Everyone knows how valuable bees are to your garden, pollinating your flowers. But they’re not the only beneficial garden insects – not by a long shot. And to prove it – here’s a list of 10 of them (in no particular order) and how they can help in your garden.
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10 Beneficial Garden Insects For Every Garden
No list of beneficial garden insects would be complete without a mention of bees. They might have a harsh sting, but if you don’t provoke them and you allow them to do their thing, they will cross-pollinate your flowers to enable more flowers (and vegetables) to grow.
Ladybugs, (also known as lady beetles) feed on the insects that would damage your crops, including aphids, mealybugs, and other destructive pests.
(OK, not technically an insect, but worth mentioning here) Spiders benefits are twofold. First they help control the population of unwanted insects, such as flies, mosquitoes, moths, and wasps, which helps prevent you from getting stung in your garden. And the drop in the numbers of these insects also prevents your plants from being eaten by these insects.
Like ladybugs, midges also feed on the aphids that damage crops. They also lay their eggs in the midst of aphid colonies, so when their babies are born they attack the aphid colonies almost straight away.
Female braconid wasps inject their eggs into host insects such as caterpillars and moths. The larvae then feed inside their insect hosts, effectively killing the host by the time the larvae is fully developed. See the braconid wasps in action here, feeding on (and killing) tomato hornworms.
damsel bugs feed on pesky pests such as aphids and small caterpillars.
These are a larger, more voracious predator. They will go after slugs and snails, cutworms, and cabbage maggots in your garden’s soil.
Both adult lacewings and their larvae will eat pesky aphids, caterpillars, and other garden pests.
The tachinid fly larvae, much like braconid wasp larvae, burrow their way into many caterpillars, destroying them from the inside.
Minute Pirate Bugs
These quick moving bugs will attack almost any insect!
How Insects Can be Useful to Plants – Nature’s Own Pest Control
Using nature’s insects to look after your garden plants is thought by many to be a superior method of pest control. You want your garden to feel like your own little patch of nature in your own backyard.
Spraying man-made chemicals or pouring strange chemical pellets around is not necessarily the only way to achieve it. You can always go back to nature, using insects alone and cultivate your garden 100% organically – just as nature intended.
Beneficial Garden Insects Identification
National Geographic Pocket Guide to Insects of North AmericaInsects of North America: A Field Guide to Over 300 Insects Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard BugsSmithsonian Handbooks: Insects (Smithsonian Handbooks)
When your garden is littered with insects it’s important to distinguish between those that are beneficial and those which are pests that will damage your crops.
These days identifying an insect in your garden (in order to ascertain whether it’s beneficial) has never been easier – there are apps dedicated to it!
If you have an Android smartphone or device, or an Apple one, simply download the free app, Picture Insect – Insect ID Pro. All you need to do is snap a photo of the insect you want to identify, and the app will match it up in less than a second. Then you’re presented with a little fact file – so handy for determining whether an insect is beneficial to your garden!
If you’re using a Windows phone or device, you don’t have to feel left out. There’s a Windows app that does the same thing. There are just 2 drawbacks: it isn’t free, (but then again it only costs about $5), and it’s only for the PC, so you’ll have to upload the insect photo from your smartphone or device to your PC. The app is called Insect Identification.
These are by no means the only apps on the market but we’ve specifically mentioned them here because they had the best feedback in the app stores.
Plants that Attract Beneficial Insects
You don’t need to buy these beneficial insects and import them into your garden. You can simply attract them into your garden by creating a great environment to attract them.
Although many of the insects that feed on your garden’s pests get much of their nutrition from the prey, they also need energy from carbohydrates in your plant’s nectar. That makes your plants and flowers pretty essential for attracting your beneficial garden insects.
Ladybugs particularly like:
- coriander (learn how to grow coriander)
- dill (learn how to gro dill)
- common yarrow
- Rocky Mountain penstemon
- Queen Anne’s Lace
Lacewings enjoy many of the same flowers as the ladybugs, but they also like:
Plants that attract beneficial insects include some annual plants and many perennial plants. And they’re not limited to flowers: trees and shrubs can attract beneficial insects too.
Quite often using an annual plant to attract beneficial insects will do the trick, but if you wanted to hedge your bets, you could invest in a perennial plant.
Here are our Top 5 flowers for attracting beneficial insects
Tarrow is a perennial flower that comes in a range of colors including red, yellow, and white. It attracts a wide variety of predatory insects, but also some butterflies.
An annual orange and yellow flower helps with both above-ground pests and pests that attack vegetables from below. Marigolds can be easily mixed in vegetable beds.
Sweet alyssum is a white flower with a gorgeous honey scent. It’s a ground-hugging annual that will remain in bloom for months on end. And once planted the once, it will sprout again year on year on year.
Coneflower (AKA echinacea)
This is a tall perennial flower with two-foot-tall stalks, in a beautiful shade of purple. They are perhaps best positioned to form a border for your vegetable garden.
Although the blooming of goldenrods can start in the spring, it can continue into fall. This is crucial to prevent your beneficial garden insects from leaving. And its loose yellow blossoms looking quite striking too.