Inviting beneficial insects into your landscape is a great way to help you naturally fight off pest problems we face while gardening here in San Antonio. How does helping out our pollinators by providing them a safe and organic environment to feed and energize themselves sound to you? Beneficial insects are a great way to accomplish this. Beneficial insects are helpful insects that practically make their living devouring your garden pests, or working tirelessly to pollinate and/or improve your garden or garden soil. Beneficial insects may include ladybugs, praying mantid, beneficial nematodes, bees, earthworms, Green lacewings, and more. If you invite them into your landscape, they will be more than willing to clean it up for you. You’ll be singing, “I get by with a little help from my friends” in no time. Take a look at how to attract beneficial insects to your world with the tips below.
5 Tips for Attracting Beneficial Insects to Gardens
1. Don’t kill the beneficial insects. This seems logical, but sometimes folks forget that broad-spectrum pesticides are not selective. This means you that although you’ll kill off the offending pests, but also killing off the beneficial insects that were coming in to take care of your problem. If you must spray, choose your products carefully, opting for the least toxic product specific to your immediate problem.
2. Water features like birdbaths or saucers offer beneficial insects a source to drink from. All living creatures need water to survive and beneficial insects are no different. If they can’t find it at your house, they’ll fly the coop in search for it elsewhere. And you want them to stay put.
3. Allow a few pests to reside in your gardens. There’s nothing better than offering a free meal to attract benefical insects. The good guys will lay their eggs where there are pests so that their young have a food source. In our links below, you’ll find tips for keeping pests minimal and natural options for removal so you can still have an enironment that beneficial insects can inhabit.
4. Plant a garden full of nectar and pollen plants, as well as plants of different heights. Bees and moths are examples of beneficial insects that don’t eat pests, but work tirelessly to pollinate our landscapes and need these plants for food and energy. For nectar and pollen, daisy-like blooming plants are great (zinnias, fall aster, copper canyon daisy), as well as herbs that flower (yes, let a few bloom. Plant some for culinary purposes, and some for the pollinators…dill, fennel, rosemary, basil (African Blue is amazing), mint, rue, bee balm and many more). Plants of different heights allow for a variety of beneficial insects to feel comfortable in their surroundings.
5. Provide mulch for those beneficial insects that stick close to the ground. It will help keep them cool and moist during the day, and they’ll crawl out at night to feast on slugs and cutworms during the nighttime hours.
Close up of Lacewing eggs on the underside of milkweed. Once hatched, those yellow aphids will be demolished by the Lacewing larvae. Job well done!
Start inviting beneficial insects to your gardens by opting not to spray pesticides, or at least be selective and choose one with the least toxicity (be aware that even insecticidal soap can cause harm to beneficial insects). Most organic gardeners opt for letting nature take its course as opposed to choosing even organic pest control products. These gardeners supply enough reasons like the ones listed above to guarantee they have plenty of beneficial insects for residents, and they know they have to deal with a little wear and tear on their gardens and landscapes in order to have a completely pesticide-free environment. Gardening is NOT a perfectionist hobby. So, here’s to the good guys!
~The Happy Gardener