by Samantha Egan, Horticulturist
If you're tired of the "bad bugs" killing your
tomato plants or turning your roses into an eyesore, there's an environmentally-friendly
way to control those bugs: encourage beneficial insects to visit
your garden! A beneficial insect is an insect that performs a valued
service such as pest control or pollination. When you use beneficial
insects to control garden pests, the goal is to keep pest populations
to a tolerable level.
Beneficial insects can be broken down into
three groups: predators, pollinators, and parasites. Predators feed
on other insects, pollinators carry pollen between plants while they're
feeding on nectar, and parasites live inside another insect while
they're maturing. Predators, such asÂ ladybugs and lacewings,Â feast
on aphids on your roses. Pollinators, such as honeybees, helpÂ pollinate
the plants in your garden. Lots of small colorful blooms will attract
syrphid flies, whose larvae will parasitize and kill the caterpillars
in your vegetable garden.
Chances are you already have many beneficial
insects in your yard and never noticed! The key to attracting beneficial
insects is diverse planting. Combining many different plants will
provide a broad spectrum of food and shelter. A mixture of native
plants (perennials, trees, and shrubs) is one of the best lures for
provide a continuous food source. Make sure to provide your beneficial
insects with plants that bloom from early spring right through fall
to keep the insects in your garden all season long. Lastly, not all
blooms are equal - large, nectar-filled blooms can drown small pollinators.
Small flowers, produced in large quantities, are much more valuable
than a few large blooms.
Finally, minimize or eliminate the use of
pesticides because they destroy the beneficial insects along with
the harmful ones. Enjoy your garden and look for the beneficial insects
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