel and alyssum, are full of nectar and provide beneficial insects with sugar.  Plants with a rich supply of pollen provide protein, such as asters, daisies, and echinacea. Trap plants, like lupins and nasturtiums, also attract beneficials. 

Plant a variety of flowering plants so something is always blooming throughout the seasons.  Here are some examples of plants to help attract beneficial insects: allium, angelica, asters, calendula, candytuft, cilantro, coreopsis, cosmos, daisies, dill, fennel, heliotrop, lavender, leafy greens, lilac, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, scabiosa, stonecrops, sunflower, sweet alyssum, sweet clover, thyme, verbena, and yarrow.

Types of Beneficial Insects

 

Aphid midges

  • Tiny flies with long, slender legs. Their bright orange larvae eat soft-bodies insects, such as aphids.

Braconid wasp

  • Eats armyworms, caggageworms, codlings, moths, gypsy moths, and flies

Centipedes

  • They are fast moving, can be aggressive, and will attack creatures bigger than themselves.  They feed on slugs, grubs, and small insects

Damsel bugs

  • Feed on aphids, leafhoppers, thrips, treehoppers, and small caterpillars

Ground beetles

  • Live under debris and mulches and eat slugs, snails, cutworms, fly maggots, cabbage maggots, cocoon of winter moths and other soil dwelling insects. Their larvae live in the soil and feed on soil dwelling pests such as caterpillars, cutworms, and slugs

Lacewings

  • A voracious eater that feeds on spider mites, mealybugs, scales, aphids, mites, whiteflies, thrips, leafhoppers, caterpillars, and other soft-bodied pests

Ladybugs

  • Adults and their larvae eat aphids and other soft-bodied insects, such as aphids, mites, and mealybugs.  

Minute Pirate bugs

  • Attack flower thrips, mites, aphids, spidermites, small caterpillars, and other small insects

Syrphid (Hover) flies

  • Look like yellow jacket wasps and can often be seen hovering around flowers. They eat the larval stages of aphids, thrips, scale insects, mealy bugs, and caterpillars

Parasitic wasps

  • These tiny, non-stinging wasps lay their eggs inside their host, and upon hatching the parasitic wasp larvae will feed on the pest insect, such as aphids, caterpillars, beetles, scale, and flies.

Predatory mites

  • They resemble pest mites but are faster moving and are valuable predators of pest mites, such as spider mites.

For More Information

For additional pest control solutions, visit our Beneficial Insects and IPM Pest Controls page to learn about the beneficial insects that we sell seasonally. Learn more about pests on our Most Common Garden Pests and Solutions page.

Interested in plants to help attract beneficial insects to your garden? Visit us at Art's Nursery and talk to our knowledgeable staff. If you're looking for a specific plant and making a special trip, please phone to confirm availability: 604.882.1201.

 

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