Many insects, fungi, and bacteria can benefit your garden in one way or another. Beneficials come in many shapes and sizes and each help your garden in their own way, including controlling pests and pollinating plants.
Creating a suitable habitat in your garden will attract beneficials, helping you to have a sustainable garden and support native wildlife.
When relying on beneficials as a form of pest control you must be patient and tolerant of a few pests in your garden, and some damage to your plants. Without a few pests around your beneficials won’t have anything to eat!
Native wildflowers are great for attracting beneficials. Because insects are attracted to pollen and nectar, aim to have flowers in bloom at all times throughout the growing season.
When one pollen source disappears, another will take its place. Plant diversity helps to attract a diverse range of beneficials. Many beneficials are attracted to daisy-shaped flowers, which not only provide pollen and nectar, but also a place for them to rest. Planting herbs and flowering perennials in and near your other plants will entice beneficials.
Ponds, bird baths and sprinklers will provide water to attract beneficials. Drip irrigation systems do not offer an adequate water supply for them. Filling a shallow dish with rocks and water will accommodate all types of insects, giving them a place to drink without drowning.
Mulching your garden and having stepping stones will provide a moist environment for beneficials to hide in. Leave some habitat in the form of spent perennials – it’s a great way to put off fall tidying!
Pesticide use can kill all insects in the area – good and bad, including food for future generations of beneficials. Because beneficials have a smaller population they have a harder time bouncing back than pests, allowing pests to come back faster and stronger.
When you must use pesticides, be mindful of what, when and how much you use to minimize the damage to beneficials. Spraying after the sun has gone down will help minimize exposing beneficials to chemicals. NEVER spray a plant in bloom! That is when the plant is most attractive and beneficials are most present, increasing the chance of harm.
Are often used to protect and enrich areas in your garden that will remain unplanted for a period of time. In this case, the crop must be plowed under before going to seed. Consider planting a cover crop in part of your garden and allowing it to flower – it’s one of the best sources of nutrition for attracting beneficials when food is scarce.
Here’s a list of the beneficial insects most commonly found in the home garden:
Ladybugs are well known for eating aphids, but are also helpful when controlling scale, thrips, mealybugs and spider mites. They feast on flowers containing lots of nectar and especially like yarrow.
Bees are the best at pollinating our plants; they love flowers that are bursting with nectar and pollen. Bees can’t get enough of rosemary, lavender, sunflower and cover crops.
Ground Beetles like to eat slugs, cutworms and snails. You will attract them with the right habitat; they like to hide beneath stepping stones, rocks and under the soil.
Parasitic Wasps help control whiteflies, scale, codling moths and cutworms. They like alyssum, yarrow and clover.
Praying Mantis eat moths, aphids, beetles, caterpillars, butterflies and grasshoppers. They like to hide in raspberries, roses, grasses and shrubs.